BY MIGUEL CULLEN
CELEBRITY chef Delia Smith has announced that a thanksgiving Mass will be celebrated at Norwich City Football Club tomorrow to mark the team’s first top-flight game in nine years.
This Saturday will be the first time in history that a service will take place inside Carrow Road, the home of the Canaries — as the players, staff and fans at Norwich are known.
Delia Smith, the club’s majority shareholder, first thought of the idea after spotting many Norwich fans in the city’s Catholic cathedral after games.
She told The Daily Telegraph: “I am very much hoping it will be well attended; if it is, we might be able to have it two or three times a season.” Fr Tom McSweeney, chap lain to the football club, said that the service is in thanksgiving for Norwich FC’s good fortune. But he is not going to pray for future victories: “I wish I had the gift of foresight,” he told the Herald. “If we pray for our success then we would pray for the other team to lose. We can’t play that game.” Bookmakers have put the odds of Norwich winning the Premiership at 5,000-1 and are offering 18-5 that the team will be relegated, so perhaps a little divine assistance is required. They start their season at home to London-based Crystal Palace FC, and will then face Manchester United away.
Delia Smith, a practising Catholic, persuaded Fr McSweeney to become the club’s chaplain last year. Fr McSweeney says his role at Norwich City “means being available, being there, really being able to walk alongside people, which is what Christ did.” He sees his appointment as Norwich FC chaplain as a logical step. “A lot of my parishioners are fans, and the ground is in my parish: it seemed a natural progression,” he said.
Several important members of the Canaries’ squad are practising Catholics. Defender Malky Mackay, a Scottish international, Philip Mulryne, a playmaking midfielder with caps for Northern Ireland, and Paul McVeigh, the Canaries’ top scorer in 2002-2003, are all “at Mass regularly”, according to Fr McSweeney.
“The service will be “a thanksgiving for the Godgiven gifts, talents and skills of our players”, and will take place at 6pm in the Top of the Table restaurant. Everyone connected to Norwich City is welcome.
Ms Smith said that her hugely succesful book, How to Cook was inspired by a Catholic priest who told her he did not know how to boil an egg.
In a recent list of the most important religious figures in Britain, Ms Smith was ranked in the top 50.