T’was the spring of 1994. Tim Robbins was crawling through a steaming canal of prison poo to freedom, while a young physicist named Brian Cox was rashly binning off a life of serious academia for a pop band most people would politely describe as ‘a sh*t M People’. Meanwhile, in the world of football, Terry Venables was just about to kick off an era of elaborate benders, tabloid outrage and smashed up aeroplanes before finishing off with what was probably English football’s last positive moment.
It was also around about this time that Norwich City’s Nathan Redmond popped into the world, alas too young to debate the merits of the Christmas Tree formation or what precisely was wrong with Darren Anderton’s entire body.
Fast-forward 21 years and Redmond is just about the brightest yellow flicker in a Norwich side filled with semi-hope. 2 games in and Redmond has scored twice, the first an uncomplicated, long-distance thwack past Crystal Palace’s Alex McCarthy and the second an equally uncomplicated wander past the bag of burning dog turd Sunderland has seemingly exchanged for a defence.
For those fans blinkered to anything beyond the (cough) ‘Best League in the World’, the arrival of this startling young winger has captured attention – prompting a nationwide spasm of jerked knees amongst easily panicked fantasy football managers. But Norwich fans will gladly tell you about Redmond’s considerable talents. An instinctive dribbler who can turn a full-back’s knees to dropped quiche, he’s the kind of explosive, unpredictable forward that causes ardent Canaries to spray hot mustard all over the Sky Plus box. He’s also something of a puzzle, with a tendency to drift out of a game like a fart in a speedboat. Goals too have been something of sh*tty stick with which to jab him. His return for Norwich in their promotion season was an underwhelming 6 in 46. The season before, when Norwich dropped out of the Premier League, he managed just 1 goal in 34 appearances. But, already this season Redmond seems to be addressing this concern – not least because his new manager, Alex Neil, seems like the kind of man who could burn a hole in your organs with nothing more than a stern Lanarkshire glare.
So, is this the season when Redmond makes what we so boringly call ‘the step up’? Momentum certainly seems to be on his side. As well as bursting into the new Premier League campaign, he ended last season with a goal and a man of the match performance in the play-off final against Middlesbrough.
He also spent a brief part of the summer helping Gareth Southgate make the act of watching a generation of bright young Englishmen feel less enjoyable than getting your eyelids tongued out by Nicky Butt. And yet, despite a hopeless collective showing at the Under 21 European Championships, Redmond still did enough to find his way into the ‘team of the tournament’.
And in a season where England’s hopes for a new (nobody say Golden) generation have already taken several chops to the windpipe, a scorching season from Nathan Redmond would be fabulous news. (Expect that he might actually bin off England, quickly Netflix ‘The Commitments’ and declare himself for Ireland.)
But before Redmond decides his international future, he’s going to have to become the kind of forward that dismantles Premier League defences the way Paul Merson dismantles fundamental syntax.
He can start by continuing with the kind of thrusting, self-assured performances we’ve already seen – in a Norwich side that undoubtedly has the leadership, talent and togetherness to stay up in a league that still hands over skip loads of banknotes to Sunderland, Newcastle and Aston Villa.
Whatever happens for Redmond this season it’s unlikely he will be the best thing to have come from 1994 (Diana Ross missing that penalty, Jean Reno in ‘Leon’, ‘Nemesis’ opening at Alton Towers). But I think we can all agree he absolutely won’t be the worst. That would be 15 f*cking weeks of ‘Love is All Around’ by Wet Wet Wet. Thanks 1994.