I’m going to admit something here that I’m not proud of: I used to be a *boo boy*.
It’s okay though, honestly. It was simply borne out of young frustration and I stopped many years ago. I’m sure some of you reading this boo Norwich City every so often and, quite frankly, they do sometimes deserve it.
I even understood the few boos after City’s defeat to West Brom last week. Yes, it was our first home game of the season but Norwich did what they have done so many times and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. It was frustrating and hard to take.
What is less understandable (and I’m trying to be diplomatic here) is booing a team that isn’t even losing at halftime, as with a small percentage of the crowd on Wednesday evening. What god-given right do Norwich have to be leading Preston, a team that finished seven places above us last season, at all, never mind within 45 minutes?<
Before the pitchfork-laden mob arrive at my door, I should also point out that I know every fanbase does this and, actually, several are clearly much more irritating even at a distance.
It’s common in the Premier League now to see a player from the big six clubs slide in front of his supporters after scoring just for them to take their phones out and take a picture – a worse crime than booing. And even that isn’t half as irritating as Arsenal Fan TV.
And every crowd, in every division, in every country, in every sport, definitely, definitely boos. Norwich fans are no different and it annoys me when I see City fans on Twitter acting like we have an especially bad fanbase – we don’t.
But on Wednesday, this belief was tested with every moan, groan and heckle that greeted a large percentage of Norwich’s by now well-known possession-based game.
Here’s the thing: just over a year ago, we hired Daniel Farke as our manager after Norwich fans, rightly, demanded change. We had too many washed up players at the club that were too old and on too much money. Most fans accepted this change would likely result in a disappointing first season, and it did.
This summer, we brought in more players to suit Farke’s managerial philosophy and to give him the best chance of succeeding. Everyone knew how we played football last season. Everyone knew it wasn’t going to drastically change this season.
Not that Norwich played particularly well against Preston. Tettey was bad, Leitner ineffective at times, Hernandez faded and Rhodes just couldn’t get a sniff, through no particular fault of his own. I wouldn’t go so far as to say our patient play was rewarded but Farke did say post-match that he had deliberately intended for City not to be so gung-ho last night, in pursuit of our first clean sheet.
And so for me, the game plan worked. Norwich didn’t concede, rode a brief Preston storm midway through the second half, then won the game.
The winning goal originated from a short goal kick in which play was switched to our right centre-back, which gave Jamal Lewis space on the opposite flank. A punt up the pitch from the goal kick wouldn’t have allowed the City left-back the space to do what he then did.
Besides, it’s becoming increasingly clear that, even if it didn’t come off too much the other night, City are trying to be more direct. Hernandez truly had the beating of his full-back in the first half and Norwich exploited it well, for instance. Leitner should have scored late in the first half through that particular avenue.
Farke’s side are still happy to keep possession – they don’t have the players now to do otherwise – but have evolved to move it forward quicker and with more purpose – something they’ll have to do tomorrow against the high press of Leeds.
The hope now is City keep developing. We’ve scored eight goals in four games without the remarkable talents of James Maddison. But we’ve conceded eight too. On paper, we finally got the balance right against Preston, but I don’t wear yellow-tinted glasses all the time – I know Wednesday’s game could have ended goalless fairly easily.
In fact, it was the kind of game that last season would have ended goalless, but perhaps we now have the quality – including the so-far-excellent finishing of Teemu Pukki – to turn those draws into wins. I certainly believe we do.
Yes, this particular win came at the expense of 75 minutes we’d all rather have back, but, with Norwich City, for better or worse, things are rarely boring for long.