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GENUINE SORT

November, 1987 I suspect there is little to be gained in suggesting that Ken Browns sacking from Carrow Road will go down as one of the less enlightened moves of 1987. Ill suggest it all the same because it makes me feel slightly better after a week in which respect and sympathy have tried hard to take over from anger. And it might help me to avoid temptation when the call arrives to become a football club director. It is one of the games more outstanding follies to perpetuate a belief that 92 employees can all be successful at the same time. Perhaps thats the only way to attract victims to certain dug-outs, but youd have thought the word had got round. Be they misguided, masochistic, mischievous or simply blessed with a little magic football managers dont last long. Directors, be they misguided, masochistic, mischievous or simply blessed with a little money usually give them a vote of confidence before swinging the axe. Like it or lump it, that is the system. While it prevails, heads will roll with alarming regularity amid protestations it was the only option left after much heart-searching. The anatomical jigsaw continues as the latest casualty contemplates putting his knee in anothers groin while the media are fed delightful lines like: Id give an arm and a leg for this moment not to have come. After nearly 20 years of close contact with Carrow Road fortunes, serving local press and local wireless, I decided at the end of last season to step down from the soapbox. News of Ken Browns dismissal made me ask myself if Id experienced any sort of premonition following the most successful campaign in Norwich Citys chequered First Division history. No. Even after Mel Machins move to Manchester City robbed the Radio Norfolk cricket team of a key figure for the annual match at Beetley, I didnt anticipate too many troubles piling up for the manager he left behind. I have been standing back, listening to all the possible reasons for his sudden demise. I have read the letters, the majority, it seems, soaked in sympathy. The board have badly underestimated Ken Browns popularity among the rank-and-file supporters and even those who
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acknowledge the existence of football only at times such as this. They know a genuine sort when they see and hear one.

Ken Brown came with a smile and went in tears Let me declare an interest here. I broke the news 14 years ago on the front page of the Eastern Daily Press that John Bond and Ken Brown were poised to take over at Carrow Road following the dramatic resignation and departure of Ron Saunders. Despite all the turmoil, City had pulled off a shock League Cup win at Southampton and it was in the boardroom after that tie I first met the couple whod been making quite an impact with Bournemouth.
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Southampton boss Lawrie McMenemey was generous in defeat and pointed me toward the leather-coated figures conspiring up the corner like refugees from Smileys People. John Bond provided enough wish we were there quotes to fill three notebooks. His partner nodded, smiled and let the big feller do the talking a pattern destined to become a regular feature of Carrow Road life during the next seven years. Ken Brown lived in the shadows most of that time but played an important role in helping to keep colleague and club on the right lines. If Bond was too often the wicked uncle lambasting his players in public, Brown was the agony aunt comforting them in private. He talked the manager out of resigning more than once. He laughed at some of his more outrageous ideas and comments to put them in some kind of perspective. In short, he fed Bonds strengths, worked overtime to keep his weaknesses in check and showed how fun and fairness could wear the same shirt. For me, Ken Browns most telling performance came in March, 1977, on the way home from Newcastle. City had crashed to a 5 1 defeat. Within minutes of the end of this one-sided affair, the players were hustled on to the coach for a brutally open seminar that spared no feelings. Bond spat out barbed questions and ridiculed half-hearted answers. Whiplash rhetoric for over two hours ... I can still see some of the targets cowering. Ken Brown was to pick up the pieces littered all over that bus. Quietly but effectively, he moved in after the storm to cajole, console or crack a joke where he thought it might prove useful. I swear he persuaded at least four Canaries not to commit suicide but to put on a brave face for Sunday morning detention at Trowse. Perhaps he was happier and more effective as a coach and assistant but he defied those much too nice labels long enough to tell the doubters he did have what it is supposed to take to be a manager. He never relished the after-match press conference like Bond, who hurled juicy quotes at the Fleet Street hounds and bared his emotions at the drop of a point. Brown couldnt be teased into talking away a bad result or gloating over a good one. After Saunders the hard man and Bond the flamboyant, Brown the straightforward might have come as a tame act to those who make a living out of headlines. Persuasion isnt so eye-catching as bullying. Angry shouts sell more papers than genial smiles.

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Ken Brown simply couldnt put on an act to suit the media. Perhaps he was a bit naive to think his simple, open virtues could shield against boardroom machinations and public clamour as bad results mounted up. However, he deserved something far better than a curt Well done, good and faithful Canary servant ... you know your way out. Ken Brown came with a smile. He went in tears. Fourteen years of honest graft in between. Like picking up pieces on the way back from humiliation in Newcastle. Come to think of it, Ken, you should have followed my example at the end of last season and called it a day at Carrow Road. Would have saved a lot of anguish. Now, just be careful in case hardened hearts turn soft and you are offered a seat on the board. The idea was mooted not long ago when you were one of the First Divisions leading lights. With last weeks events in mind, do you really think you have the qualities to be a director?

CHALK AND CHEEK A lad at a Norfolk village school inquired; Please, miss, would yew be angry an tell me orff fer suffin I dint dew? The teacher replied: No, of course not. Thass good, said the boy. Then yew wunt mind cors I hent dun my hoomwork. July, 2000

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GHOSTLY CROCODILE
November, 2010 I was in town to celebrate the prospect of extra appeal at one of Norfolks most beautiful churches. A short diversion on the way left me lamenting blatant lack of care and respect for splendid old buildings soaked in history on the opposite side of the market place. A suitably eerie blanket of fog swirled over Swaffham, no doubt trying to cover up painful windows for sensitive souls bent on peering into the past. I stood at the gate of my old grammar school, doffed an imaginary cap and waited for the bell to clang as a signal to start remembering. A ghostly crocodile of chattering boys marched up from the railway station, art and woodwork master Harry Carter acting as outrider with bow tie and flowing locks encouraging reasonable levels of behaviour. Thoughts of double algebra to start the week prompted a few obvious slouches when he wasnt looking. I caught the train at Fransham and marched in and out of those gates for seven years. Hamonds Grammar School, founded in 1736, survived my departure until 1977 when it merged with the towns secondary modern to form a co-educational comprehensive. The group of early 19th century buildings, acquired by trustees to expand the grammar school to cater for up to 100 pupils in 1895, served most recently as a sixth form centre. Now they stand, empty, forlorn, waiting apprehensively like an errant first-former cowering outside the headmasters study on a bitterly cold morning. Of course Im biased and easily lured along sentimental corridors whenever those elegant buildings call up so many of my yesterdays. Old boys reunions have offered poignant wanderings for those who can stand treble nostalgia where double algebra and single-minded masters used to be. For all that, it would be scandalous to watch such prime-site assets slide deeper into neglect and decline. I assume some efforts are being made to breathe fresh life into this historic part of Swaffham, either as offices or residential apartments. When I last checked, the buildings still belonged to the Hamond Educational Charity and were leased by Norfolk County Council as part of the sixth form centre. During the early years of the 19th century those buildings housed the Swaffham branch of the Norwich and Swaffham Bank run by three Day brothers, Thomas, Henry and William. The bank issued its own pound
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notes illustrated with an engraving of the towns market cross but went under in 1826. The premises reverted to a private residence for the Day family until taken over by the school. Bought at auction for 735 by John Aldiss in 1895, they were rented to the Hamond trustees and became the schools boarding house and headmasters accommodation with the original Campingland seat of learning initially being retained solely as classrooms. Four years later, Aldiss sold the property to the trustees for 1,185 perhaps he should have worked behind the counter for those Day brothers when the market place site had classrooms added and the Campingland school reverted to boarding for boys and assistant masters. End of history lesson... and on to an invitation to stride confidently towards the future amid uplifting company on the other side of the market place. Time to complete a proud double beneath a host of carved wooden angels poised in flight for over 600 years. I was a patron 25 years back when St Peter & St Paul Parish Church launched an appeal to raise funds for completion of vital repair work. Now a new 250,000 campaign has started in the name of window restoration and other projects and I am delighted to be back in a team of patrons to support the appeal committee and inspirational president, Baroness Shephard of Northwold. My links with this church stretch back to Swaffham schooldays when we paid regular visits with headmaster, Major IEN Besley, in search of spiritual sustenance at the beginning and end of terms crammed with delights like double ...well, you can probably guess subjects on my list pleading for divine intervention. Ill be presenting an evening of homely reflections, readings and yarns in the church on Friday, March 25 next year as part of a programme of fundraising events. A few classroom capers, railway reminiscences and mathematical mysteries are bound to be included. The Pedlar of Swaffham was ushered towards London Bridge to hear about his pot of gold. I only have to turn up in town to be reminded of other treasures... like Nicholas Hamonds bequest of 1,000 to build and endow a school for 20 boys to be built on the old Campingland behind the church. He died in 1725 and is buried in the north transept of St Peter & St Paul. I will pay humble respects next March. By that time it is to be hoped that a fog of deep uncertainty will no longer be haunting his name or certain buildings over the way.
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