Third place in the HAWAY Awards: Melissa Rudd, of Norwich and TalkSPORT

Melissa Rudd:
Melissa Rudd on Euro 2012 duty

Melissa Rudd’s interview looked a winner in Salut! Sunderland’s Haway awards – Highly Articulate Who are You? works for us to produce the acronym – when it appeared before her club, Norwich City, came up to Sunderland and deservedly took a point. Her bad luck was threefold: two later entries that our judges collectively found to be even better, plus the Canaries’ relegation. Commiserations, Melissa, and thanks again. Your consolation as the final results are announced is to have your golden words reproduced below – and to collect her choice of prize as now described:

wsc328_cover_DC2.inddMelissa may choose between a year’s subscription to the great football magazine When Saturday Comes or a choice of WSC tops. If she visits, she will get an idea of the options.

And this is how Melissa’s interview appeared last December …

We tried for Stephen Fry, thought of Delia Smith, decided it was too soon to return to Norwich City’s presence at Newcastle Cathedral but settled finally on Melissa Rudd*, an assistant producer at talkSPORT and lifelong follower of Norfolk’s finest. She turned out to be a splendid choice, rising above the wear and tear of the office party the night before to offer some knowledgeable thoughts on her club, our club and football generally.

The interview should be dedicated to poor Michael Theoklitos, never to be forgotten by the Canaries after a pantomime performance in goal for a 7-1 drubbing at home to Colchester, a result that prompted an astonishing Norwich revival – without Theoklitos – but was, sadly, not the reason he later changed his name by deed poll to Theo. Our bet is that he’s an absolute star back his native Oz, where he now plays for Brisbane Roar …

Salut! Sunderland:
We used to be able to think “at least there’ll be three points from Norwich at home” but I bet you now fancy – or at least fancied until we beat Chelsea – coming to the Stadium of Light and doing what you did to WBA.

Melissa: I’m not too sure about that! Performances have picked up recently but our record at the Stadium of Light isn’t great – I think I’m right in saying we’ve only won there once – when we were the first away team to win there in 1997 (the afternoon before Princess Diana was killed – ed). I think it will be a low scoring draw.

Despite a couple of thrashings, you seem able to pull off just enough victories to keep head above water. Do you see that being sustained?

We went through a really rough patch before beating West Ham and it’s been a strange season so far. Our problem for a while has been scoring goals but now Gary Hooper is in fine form I’m confident our results will pick up. Robert Snodgrass was one of our best players last year. He started the season quite poorly then scored a great free kick against West Ham and has been injured since. When he’s back fit I’m sure he’ll be a key player for us again. Ricky van Wolfswinkel has been out with a toe injury – the jury’s still out on him and it will be interesting to see what team Hughton plays when he is back fit.

But is Chris Hughton the man to make Norwich seem a Premier League fixture and take the club to a higher level?

It’s tough to say – I’d like to say yes and the club obviously think so because they’ve stuck by him. The main gripe fans have had with him is the negative style of play and defensive substitutions.

At times, especially away from home, we attack with no belief we can actually score. Last season we were good defensively. We still took the odd hammering but on the whole we were difficult to score against. We’ve not had that same resilience this season. When you couple that with finding it hard to score it’s no surprise some games have gone so badly.

As I said, I’m hoping having an in-form striker in the team will change that mentality and we can stop leaking silly goals. I think fans of other clubs look at Norwich fans moaning and question why after finishing 11th last season and picking up wins when we need them. But it’s how we approach games – both this season and last – including failing to get a shot on target in 90 minutes which happened at least twice last season. Against Man City and Liverpool we were beaten before we set foot on the pitch. No one can have any complaints about being beaten by great sides but that’s not always the case and when we don’t attempt to win that’s unacceptable and can’t continue.

It’s fair to say Stephen Fry did not leap at our invitation to answer these questions but he does have millions of followers so can be excused. How big a fan is he reckoned to be?

He’s a busy man but his Twitter suggests that wherever he is in the world he always looks out for our results and he watches us when he can too, so I would say a big one!

Jake: 'now lets do it in the league'
Jake: ‘now lets do it in the league’

And is Delia Smith good for the club?

Of course – she saved us from administration. I hate to think where we’d be without the millions she ploughed into the club to keep us afloat. I think for that we can just about forgive her for an embarrassing rant on the pitch…

You will be far too young to have experienced the Friendly Final, the 1985 Milk Cup final against us. Any handed down memories?

My dad went to the final and still has a Sunderland scarf that he swapped with a fan on that day. As the only cup we’ve ever won that final is special! I can only hope I get to see us play at Wembley in my lifetime.

You work at talkSPORT. What’s it like, what do you do and who, if this isn’t classified information, do you really like working with?

I’m an assistant producer which basically means helping to put together a show, whether that be arranging phone guests for interviews, coming up with ideas or topics for debate, making audio packages and writing cues. It’s a great job and every show is different – there isn’t anyone I don’t like working with!

Who are the greatest players you’ve seen – or wish you’d seen – in Norwich colours and who should have been allowed nowhere near them?

Some of our greatest players like Chris Sutton, Ian Crook, Martin Peters, Steve Bruce etc all had their day before I could remember watching them. In terms of watching players in the flesh, when I first started going to games Craig Bellamy and Darren Eadie were in the first team and were great players. When Darren Huckerby joined us though the excitement in the stadium when he had the ball at his feet was like nothing I’d ever experienced, he ran defences ragged.

Iwan Roberts was also a hero – a good old fashioned centre forward as was Grant Holt. The worst player I’ve ever seen was Michael Theoklitos – a goalkeeper we signed from Melbourne Victory. He made one appearance for us – the infamous 7-1 defeat to Colchester in 2009. I’ve never seen a goalkeeping performance like it. It was like watching a schoolboy game where the ‘keeper had been sent off and all the subs had been made so an outfield player who’d never played in goal before was in between the sticks.

It got to the stage where a cheer erupted every time he touched the ball other than retrieving it from the back of the net. And that wasn’t very often! Worst signing ever.

Our links includes Gary Rowell, Shaun Elliott, Steve Bruce, Michael Turner. Do any stick out in your memory?

Carl Robinson does. We went to the Stadium of Light hoping to seal the Division One title in 2003. We lost on the night but so did West Brom so we were confirmed champions and Sunderland won to seal the first play off place so both sets of fans were very happy. I’d travelled to the game via club coach and had pulled out Robinson’s name in the sweepstake for first goal scorer – his was the only goal of the game. £38 is a lot of money when you’re 14 so I was very grateful to him! He joined us from Sunderland a couple of seasons after before moving to Toronto.

Do you have good, bad or using experiences of games between our clubs?

Great experiences – we have a good record against you at Carrow Road and as mentioned the first time I went to the Stadium of Light we won 1-0. It was the first time I saw us win away. The other time I got an afternoon off school to get to the game and we won the title so it doesn’t get much better!

What have been you own highs and lows as a supporter?

The low was standing at The Valley having just been relegated to League One. The odds were against us on the day but if we won and results went our way we could have stayed up. We put in a pitiful performance and lost anyway. The highs came in the three years under Paul Lambert – the football we played, the results along the way including beating Ipswich 4-1 at home and 5-1 away, then going to The Emirates and getting a 3-3 draw in one of the best games I’ve ever seen involving Norwich.

What will be the top four in order and who –being as cruel as you wish – is going down?

I think Chelsea will win the title, followed by Arsenal, Man City and Liverpool. I’m going to say Fulham, Palace and I hate to say it, but Sunderland for the drop (sorry!)

Where will our clubs finish if not mentioned already?

I think Norwich will finish 13th – which will be worse than last year but if we can ensure our safety a few weeks earlier it’ll seem like an improvement!

Brazil 2014: excited already or too Norwich-obsessed to care?

I’m club over country for sure but talkSPORT will have commentary of all the games so it’s hard not to be excited when it’ll be such a big focus next year! I haven’t got any hopes for England but maybe it’s better that way as whenever there is expectations we don’t meet them.

What most inspires you about the modern game and what appals?

What appals me is the spiralling ticket prices. There has to be a point when clubs have to stop before fans are driven away from the because of the cost. Inspiring? Twitter. Sounds weird I know but I think players had lost touch with fans in recent years, now a lot of them are on Twitter and it’s a great platform for engaging with them.

Will you be at our game and what will be the score?

I won’t unfortunately – too busy with last minute Christmas shopping! I’m going for a 1-1 draw.

Melissa Rudd on herself:

I’m a freelance radio assistant producer and online magazine editor. I graduated from the University of Lincoln in 2010 with a Journalism degree and started working at talkSPORT in 2012 after winning a six month internship through a competition called the Coca-Cola Fan Reporter. As part of the job I got to go to the Euros in Warsaw and interview fans during the tournament and have been working across different shows at talkSPORT since. I’ve supported Norwich ever since I can remember and endured my first game (a 0-0 draw against Sheffield United) when I was 7. I used to play for the girls academy and women’s team and my whole family are Norwich fans so it’s always been a big part of my life. I’ve had a season ticket since I was 9 and travel from London to home games.

Interview: Colin Randall


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