This is Norwich 98 – Marshall in the Stands


What we all need after the weekend is something completely different. So here’s Jim VanderPump with his random tales of Norwich City’s Class of 1998. This time it’s Andy Marshall sharing his tale.* *This tale is almost certainly not true…….or is it? This year’s been the worst. It all started when I discovered that my […]

What we all need after the weekend is something completely different. So here's Jim VanderPump with his random tales of Norwich City's Class of 1998. This time it's Andy Marshall sharing his tale.*

*This tale is almost certainly not true.......or is it?

This year's been the worst. It all started when I discovered that my mum had lied to me about the ingredients for cr`eme brulee. When I was a kid and she couldn't be bothered to make a proper dessert, she would serve us up plain yoghurt with burnt porridge oats on top. Consequently, for the following 25 years I've been dismissing the dish and missing out on potentially delicious puddings.

Now things have gone from bad to worse; here I am, in the middle of nowhere, sitting around a camp-fire in the freezing cold with the rest of the Norwich lads, save for the ones who were quick enough to think of an excuse.

It was Eadie's idea to make the outing fancy dress. Any excuse to wear his Han Solo costume, although how that's Halloween related I have no idea. Everyone went along with it, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. I'm a half-hearted Beetlejuice; I already had a black and white striped dressing gown so I chucked a load of flour in my hair and borrowed a bit of Keith O'Neill's eye-liner. It's OK, though, you can always rely on someone else to make less effort than yourself; Peter Grant's just got his shirt off.

"Bodhi," he'd told us all defiantly when questioned. "Off-a Point Break."
We'd all looked back at him blankly.
"Patrick Swayze, ken? He's a deed-ringer fae me."

Nobody argued. None of us could remember whether Swayze also had ginger chest hair and a tattoo of the Celtic cross, so we gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Now we're sitting in silence, avoiding eye-contact and listening to the sound of kindling crackling in the fire. Viktor Segura, dressed in an all-in-one, red PVC jumpsuit, lightly strums a chord on his Spanish guitar (I guess he just calls it a guitar). Somebody needs to say something quickly, before he starts playing it properly again. I hate Flamenco, especially from a guy dressed up as the Anne Summers Devil.

"I guess we should tell horror stories," says a Papa Shango Iwan Roberts.
"I'll go first," says Eadie, far too eagerly, and starts recounting the time he and Daryl Sutch stayed in a cottage in Thorpeness and a rocking chair started moving, of its own accord. "Then there was this smell, like someone had done a disgusting fart, but it wasn't me and Daryl said it wasn't him either, so the only feasible explanation is... a ghost."

There's an uncomfortable shifting to my right and an almost imperceptible clearing of the throat from the Chewbacca costume that's housing Daryl Sutch.

"I can do better than that," somebody says in the darkness.
Everyone turns and looks at me and I realise I've spoken without thinking again.
"Go on then Marshall," jibes Malky in his SS Uniform, which is a bit too close to the mark to be called a costume. "Tell us your scary story."
I'd always sworn that I'd never tell a soul. It's supposed to be my secret; something that I'd take to the grave. But for some reason, whether it's the hypnotic pull of the fire, or being out in the wild, or maybe the fear of being brutally assaulted by savage footballers, something is making me want talk about what happened to me that fateful night...

It was one of those long, hot summer evenings and I was stuck in traffic on Newmarket Road, sucking my way through a packet of Polos. The fans in the car could only blow hot air in my face, the lights ahead seemed to be permanently stuck on red and I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever make home in time for 'Ally McBeal'.

Suddenly, up ahead in the dusky sky, I saw a flickering light. It was coming my way, getting closer and closer until eventually I could see the huge, oval dish it was emanating from. Seeing a rounded shape heading in my direction, I did what came naturally to me as a goalkeeper: threw up my hands to cover my eyes and dived out of the way and into the passenger seat.

There was a blinding flash of light and the next thing I knew I was out of the car, standing in a field, the silver dish hovering 20 feet above my head, apparently waiting for me, with a low hum. I've often wondered how I'll die, whether it's a long, drawn out illness which gradually debilitates me, or a sudden mangling in a combine harvester, but I'd always assumed it would be painful. I guessed I was soon to find out.

When I came to I was back on solid ground, on-board the space-craft. A bright-white, endless corridor covered with sparkling panels of buttons and gadgets lay before me. Two figures appeared in my path. They were short, shorter even than Bellars, and their skin was grey, from oversized head to elongated third toe. Their faces were a blank oval canvass containing only a pair of large, prune-like, pupil-less eyes. The lack of humanness made me feel at ease and I began to think that maybe we would get on.

"Greetings Earthling," said the slightly shorter of the two, extending a spindly hand in my direction. "Welcome aboard our space-ship. May I furnish you with a refreshment, a liquid beverage perhaps?"
"Got any Kia-ora?" I asked and he nodded in a polite sort of bow, before looking to his compatriot in a slightly judgemental way, which made me think I should have played it safe and gone for Ribena. I hoped I hadn't blown my chance of escaping planet Boring with them.

Without speaking the second figure communicated that I was to follow him and the two of us walked side-by-side down the main walkway of the ship, between the many grey figures going about their business.
"What am I doing here?" I asked, but when I turned around my companion was gone and I was in the corridor on my own.

Then, on my right, I saw it. Chained up, hands and feet manacled to individual steel posts so that they looked like a starfish, was another human being. His naked, pink bottom was hoisted up in the air like some sort of jelly on a dessert-trolley in an old people's home and I couldn't help but think of my mum and the cruel trick she'd played with the cr`eme brulee.

"Andy, over here!" It was Chris Llewellyn. He was craning his head around to try and look at me.
I rushed over, but there was no freeing him from the chains. Even if I'd bothered to try.
"Chris, what have they done to you?" I said, my voice as worried as I could make it.
"They stripped me completely naked, shaved off all of my hair, stuck pins in every part of my body, then they started with the anal probe."
"My God, that's terrible!"
"No, it's been alright actually," he said contentedly. "Plus, I get to wear this funky hat. I feel like Jamiroquai or something."

As I looked at him, trussed up like a chicken and wearing a ridiculously fluffy alien mind-probe, I couldn't help but feel a mixture of sorrow and contempt: he was one of those idiots who confused the name of the band with the name of the lead singer. Infuriating.

"Is this your first time here?" he asked.
"Erm, yeah..." I began to answer but as I did I became aware of my mind losing its power and functionality, just like when I'm taking a goal-kick. There was a sharp pain in the back of my neck and in my last moments of consciousness I was able to glance around and see the needle going deep into my skin. The mouthless face of my grey captor seemed to be smiling somehow. Then I passed out.

Next thing I knew I was back in my car, turning onto Unthank Road. My head ached with unfathomable questions: what had they done to me? Why had I been rejected as an unworthy subject? Who had eaten all of my Polos?

I knew I would never find out, but I hoped that one day I would be given another chance.
There's a stunned silence around the camp-fire. My revelation has clearly left my colleagues speechless.
"Aye, tell us something we don't know, Marshall, you dick," says Malky.
I'm taken aback. Here I am revealing a personal experience about extra-terrestrial life-forms and they're not even bothered.
"Chris tells that story all the time," says Neil Adams, removing the wig of his Ginger Spice costume. "Never shuts up about it."
"Hang on a minute," says Iwan, looking around the wood with a frown on his face-paint. "Where is Chris?"
We all look up and down but he's nowhere to be seen. Those that care begin calling his name, but it's no good. He's been taken again.

Lucky bastard.


You can follow Jim on Twitter @JimVanderPump


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