At the halfway mark of 2015-16 with 20 points, Sam Jermy wonders whether we have learnt from the past and argues this is the key to securing the long-term future success all Norwich fans long for.
The best word I can use to describe the feeling of being back at Carrow Road and seeing a slovenly, slender 2-0 win versus Aston Villa is good. Just good, nothing more or less than that. It was a good feeling coming out of the ground knowing we have all but consigned a rival to relegation. We deserved the three points and it lifts us up into 15th for a few days at least.
But although we are pretty much on par midway through, there are plenty of bunkers lying in wait for us in 2016 before we step out onto the green at Goodison Park in May. Hopefully things will be confirmed in our favour by then and thousands of the Yellow Army can enjoy one big party and dream of being a Premier League regular for years to come. There is plenty of work still to be done before that good feeling turns into ‘fantastic’, ‘unbelievable’ or whatever.
Prior to the game on Monday I pondered whether we had learnt lessons since the last relegation six-pointer I watched between Villa and Norwich. It was March 2014 at Villa Park, they had a messiah and a god on the bench in the form of Messrs Lambert and Holt and our starting line-up read as: Ruddy, Martin, Yobo, Bassong, Olsson – Johnson, Tettey – Redmond, Hoolahan, Snodgrass – Hooper.
For me, therein lies a problem. We are still going into Premier League games with Bassong and Martin who have proved on numerous occasions over the years that they are not quite up to the standard required. I have no doubt Bassong once was, and Martin has his days – but these are players we should have looked to replace in the starting line-up before now.
I worry big time about recruitment. Do we have what it takes to attract a better quality player?
Shaqiri to Stoke, Cabaye to Palace, Wijnaldum to Newcastle are all the calibre of transfers I am talking about. We couldn’t even entice Toivenen back in the day, and now he like many good men before him has fallen prey to the lure of Wearside.
Even with the likes of Watford, who leveraged their connections to bring Ighalo to Vicarage Road from Udinese, have somehow bought well and strengthened throughout the whole squad.
Can we now do the same going forward, starting with a strong January transfer window?
For what it’s worth, Robbie Brady has turned out to be a great buy… but even then we dallied about upping our initial bid in small increments even though Steve Bruce and Hull had named their price. Small-time mentality or shrewd bargaining?
Surely the prospect of playing Premier League football at Norwich is not such a bad thing for these international stars? Especially when the alternative is a Stoke or a Newcastle.
One suspects flashing the cash is the issue, something we are going to have to be prepared to do more often if we are going to have that sustained, long-term success in the Premier League just like new chairman Ed Balls talked about in his press conference.
But hey, apologies if this sounds a bit too gloomy after a win, it’s more me wondering how we are going to push onto the next level if we are indeed successful in finishing 17th or better this season.
If you like a bit of gallows humour, read on. Harry Vale, author of A Day in a Life of a Bookie, and long suffering Villa fan had this to say:
“Villa were awful as ever. We’ve got a pretty decent record against Norwich, so of course we were going to lose today. When you’ve got Hutton and Richardson in your team the best you can hope for is to keep the deficit to about 4 – mission accomplished. Again, we’re toothless up front, lightweight in midfield, and no one on the pitch really cares. The fans can’t muster up the effort to demand Lerner goes, the players have given up, and Remi Garde, well, Remi is a very handsome man.
“Norwich were occasionally pretty bad, but luckily Villa are always incredibly bad. All in all, another horrid game to watch and some free points for Norwich. I wish we could declare and just take the rest of the season off. I wish I could stop having to watch Bacuna, Richardson, Hutton, Westwood and Sinclair — useless, lifeless Subbuetto players cursed by a wizard to play for Villa forever more.
“Fair play to Norwich, unlike Newcastle, they actually managed to do the job and put another nail in our knackered, cheap coffin. They will comfortably take our spot as a mostly harmless and generally pointless member of the Premier League. I like Norwich. They are utterly unthreatening – like a homeless man’s dog, you just feel sorry for it. Feels like a million years since Benteke scored twice and we beat Norwich 4-1. Another time. Another life. Roll on May.”
If that doesn’t make you smile a bit more after Monday’s win, I don’t know what will.