I’m still numb from watching the first 30 minutes of England’s game against the Republic of Ireland. Fortunately – wisely as it turns out – I went and washed the car, with ITV later apologising for wasting everyone’s time.
Once more the best that our country can offer consistently failed to string more than two passes together, get past their man or muster a decent effort on goal. “What do they practise in training?”
Roy Hodgson is actually managing to take our national side backwards – a remarkable achievement considering it wasn’t in the best shape when he took charge.
I have a number of questions for Roy:
Why does he play Joe Hart at all, let alone for 90 minutes in meaningless friendlies?
Why does he stick with players who are obviously low on confidence and form, such as Sterling and Henderson?
And why did he pick Jamie Vardy who scored just five goals last season?
There are more but I won’t bore you.
In contrast, the best of the world’s footballing talent on the pitch has brought many great moments to the game in this country – Thierry Henry, Eric Cantona, Eden Hazard, Luis Suarez, Mario Balotelli (okay, maybe not the last one).
And Alex Tettey, Martin Olsson and Seb ‘the Rock’ Bassong take a bow. Respect is due and has been well earned.
That said, as the Premier League becomes ever more cosmopolitan in terms of owners, chairmen and players, it does our club great credit to have achieved the ‘bounce-back’ with an exciting young British manager in charge of a predominantly home grown squad under the watchful eye of a stable English CEO-owner combination.
At the end of April, there was a lively debate on this website between myself and a string of Watford fans soon after the Hornets had clinched automatic promotion.
In the comments section to a piece I’d written, I suggested that the overseas-dominated model that their club has adopted over the past few years – both on and off the pitch – in the Championship is one built on sand and one which I hope never to be adopted at Norwich.
They naturally bit back.
Most of them stressed that Vicarage Road under the Pozzos and their then manager ‘Joka’ was the happiest it had been for a long time. Everyone it seemed was pulling in the same direction.
Most took offence at my mentioning that they had employed four different managers within the space of one season.
I also predicted that the approximately 30 per cent UK make-up of their squad was likely to drop even more in the pursuit of squad strengthening.
As preparations are already underway for the three promoted clubs ahead of the August 8 kick-off, the good feeling about Carrow Road and its environs generated by that wonderful month of May is still palpable.
It would be interesting to know if that’s still the case at Watford. ‘Joka’ got greedy, was sent packing by the Pozzos and has now been replaced by a Spanish coach – their fifth in a year.
Also worth noting are Watford’s two summer signings to date: an Austrian defender and a Lithuanian keeper. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Leroy Fer takes the short journey from Loftus Road to Vicarage Road either by start of the footballing hostilities.
I’m prepared to put my head above the parapet and state that Norwich will finish higher than Watford in the Premier League next season. I’m also confident that it won’t be done by finishing second from bottom. I’m predicting a mid-table season.
As for Bournemouth? That’s much harder to predict.
Everything at this level is new to them. Theirs is a heart-warming tale of salvation from extinction and inexorable rise to the top level and I hope they survive and are able to play the same impressive brand of football which saw them worthy champions.
Norwich have the most experience amongst the promoted sides of how cruel it can be when the stakes are raised and the glamour boys come to town. That should be a good thing but sometimes ignorance and naivety can be bliss.
Some of those scars are still raw, not least the chilling beatings taken at the Etihad and Anfield, along with the double done to us by Villa; one record that City would love to put straight.
Senor Suarez and Paul Lambert are long gone now.
Already a few names have been bandied about as possible additions to Alex Neil’s squad for the ultimate test next season for a novice coach. That he has yet to get all the requisite coaching badges will, I suspect, not be a problem for him In fact, he should be in charge of the course.
No doubt, the leagues of Spain, Holland and perhaps Germany are being scouted for exciting talent to bring to Carrow Road.
With the painful lesson of Ricky van Wolfswinkel in mind, it’s only right that we should still look afar for some squad strengthening but hopefully keep in mind how last season’s success was achieved with a large home grown core of troops.
Extra cover will be required in most areas but under Alex Neil’s guidance but I suggest that our favoured starting 11, which finished at Wembley, is strong enough to compete with most of what the Premier can throw at them.
It’s almost time to put the crystal ball back in its box but two more predictions:
(1) First game of the season for City? Watford away.
(2) A narrow win for England over Slovenia followed by the obligatory ‘not the best performance but it’s the points that matter’ quotes from manager and players post-match.
Surely at some point though, it is the performance that matters Roy?