The Blues will compete – that much is guaranteed – and City will face a very different beast to the one they humbled back in August. Back then they were low in confidence, even lower in quality and excelled only in sporting a collective hipster look that was more London Fashion Week than Sky Bet Championship.
Archives for February 2015
To pick up a seventh win out of his first nine games at the helm – and all at the expense of the neighbours one point above Norwich in the Sky Bet Championship – is the sort of opportunity the footballing fates offer up only very rarely.
I think it’s fair to say that it’s part of the Norfolk character not to be easily impressed by reputations. People from outside may misinterpret this as coldness or suspicion, but it’s more a case of us wanting to make our own minds up in our own time.
I never understood those who said Lambert or Neil were “unambitious” appointments. What could be more ambitious than going for a bright young manager whose previous club didn’t them want to leave?
While we fondly reminisce about the Saunders, Bond, Walker and Lambert eras, Town were blessed to have two of the 20th century’s truly great managers in Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson, who went on to be the best we’ve had at international level. Credit where it’s due.
Week by week it is gradually dawning on us that this bloke has more than a little something about him. Seven wins from nine games is one hell of a honeymoon period. The good run that we all hoped for is here, happening now.
“It means the world to me,” Neil told BBC Radio Norfolk. “I’m here to win games and do the best I possibly can for Norwich and my group of players.”
In short, next Sunday’s encounter might be tailor-made for the Neils of this world. I would expect him to rise to the occasion. If his team does too, that’s another big moment on our famed back bend.
Those nasty scars inflicted by the pitiful Reading and Preston defeats at the tatty end of the Neil Adams regime are not forgotten but have all but healed. Pleasure rather than pain is now the overwhelming sensation emanating from the terraces, message-boards and social media circles.
The protection afforded John Ruddy against opposition who have been full of goals was not only a testament to the game-plan but also to those who implemented it. Against opposition with whom he was also too familiar Seb Bassong again stepped up to the plate.
“That’s four clean sheets out of five and we’ve got goals in us going forwards. And we’re not conceding many at the back so it makes for a good combination.”
Although it was played down post-Wolves, there is a bit of a symbolic achievement attached to successfully clambering back in the play-off places in mid-February, especially when you have been hovering outside of it since November.
He was still offered the gang plank with the Norfolk club in seventh; that’s no mean feat in your first season out of the Premier League. And, in particular, with arguably your best player having sulked off to Vicarage Road for the autumn.
Steve Bruce’s late header against ‘that lot’ was witnessed from a raucous River End. The sight and sound of celebrating canary fans thumping the sides of the Portakabin changing rooms upon departing the ground will stay with me forever.
The league table looks good from a City point of view but is deceptive because Middlesborough and Derby have games in hand. Although Norwich are six points from the top, it is likely that the leaders will be seven points ahead by the time said games in hand are played.
Alex Neil spoke post-match of how ‘pleasing’ it was to overcome a decent Wolves side and again made reference to the aforementioned lack of effort and desire. That horrible Carrow Road afternoon when Brentford were visitors clearly left an impression on the new City boss – and not a good one.
Whether they could again expect to be two goals to the good against a team of Wolves’ undoubted calibre is another matter; most City punters would settle for simply reversing the shoreline from the opening day of the season and the 1-0 defeat at Molineux.
Walker’s tenure on Merseyside didn’t pan out as well as everyone hoped. Or, indeed, maybe expected. There is no doubt that in that autumn – in Munich and Milan – Walker’s star was firmly in the ascendant. He had something. He had presence in front of the cameras; made friends in the media easily. And, of course, the shock of white hair helped the image.
Reaction to Lambert’s demise within the Canaries’ community of course was split much more evenly, between those who continue to covet his talents and achievements as the ‘saviour’ of the club that we hold dear, and those who just cannot forgive the ill-will which surrounded his exit from Norfolk.
As ever Neil’s heart was firmly visible on his sleeve post-match, not only when behind the microphone but also directly upon the final whistle when, by all accounts, he couldn’t wait until his players were in the privacy of the dressing room before unleashing a few home truths.