Norwich City legends lost 1-2 to Inter Forever on Sunday but there were no losers as a near 18,000 crowd soaked up the sun and enjoyed the football, while raising money to help build the Community Sports Foundation’s Nest Centre.
The Nest community hub is currently being built at the site of the old Anglia Windows Sports & Social Club off Holt Road near Norwich airport and £2.5m is needed to complete the £10.9m project.
Mike Walker was back in the Norwich dug out as manager and Ian Culverhouse was alongside him, overseeing a team of legends from the 93’-94’ UEFA Cup run as well as more recent heroes, like Grant Holt, Darren Huckerby, (Father) Phil Mulryne and Adam Drury.
Inter Forever were packed with stars and fresh from a 4-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Friday night, in support of the Chelsea Foundation and Crohn’s and Colitis UK in memory of Ray Wilkins.
Bryan Gunn got a huge cheer when he finally appeared late on in the warm-up. The rest of the squad had been out for 20 minutes or so before Gunny ran on, made a catch and then jogged off, again to rapturous applause. He is a unit, mind.
Gunn made a regulation save early on and got a huge cheer as he dived like a falling oak tree to collect Suazo’s shot.
There was much to enjoy about Inter with Javier Zanetti looking like he could still play at the San Siro. He didn’t misplace a pass all afternoon but it was World Cup winner, Marco Materazzi who cracked home a 20-yard free kick, in off a post, giving Gunn no chance, to open the scoring.
Just prior to that being taken, Gunny signalled to the bench that he wanted to come off. Presumably, he had an idea of what was about to come from Materazzi. The signal that came back from the bench was an emphatic “No, you’re staying on.”
Shortly after, Gunn made way for Scott Howie, and Francesco Toldo came off at the other end for Sebastien Frey. Howie though, could do nothing about John Polston’s unfortunate header that put through his own net from a Houssine Kharja corner a short time later.
0-2 down after 25 minutes and effective reinforcements were called forward. Grant Holt and Darren Huckerby came on to a huge cheer with Lee Power and Daryl Sutch going off.
Holty and Hucks immediately made a big difference and Holt was denied a goal with a great header from a Huckerby corner by a terrific save from Frey.
After the break, there were a raft of changes for both sides and we saw Youssouf Safri, who got shouts of “SHOOT” every time he was given the ball, Darren Kenton, Iwan Roberts and Andy Marshall, who was booed onto the field.
To be fair to him, he made three or four excellent saves while on the field, but he too has put on some timber.
Grant Holt should’ve scored at least three goals and narrowly missed with another header before heading over the bar from about 8 yards out with Frey nowhere, after more good work by Huckerby.
Inter brought on Jurgen Klinsmann to huge cheers and the former German international player and manager almost scored three times himself.
First his far post header was held by Marshall, then he clipped a post with a scissor kick (he’s 53 years old), before hitting the other post late on.
Norwich finally reduced the arrears on 64 minutes when another Huckerby cross made it’s way to Paul McVeigh, who deftly took the ball round Frey to score from close in.
City pressed late on to look for an equaliser but it wasn’t it be and Inter ran out 1-2 winners.
There were no losers here though.
At the end, the players all embraced and applauded the 17,969 fans who had come out to support the Community Sports Foundation.
I noted that there was some mocking stuff on social media from our mates down the A140 who were ill-informed, as usual, about the reasons behind the match. They seemed to think we were “celebrating” losing in the UEFA Cup 25 years ago.
The notion that this was merely a fun day out to raise money for a new hub to help disabled children was entirely lost on most of those that piped up on Twitter. Shame on those involved in that.
They should note that more people turned out to watch some old boys run about in the sun and raise money for charity then their average home gate for last season.
Anyway, there was much to admire on the field, putting the good cause aside for one moment.
— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) May 20, 2018
From an Inter point of view, Javier Zanetti looked like he could still play at a high level, despite his 44 years. Alessandro Bianchi is in his early 50’s and didn’t stop running all day and Giuseppe Baresi at 60 years old didn’t embarrass himself.
I work with blokes 20 years younger who should take a look at the care they take of themselves 🙂
On the Norwich team, there were also some decent performances too, with Darren Huckerby the stand out individual, which won him the man of the match award.
He ran the left wing, just like the old times and put in cross after cross. He keeps himself fit and from observations on social media, he takes a personal pride in that. We got to see him in tandem with Grant Holt and although he’s lost that bustling energy he had ten years ago, Holt was still a big threat in the air. How he missed that chance in the second half though…
Mark Bowen and Rob Newman were still effective, despite being in their 50’s and Newman was operating a “none shall pass” policy as he faced David Suazo, Giorgos Karagounis and Houssine Kharja, who all had at least 12 years on those City centre backs.
Spencer Prior was in shape and looked decent, as did Adam Drury who had to bail out Huckerby a couple of times on the left.
Just like old times, eh Adam?
Darren Eadie, played much of the game and although he’s no longer the speed merchant he used to be, he’s still got the eye for a pass, as has Father Phil Mulryne, who looked like he had a great time, always wanting the ball and dictating the play in the middle.
I get that this sort of thing is not everybody’s cup of tea but rolling back the years for charity, on a sunny day and being allowed to drink beer in sight of the pitch was not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, well done to all involved.