‘Tis the season to be merry’ – as Chris Hughton’s summer buys now start to look the real dealMon 23 Dec 13 by Chris Young
As you tuck into the turkey with all the trimmings … as you’re tempted with “just one more mince pie?” …. and as yet another glass of mulled wine warms body and soul……spare a thought for City’s players.
The hectic Christmas/New Year fixtures leave them little opportunity to indulge in much of the traditional festive fare. Fulham (h), Manchester United (h), Crystal Palace (a) and, then, Fulham (h) in the cup.
But the squad’s seasonal deprivations won’t be forgotten, certainly not in this Canary household. I’ll raise a glass or two in modest celebration of the 2013/14 season thus far and in anticipation of what lies ahead.
A couple of weeks ago I received my customary Christmas card from a former Anglia TV colleague who I’ve known since the 1970s. He’s been a Canary fan for many years and, in the past, has voiced his trenchant views through the letters’ columns of the EDP, the Evening News and the Pink Un.
In addition to his warm, personal Christmas greeting, he added this:
“By the time you receive this our Mr Hughton may be gone. Am afraid his record of 13 wins in 50 speaks for itself. His organisation of good players has been poor. Maybe Malky Mackay will come from Cardiff……”
Well, I’m sorry, David, but I think we must agree to differ on this one.
You see, with my glass half full as usual, I believe much has already been achieved by Team Hughton and there’s plenty more to feel confident about.
Where do I begin? Let’s glance back briefly to 2012/13.
The fears about so-called second season syndrome proved to be groundless. We were better placed at the end than we had been the year before. Certainly, it was rarely pretty and it was frequently nerve wracking. But isn’t it always going to be that way in the top tier for a club with the limited resources of Norwich City?
I don’t follow my friend’s argument that last season’s results should be used to condemn Chris Hughton’s performance as manager, although we’re all well aware that a section of Canary fans do share his view. But the 2012/13 squad wasn’t Hughton’s team. It was largely inherited from a previous regime, which was already running out of steam before that manager jumped ship. And, thanks to Hughton, we survived with an exhilarating end-of-season flourish.
During the summer he oversaw a superb series of deals bringing in players who’re now starting to repay the club’s record outlay.
Gary Hooper is living up to his much vaunted reputation as a predatory striker; Leroy Fer is proving to be one of the more thrilling players to have worn the yellow and green in recent years; and then there’s young Nathan Redmond, who leaves well versed Premier League defenders floundering. The unlucky RVW’s time is just a few days away.
And all those players are Hughton’s. The performances of late have shown that the new-look squad is finding its feet. And a vote of thanks is owed to the City board for having faith in the manager and for ignoring the ever more hysterical squeals from the ’outers’. Hopefully, the ‘outers’ are being routed.
It does seem that the keyboard warriors responsible for so much of this season’s abuse are a tad cowardly. They hide behind their online names yet when there’s a chance to confront David McNally or Chris Hughton at fans’ forums or at the AGM, they’re silent.
And there’s so much more that City supporters should be thankful for at this reflective time of year.
One of the many reasons I rejoice in being a Canary fan is because of our club’s long and colourful history. It’s our pride, our heritage. It’s a club of Norfolk, from Norfolk, funded by directors, fans and sponsors from Norfolk. And there are few, if any, Premier League clubs with local roots as enduring as ours.
Thank goodness we don’t have to rely on Cardiff City’s Mr Tan or Dr Allam, now from Hull. Spare a thought for those fighting the prospect of becoming Hull Tigers. How would we feel if the Norwich board came up with the bright idea that City should toughen up its image? Forget Canaries, let’s be Norwich Condors or Norfolk Cougars. Unthinkable.
And as for the absurd state-of-affairs in south Wales. Oh dear, oh dear. What has Malky Mackay ever done to deserve being caught up in such nonsense. It was bad enough when the bluebirds were forced to change their plumage. (How would we react if told the yellow and green was to be ditched, that we‘d have to play in, say, red and white stripes or, even worse, in blue?) I’d like Malky to tell Mr Tan where to stick his job.
Yes, we know it’s part of the Premier League deal for some clubs. The dodgy owner, from wherever in the world, puts in a massive dollop of cash to buy success. And then expects to call the tune. But at Hull and at Cardiff haven’t the clubs‘ very souls been sold for a place in football’s promised land?
I’d like to keep the Norwich City we know and love. We’re hardly strapped for cash now thanks to the Sky money, but Delia’s and Michael’s generosity is unlikely to ever see us competing for a place in the Champions League. I’m only too happy that we’re battling for mid table stability in the EPL, even if it means the football isn’t as gung ho as it was a few seasons back.
I’d take a dour performance for a point at the Stadium of Light any day over the prospect of Huddersfield (a) or Yeovil (a) in football’s lower echelons.
So, I believe City supporters should sit back and enjoy a happy Christmas, knowing our beloved club is in the best possible hands, both on and off the pitch.
I’ll drink to that.