Chris Lakey: 2018 has been a blast but can I ask for a bit more next year?
PUBLISHED: 17:31 27 December 2018 | UPDATED: 17:31 27 December 2018
Archant © 2017
There will be the ungrateful among us who will look at their pile of Christmas gifts and think ‘don’t really think much to that lot’.
Hopefully they are the exception. If not, treat them next year to a ticket (or more) to a Norwich City game. The Boxing Day feast served up was clearly something else. It was the best ending since (spoiler alert) since the big guy started to speak in One Flew over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
There will be those who wish they could bottle the sort of atmosphere and excitement that the fans at Carrow Road were treated to as City came from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 with Nottingham Forest thanks to two injury-time goals (that latter explanation was for those who were unconscious over the festive period). Best start saving now.
In the meantime, perhaps it is time to look ahead to the New year and for the hopes of a few of our local sports types.
City, of course, are writing their own scripts at the moment: it’s thrill-a-minute stuff, but one of the most pleasing attributes they have is a unity, between team, management, the City powers-that-be and, of course, the supporters. It’s been a displeasure to report on some of the friction between fans and club in the past, so the current climate is providing a warm glow. Let’s hope it stays that way and the New Year brings promotion and even more glowing bits. I was the only one of our tipsters in here who, pre-season, had Leeds in the play-offs. Mind you, I had City finishing 11th, so what do I know?
What I do know is that I was at The Walks whilst Forest were being chopped down and whilst they had their three points against Lowestoft Town practically in the bag after 10 minutes, it was a performance of equally top quality.
At times the passing was sublime: long periods of worthwhile possession, not passing for the sake of it. Former Canary Ryan Jarvis is imperious again in the middle, the big striker, Michael Gash was completely unplayable to the point where he gave hat-trick hero Adam Marriott a run for his money in the man of the match award.
Ian Culverhouse is getting a tune out of the Linnets again and the atmosphere around the club is excellent.
The New Year could bring great rewards, especially after last season’s no show in the play-off final.
Talking of King’s Lynn and finals: the good news for the Stars speedway team is that Robert Lambert is back for 2019. It had been a while since I’d been to Lynn to watch the speedway, but I didn’t miss the opportunity to see the Stars at the tail end of the season when they negotiated a play-off semi-final and got to the Premiership final (having already finished top of the pile - angry rant coming on) – and Lambert was a joy to watch. He is 20 years old, he is British champion at senior and under-21s level and if he is not a world champion one day, I shall be chomping on a very big hat.
Lambert is also a Norfolk lad, and to see one of your own doing so well for a Norfolk team is fantastic.
I am hugely fortunate to witness all of the above first hand, but the sport which perhaps crosses the line between professional duties and support is boxing. I was at the 02 Arena a week ago to watch Ryan Walsh defend his British featherweight title. He was a happy man afterwards, obviously, but in his moment of triumph, all he wanted was to wish for a night when he and twin brother Liam – out of action for a year and a half – can share a boxing bill again. Liam is far too good for promoters and managers not to accept his ‘have gloves will travel’ offers. The twins have often found themselves in boxing’s too hard basket - they are dangerous fighters who rivals often shy away from. My New Year wish would most certainly be the same as Ryan’s.
From Carrow Road, to The Walks, from local boxing shows, the 02 and the Adrian Flux Arena in West Norfolk, 2018 has been a blast.
Dare I ask for more in 2019?
I don’t like what I am about to do, so let’s get it over and done with.
Paul Lambert. There, I wrote it. Sorry, I said I wouldn’t but I did. But I have, I think, good reason.
Last weekend, after Ipswich’s 1-1 home draw against Sheffield United, the Ipswich manager reiterated he needed “some help” (a Lambert-ism) in the January transfer market. His squad was young an inexperienced, he pointed out.
“Look at our squad; (Andre) Dozzell, (Jack) Lankester, (Flynn) Downes, (Trevoh) Chalobah – they are 18/19 year olds,” he said.
“I’d love to know if there is another team in the division with that many young players. Our midfield is so inexperienced it’s unreal.” Hmmm.
Dozzell, Chalobah and Downes are all 19, Lankester 18. Dozzell and Chalboah started the Sheffield United game, Lankester was an unused sub and Downes wasn’t in the matchday squad.
There needs to be a comparison here so we’ll look at Norwich City’s match day squad at Blackburn on the same day. City’s starting XI included an 18-year-old, Max Aarons, and three 20-year-olds – Ben Godfrey, Jamal Lewis and Todd Cantwell.
City’s starting XI:
Tim Krul 30
Ben Godfrey 20
Max Aarons 18
Christoph Zimmermann 25
Jamal Lewis 20
Marco Stiepermann 27
Todd Cantwell 20
Moritz Leitner 26
Emi Buendia 21
Alex Tettey 32
Teemu Pukki 28
Average age: 24 and a quarter
Town’s starting XI:
Dean Gerken 33
Jordan Spence 28
Luke Chambers 33
Jonas Knudsen 26
Matthew Pennington 24
Jon Nolan 26,
Freddie Sears 29
Gwion Edwards 25
Andre Dozzell 19
Trevoh Chalobah 19
Ellis Harrison 24
Average age: 26
Then there’s this...
“Everybody else has experienced teams and we have young lads trying to make a name for themselves.”
Well, again,. that’s not quite true is it?
You are not alone.