Men In Black is my new favourite film. Not that harmless tosh with Will Smith annihilating aliens, but the one with Bradley Johnson tormenting Tottenham.
I have squirrelled away the “First Choice” highlights of City’s draw at White Hart Lane on my SkyPlus planner, along with last season’s victory at the same ground and the stirring draw at The Emirates a few weeks later.
I was at all those games, but those of us for whom Norwich will always be the only choice and not just the First Choice will never tire, surely, of watching those epics.
And of the three, I think the most recent trip to White Hart Lane just might have the most significance. The other two, exhilerating though they were, confirmed what we knew: that the class of 2011-12 could slug it out with the Premier League’s heavyweights.
This time, the achievements at the Lane, particularly the way those last minutes unfolded, tell us something we didn’t know – or at least did not dare take for granted.
They told us that City are back.
So much confidence and belief should flow from the the fact that the club we care about earned a point at Tottenham – and from the justifiable belief that the men in black deserved three.
There is always a danger of reading far too much into too little. But allow yourself the sadistic luxury of thinking of what it would be like if City had let Tottenham’s goal decide the match, or if, having equalised, Chris Hughton’s men had conceded again. Those, after all, were the two outcomes considered most likely by everyone without affinity for our club.
In those circumstances, I believe even the most confident of our players would have muttered silently to themselves: “This is going to be a long, hard season…”
And, of course, the perpetual miserablists among the Yellow Army – the significant minority who are not happy unless they can be unhappy – would have been wailing on every social medium.
Instead, as the magnificent travelling fans yelled themselves hoarse and the players dug in for the draw which was the very least their endeavour and enterprise deserved, there was an almost palpable sense of: “We’ll be all right!”
That opening day shocker at Fulham was so utterly abject, a craven disintegration at the Cottage, that the prime purpose of the QPR game (for both teams, by coincidence) was to regroup and just not lose again.
City did more than that, and they do need to win home games against clubs likely to be in the bottom half of the table, but the wounds caused by Fulham were so raw that picking themselves up and getting going again was Job One. And it was job done.
So we moved on to Spurs away cherishing memories of last season’s magnificent
triumph, but I suspect there were many who, like me, did not expect a repeat performance. Tottenham’s resources put them in another league to City and so defeat wouldn’t be the end of the world: just confirmation of where we are in the world.
Instead we saw proof that at least three of the nine summer aquisitions are pure
quality. Javier Garrido goes about his business – positioning himself to close down an opponent’s opportunity one minute, carressing a difficult pass into submission the next – with the calm assurance at someone who knows the job and knows he can do it.
Sebastien Bassong demonstrated why, as I know for certain, Harry Redknapp would
not have let him leave Spurs. And, as well as supplying the well executed goal, Robert Snodgrass did a proper away job: doing the hard labour in defence and midfield yet keen and ready to carry menace on forward sorties.
But it was the eye-opening performance of Johnson which gave me most heart, by reminding me of what we already have: a group of players who were outstanding last season and have more to give.
Johnson was my MoM against QPR, and against a Tottenham midfield assembled at
ridiculous cost, he was peerless. Perhaps the presence of Alex Tettey among those watching both games provided motivation. But, whatever it was, Johnson was indefatigable and used the ball well on the countless times he won it.
It will still be a long, hard season. Every single point will have to be earned.
And, at this very minute, I expect chief executive David McNally to be squeezing the pips again – demanding cost savings and earnings growth from every department – so that City will be able to spend again in January.
We’ll be all right.
City are back.