Next up is Norwich … fresh from their drop from Division 1 .. .and BillytheBee catches up with Tom Kelsey, Top Boy of top UK independent Drum & Bass label Hospitalrecords.com about Brentford reject Lewis Grabban, Delia’s Quails Egg pukka pies and losing 6-0 to Fulham.
You’ve been up and down the leagues the past decade or so. What’s been your most memorable match of the lot?
I’m going to pick a controversial one here – our 7-1 defeat to Colchester Utd on the first day of the season after being relegated to League One in 2009. After the final disastrous season before that in the championship with Glen Roeder we employed Bryan Gunn (former Norwich and Scotland goalkeeping legend). For some reason they gave Gunn the full time job, and let him spend the transfer kitty over the summer all over the shop.
He made two key signings – one was Michael Theoklitos – an Australian goalkeeper who made one league appearance and shipped 7 (seven!) goals. The other signing was Grant Holt, who went on to play 168 appearances and score 78 goals, including 23 in the Premier League.
The 7-1 defeat to Colchester on the first day of the 2009 season was really the catalyst for our resurgence and it’s been onwards and upwards since then. It soon became very apparent how out of depth Bryan Gunn was, and the board set about replacing him with Paul Lambert, who had done great things with Wycombe Wanderers and Colchester Utd (culminating in thrashing us 7-1).
The word on the street it was Martin O’Neill who put in a good word for him with Delia Smith, and the rest as they say is history. Back to back promotions and happy days – right up until he cheated on us for Aston Villa!
You’re the second team in two seasons to leave Division 1 and steam straight through to the championship – Southampton being the other one. They’ve gone from strength to strength whereas you guys have taken a bit of a … er … turn in form. Where did they succeed where you guys failed?
Hmm, well I think they clearly have a better academy than us. The most galling part is their average attendance is half what ours is…
We played Brighton at the weekend. They came very close twice to making a swift return to the top flight – losing both times in the playoffs. Some teams seem to cope admirably after getting out of Division 1 – Saints, Bournemouth, Blackpool, Reading, yourselves … While others struggle. What’s the magic formula?
I guess the back to back thing really helps, keeping that core squad and faith in the manager and do it while confidence is high. If you lunch it after that first season, and then fatigue and jitters set in you’re back in the suck of the Championship and at best wallow there for a long time. Or at worst start wobbling so badly you go back down again!
Clearly resources play a part too. We’re blessed by stable ownership and die-hard fanbase which is sees us getting almost exactly the same number of fans through the turnstiles when we were in League One as we did in the Prem. So long as the right amount of that is re-invested in the squad, then you’ve got to hope to be competing.
Norwich are big faves for a return to the Premier League. You’ve had a fantastic start to the season. Wins in the league against Watford, Blackburn and Cardiff. And ironically your first away win in 6 months coming against arch rivals Ipswich. But you must have been thinking “here we go again when you lost your first game up at Wolves”.
I chatted almost fondly before about our first game of the season when we were in league one last time round – the 7-1 defeat. We went on to win that league easy peasy, So I’m not just being cocky when I say losing to Wolves in the first game this season didn’t bother me. I didn’t think we’d be firing quite the way we are now, and it is still early days, but so far so good.
Saturday’s result at Cardiff was a biggy – coming back from 2-0 down to win 4-2 is the mark of a very confident team. Prior to that, confident wins at home have helped us to an early table topping place. But we just have to be really careful not to develop a sense of entitlement that we ought to be there, ‘cos at that point if results start going wrong that’s when we’ll wobble.
Realistically, do you think you can do it??
Tricky one. Neil Adams’ appointment as manager was a disappointing one for me as it felt like a massive lack of ambition, and too conservative an appointment (ironically after we’d sacked Hughton for being too conservative!). Maybe we can steam roller it through, as I do think we’ve made some good Championship signings, and there is clearly still a lot of quality in the squad.
The Championship is so unforgiving though and the margins are so tight. So far I’m obviously being proved wrong and he’s picking a good team, winning games and making decent signings. I’m happy to continue to be proved wrong, but the stakes are so high obviously – as everyone knows if it does go pear shaped, and we don’t go straight back up we could be in the championship for a loooong time!
Do you feel the players could buckle under pressure to deliver?
I get the impression there is a lot of cohesion in the squad, as players like Hoolahan, Ruddy, Russell Martin have all been with us for a long time, and won leagues before. I’m more worried about the management not having the experience, and not being able to handle the pressure as soon as they do get a run of wobbly results!
What teams do you feel may scupper your plans of a quick return???
In the Championship I really believe it can be any of them. On paper you think that it’s the ‘big’ teams like Forest and Derby and the ones who’ve just come down who you need to be wary of. But look at the Championship last season. The margins between the play offs and the relegation zone are so tight there are banana skins all over the shop. Teams like yourselves, Millwall under Holloway, are already doing alright, so any of them really!
It may seem like a stupid question. But how important was that win against Ipswich?
Beating I*****h means everything. It’s actually been a good few seasons since we played them, and our record against them over the past few meetings has been pretty strong. We’ve had a little run in the Prem, and they seem very happy with Championship obscurity.
I guess the concern is when there’s been a couple of seasons hiatus and you get a squad of players who maybe haven’t played in the derby before they might not be up for it in the same way (that’s our fear when we play Foolham in the ‘proper’ match in November – Ed). So it’s nice to have that one in the bag already. A 1-0 victory still leaves much room for improvement when we play them at home though, so watch out for that!
How did it compare to other derby matches?
Well, it didn’t have the same level of magic as previous ‘Old Farm’ derbies. The Jamie Cureton ‘Green Hair’ one for comedy value obviously. For all the comedy, they are usually fairly bad tempered affairs though!
For me, definitely the 2010-11 game at Carrow Road was the best though. Paul Lambert had a touchline ban, but if I recall he always used to watch the first half of games from the stands anyway, so I don’t think it made that much difference. Grant Holt scored a hatrick. I*****h had a player sent off. And it was when Roy Keane was their manager, so it was smiles all round!
Did you lose any players in the close season.
Yes, but actually none that have made me panic too much. Notable departures have been – midfielder Leroy Fer who went to QPR. It was obvious he wasn’t going to hang around and play in the Championship after scoring for Holland in the world cup finals earlier this summer.
Wingers Robert Snodgrass and Anthony Pilkington went to Hull and Cardiff respectively. And crucially we managed to offload our cursed striker Ricky Van Wolfwinkel to St Etienne. The poor guy was our record transfer signing at £8.5m last season but only managed one goal (on the first day of the season).
Did you pick any players up?
Yes, the best signing so far has to have been your old boy Louis Grabban from Bournemouth. Turns out he can score goals!
Did you agree with the sacking of Chris Hughton who, dare I add, was a member of our promotion winning side last time we went up to the Championship.
I’m aware I may be on my own among City fans with this one, but I was firmly in a dwindly minority in the ‘no’ camp on that one. I always thought Hughton was a good manager, and if Van Wolfswinkel hadn’t turned out to be such a turkey I genuinely believe things could have been very different.
I absolutely hate the manager merry-go-round so for me, any manager sacking us undesirable. And given Hughton had taken over from Paul Lambert (who in the fans eyes could do no wrong), and actually had done alright with the team, it just felt like the board were being cowardly in the way they went about it. And to top it up, to promote the youth team coach rather than actually make a statement in signing a manager with a better track record than Hughton rubs salt in the wounds!
You know you have Brentford to thank for your meteoric rise up the leagues. Last time you came to Griffin Park we were both in Division 1 and it was Paul Lambert’s 1st game as manager. Norwich had just been beaten 7-1 at home by Colchester and you poached their manager. He sat in the main stand and watched as the mighty Bees dispatched you 2-1 with goals from Dickson and Hunt (see video clip) – Grant Holt inevitably scoring a consolation goal for you. After that result, just like when we beat Southampton the following season, you never looked back. And it was only August.
I agree with you totally Billy! I’ve already talked a fair bit about that season above, and I genuinely believe it was my favourite season as a Norwich fan. It was brilliant to watch a totally new team being built.
And as the Lambert bandwagon rolled on, it became more and more apparent it was going to work out fine. We got to go to smaller clubs and grounds we don’t normally get to go to, which was good for me as a London based fan, and once it got going we were loving every game – going into them knowing we were going to win most!
Blimey. Our team now is unrecognisable from that team. Carl Cort was leading the attack for starters. That was always gonna end in tears. You had Tudor-Jones and Spillane playing for you who you managed to palm off to us .. In a round about way. Cheers for that.
Well those names are mostly blasts from the past! I guess time flies when you’re having fun. The ginger pele Gary Doherty in his prime for example. Respect to Wes Hoolahan and Russell Martin, both in their first season at Norwich back then, and both will be playing against you tomorrow night, having been up and down through the leagues.
Special shout to Theoklitos still on the teamsheet for that game. I think that was the last time he even made the bench. He realised it he was on a hiding to nothing and the rumour was at the next away game he just didn’t bother showing up for the coach!
Lewis Grabban. Joined us just after you got promoted from Division 1 and struggled to get into the side – Uwe Rosler finally deciding when he took over as manager he was surplus to requirements and he was released. How is he looking for your? Does he still miss ten times as many chances as he scores?
As I said before, I think he’s a quality signing! After watching Van Wolfswinkel flailing around on his own upfront last season a good old work-a-day Championship striker is very nice thank you very much.
Who’s gonna really impress us for you on Tuesday?
Grabban obviously. But also Wes Hoolahan seems to be finding his tiny little feet again. After a miserable season last season where he ranted on camera about wanting to “get away from this f**king sh**ty” club he’s been totally rehabilitated by Adams and is a little midfield wizard who makes championship and league one defenders look silly.
Ruddy obviously is an imposing presence between the sticks. We’ve been lucky to hang on to him.
Bees fans will never forget the FA Cup 3rd round in 1996 … when we beat Norwich 2-1 at Carrow Road – a goal form Marcus Bent sending fans running up the aisles with cheese hats on their heads … in the midst of the infamous cheese craze … singing “You’re watching 3rd Division” … that was fun. What has been your biggest downer/embarrassing moment as a Norwich fan?
Hmm. Various league cup exits to lower league opposition. Derby capitulations. Anything under Glen Roeder. Special mention to the final day of the 2004-5 season when we lost 6-0 at Fulham (how could you? – ED) and all we had to do was get a draw to stay up!
That 7-1 defeat to Colchester is probably a happier embarrassing moment though, just because it had such a happy ending! I do feel sorry for Bryan Gunn though. Never been the same for him since.
We can’t talk Norwich without mentioning Delia Smith. The away game could be the first game where Bees fans are more excited about tasting the pies in the ground than the local ales. Is it true she whips up culinary delights for football fans.
Haha, well yes. Delia’s reputation is a blessing and a curse. She and her husband have put an absolute tonne of cash into the club and not asked for it back. She loves a sherry and as long as we can keep her off the pitch, and off the mic (let’s be ‘avin you) then I’m happy.
It is absolutely true that she has got the catering locked off at Carrow Road. The matchday food is clearly way better than you get at any other ground, and there is also a very fancy restaurant in there too. My cousin learnt his trade as a chef in the restaurant at Delias there, and he’s now working at a real fancy-pants joint in London, so it can’t be bad!
So should we be expecting quails eggs Balti pie and pheasant crisps at your concession stalls then?
Pretty much, yep. You can mock, but you’ll be loving it.
Fave ever player?
Has to be my boyhood hero Jeremy Goss (pictured above. no relation to your Hospital Records other top dog I presume – Ed). ‘That’ volley against Bayern Munich when we had our little European run in 1993 is all you need to know.
Head to head, Norwich are just shading it winning 21 games to the Bees’ 20 with 8 games drawn. Do you think you can carry the run on?
Yes, I think we’ll keep trucking on, and be right up the top of the league at christmas… What will happen after then, who knows!
Give us a score prediction
Brentford 0-3 Norwich
Thanks for Tom for taking time out to give us a Yellow-tinged view of things happening East of Ilford .. Catch up with Tom’s various musical bitz and pieces on the Hospital Records website over a cup of tea if you get 15 minutes .. it’s very good.
You can catch live banter from the pub … Bees and Norwich fans by clicking onto the Beesotted YouTube channel ….around 6.45pm ….
For Norwich fans coming down, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match. There four pubs around the ground. The Griffin is closest to the away end and is very popular with away fans – but also very busy. The New Inn is on the other side is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and The Royal Oak (normally home fans only) are the other two options. Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) the … The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) – both incredibly friendly and cozy away-frienly pubs .. frequented by away fans in the know – and The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields before making your way down to the ground (normally stopping off at The Globe and Lord Nelson en route) .. and for ale heads the Magpie and Stump real ale pub on Brentford High Street … A quick google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have an early start (or all evening) …