The exact wording of Neil Adams’ half-time team-talk will, in true footballing tradition, ‘stay in the dressing room’ but there can be no doubt of its underlying message. And I suspect it was delivered with some wide eyes and bulging veins.
‘A rocket’ is how Adams described it and, alongside the manager, one can also imagine a red-haired Scot being instrumental in getting the message across. Gary Holt was brought in, by his own admission, to bring some authority and discipline to proceedings and he’ll have earned his corn yesterday.
But, regardless of whether the message was relayed through raised voices, flying plastic bottles or airborne hairdryers, the important factor was the response of the players. And it was emphatic.
Team Adams had passed their first real test.
Other than the opening day teething troubles at Molineux things have been ticking along nicely, with the first XI almost picking itself and with few big decisions to be made.
But it’s when the chips are down and the brown stuff is within striking distance of the fan that it becomes a difficult – sometimes impossible – job. And following a first-half that was just about as abject as anything we witnessed last season, that’s where Adams and co found themselves.
More of the same would have undoubtedly ended in a thumping defeat.
Yet it’s easy to make sweeping changes – it’s making the *right* changes that counts. And in Cameron Jerome, Adams identified one who could make an impact on the game.
The approach also was given a refresh. Out went the tippy-tappy passing in front of the Cardiff back-four and in its place was a slightly more direct approach that played to Jerome’s strengths – with balls being slid into the channels. And crucially – as alluded to by Adams afterwards – the tempo and intensity were upped significantly.
The result: a second-half every bit as thrilling as anything witnessed in City’s last Championship season. (Ironically, while we were all in the midst of the post-match glow, the architect of that very campaign was also enjoying his Saturday teatime on Merseyside).
The Jerome factor is the one that has grabbed the headlines, and it’s now difficult for Adams to not include him on Tuesday evening at Brentford, but from one to eleven the performance level was raised.
Even John Ruddy, who was largely blameless for the first-half debacle, found another level and the save he made to deny Federico Macheda was the ultimate match-winner.
Wes Hoolahan – who had an uncharacteristically poor first-half and was singled out for some social media ‘treatment’ – was also typically key in the City revival. His twisting and turning of the second period was the very antithesis of his first-half display, where his tendency to give away possession threatened to be costly.
But, along with ten others, Wes pulled up his metaphorical socks and managed to get himself on the ball after the break. City prospered as a result.
The little Irishman is undoubtedly one of the best dribblers ever to grace the yellow and green but occasionally – just occasionally – is it just me who thinks he’d benefit from having just one or two touches? Particularly when things are not ‘clicking’? It probably is.
To have passed such a severe examination with flying colours obviously bodes well and the hint of a successful Plan B is something the Yellow Army has long desired.
Adams and McNally have arguably compiled a squad with more depth than any other seen in these parts. With yesterday’s bench reading Whittaker, Jerome, Garrido, Murphy, Rudd, O’Neil and Odjidja-Ofoe, and Elliott Bennett, Carlos Cuellar, Ignasi Miquel and Conor McGrandles not even making the eighteen the manager has probably the best hand in the division.
Throw Jonny Howson and Gary Hooper – both on the cusp of returning from injury – and Ryan Bennett into the mix and things have seldom looked healthier.
With Team Adams having now ticked the ‘snatching victory from the jaws of defeat’ box their next big challenge is one of man management: how to keep those individuals who are not in or around the first XI happy. If not happy, content.
And that is going to be a challenge.
The early signs are good, with Cuellar and Elliott Bennett both tweeting post-match in celebration of the victory. But for that feeling of togetherness to span the whole season Adams needs to do at Carrow Road what Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini have done so successfully at Stamford Bridge and the Etihad. And it’s a skill all of its own.
For now though we should all bask in the glow of an afternoon that will be remembered for some time. Days like yesterday don’t come along too often and that feeling of half-time despair being replaced, one hour later, with unbridled joy is one to remember.
Now bring on Brentford.