Football is a game of passion. The best managers are able to harness that and get their players playing at the top level whilst feeding from the crowd, such as Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool. Sometimes, though, that passion spills over in ways that are, at best, not all that helpful. One such example can be found in what happened at Norwich City in 2006, when two of the players reportedly came to blows on the team coach after a defeat. It might have been the performance that led to the disagreement, or maybe just the stress of such a long journey.
Having gone to Plymouth Argyle’s home ground for the game, the Canaries will no doubt have been disappointed to have lost 3-1 at Home Park. That disappointment will, perhaps understandably, have turned to anger when the players realised that they had a journey of about six hours left on the coach in order to make it back to East Anglia. That being said, contrary reports suggested that it was actually a fight that happened at the training ground on the Thursday before the match, perhaps explaining the poor performance.
The exact details of what happened aren’t clear. Information was leaked from someone inside the Norwich camp, who said that there was ‘no love lost’ between Youssef Safri and Dickson Etuhu during their time with the football club. The insider said, “They are always having a go at each other in training but it really was a shock to see their feud boil over in such a violent way.” The two players reportedly began trading punches and had to be pulled apart by their teammates and the coaching staff, who tried to calm the situation down.
What we can’t say for certain is where, or even when, it happened. The initial report was that it took place on the coach, which wouldn’t be all that surprising given the length of the journey that the players will have had to endure if they were being driven all the way from Plymouth back to Norwich. Anyone who has ever been in a car for a long journey and has sniped at a relative will surely be able to sympathise. In the wake of the news being leaked, however, it was then suggested that the fight had taken place at the training ground.
If that were true, it would help to explain why the team was not at its best during the 3-1 defeat. The Pilgrims made the most of their home advantage, as well as the discord in the opposition camp, heading into the dressing room with a one goal lead at half-time. They then doubled their lead straight after the break and added a third just over 15 minutes before full-time, with Robert Earnshaw grabbing a consolation goal for the visitors in the 90th minute. Regardless of when the fight was, it didn’t help the Canaries, leading to Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones, joint majority shareholders, issuing a public ultimatum.