The eyes told the story. He had a game-plan, his players knew unequivocally their role in it, and he had an unerring faith in all of those around him to deliver – including the fans.
Archives for May 2015
An electric atmosphere was helped by chants of ‘On The Ball City’, ‘Follow Follow Follow’ and a cheeky ‘This train’s too big for you!’ to the clutch of Boro fans at the end of the train. Then, a sea of yellow and red, streamlining into what is a magnificent stadium fit for a World Cup final…..and it was our cup final, the first in 30 years at Wembley.
As Malcolm Robertson said in his MyFootballWriter piece ahead of Wembley, you have to experience the crushing lows to value the vaunting highs. And, as Delia told the TV audience, Wembley was particularly rewarding for us because so many of us carry scars from dismal disappointments.
The calmness exuded by Alex Neil in the game’s build-up was borne out by his players, whose composure shone through against twitchy opponents, and the mindset of all involved – starting and ending with the manager – was a master-class in what it takes to manage the big occasion.
For 40,000 City supporters, it is a day that they can now treasure for the rest of their lives. Not just for the eventual outcome, but for the whole manner in which it was achieved. They walked it.
“To do it all in front if the fans…. Just look at them. It’s just been an incredible season for me – and now this,” he added.
Wembley and 39,000 of your kith and kin make sure that it will be a one-off occasion like no other for a generation of Norwich City supporters. For whom a trip to Wembley is a dream come true. Far more so than it will be for, say, an Arsenal supporter making another return visit for yet another FA Cup final appearance.
Whether tomorrow will be one of the glory days will ultimately be determined by the footballing gods but if the calm that continues to be exuded by Alex Neil is anything to go by City’s preparation as at 3pm tomorrow will be well-nigh perfect.
At the moment we’re all trapped in a play-off bubble that we don’t want to burst – and it’s marvellous – but when said dust has settled perhaps the achievement of keeping McCarthy’s men at arms length so comfortably over 360 minutes will finally dawn on us.
Ipswich supporters are predicting our best players will be poached during the summer but I can’t see that happening on David McNally’s watch. Championship or Premier League, next season is only going to get better.
The modern world is a very different place to that of the mid-late 80s when fans of Norwich (1985 Milk Cup Final) and Middlesbrough (1988 Play-off Final) last made the trip to the previous incarnation of Wembley Stadium. In both cases, the teams were triumphant. This time round one of us will be heading home gutted.
His substitutions invariably appear well-reasoned and timely; equally, they tend more towards the positive than the negative. This is a man and a manager that would rather be hung for a sheep than for a lamb – an attitude that will win him many a fan amongst the Canary faithful.
Typically Neil will call to account those who were found wanting in the build up to the Town equaliser but we should at least be thankful that John Ruddy didn’t arrive a half a second earlier and risk ‘cleaning out’ the Ipswich centre-back.
“So it was a case of ‘Calm down! The game is going to slow down, open up and that’s where our quality players will make a difference – and that’s ultimately what proved to be the case.”
When divided the Yellow Army can ooze negativity – we know that only too well – but when united it can be an irresistible force. And right now now I’d say it is every bit as united as it was in the heady days of the Paul Lambert era.
Ipswich fans of course, after thirteen years in the wilderness, are palpably desperate to see top flight action again. After all those years of attrition, both on the pitch and in the stands, last weekend’s ‘derby of the century’ generated one hell of a noise but not a huge threat on their hallowed turf.
Alex Tettey didn’t catch the eye as, for instance, Jonny Howson did. But boy, was he important to us breaking up Ipswich possession and getting our own started. My Man of the Match award was between the two of them.
Certainly McCarthy’s men gave their best performance so far in this season’s trilogy, with City offering Alex Neil probably their weakest performance of the three, but true to form the City boss was still in upbeat mood post-match and was happy with the control City had for virtually all of the second half.
“I just thought that Jonny’s penetrating runs could be bit of a highlight for us in the game – and it was when he got his goal. It worked up until that point.”
McCarthy has also gone to great lengths to remind us – yet again – of the financial disparity between the two clubs, forgetting as ever that four years ago we achieved Premier League football on a not dissimilar budget to that with which he is currently working. And minus the safety net of a face-less benefactor.