For the fourth game in a row, where to start?
Blimey. This is really starting to get interesting.
Even the Norwich supporter in me – the one that reminds folk we’re still only six points ahead of Forest who are outside the playoff places – has had to concede that to be jogging along after 18 games at two points per game is reason enough to be excited.
Yet it’s not just about two points per game, or six on the bounce, or four goals in each of the last three – it’s the way it’s all being done, with the beautiful football, the swagger and the unerring belief that their way is the right way.
Seldom in my 40+ years of supporting this club can I recall it this good. There has been some beautiful football of course. The Bond years dished up some lovely stuff, as obviously did the Stringer and Walker years when they had one Ian Crook to spray passes around with seemingly not a care in the world.
But this feels like the passing game has been transported to another level, even with the added addition of mixing it up a little bit more, which has been one of the tweaks that has propelled us forward.
I marvelled, ironically, at the Swansea-ola years of Brendan Rodgers and looked on enviously as they passed the ball around with grace and precision, while always having that cutting edge in front of goal. I wished it was us.
Now it is us.
And, for me, it’s that, as much as the record-smashing along the way, that has made this rise to the Championship’s summit so memorable.
We’re an absolute joy to watch and, right now, we’re smashing teams in the process – football Utopia.
But, it’s after 18 games. The small matter of 28 to go.
The big question is how far is how far can this take us. Forget talk of Bielsa’s Leeds (they’re injury ridden – did you know?), or Pulis’ Boro, or Moore’s West Brom, or Wilder’s Blades or even Frank bloody Lampard’s Derby – City are the best side in the division right now.
Paul Lambert insists – oddly enough with his side languishing five points adrift at the bottom of the table – that sometimes the league table does lie. In his own ruddy-faced, mumbling way, that was a probably a doubled-edged jibe, which also questioned City’s right to be at the top of the table.
But that’s bullcr@p… both teams are where they deserve to be, and for all the media swooning over the Real Madrid of the North (they have an injury crisis in case you hadn’t heard), City have won two more games than them and scored four more goals. And all after being handed a “footballing lesson” by said galácticos in late August.
Most of us are not naïve enough to believe this run can continue for too much longer – in the second tier of the pro game, runs like this are almost unheard of – and Stuart Webber has already spoken of the fallow period that will befall us at some point, but what we simply have to do is squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of it while it lasts.
For all the talk of a well-balanced squad, with competition for most positions – where, if a change is made, the new player slots into the system seamlessly – when Daniel Farke has a fully fit squad to pick from, I would argue that right now the starting XI picks itself. And that in itself speaks volumes.
A back-four that Grant Hanley, when fully fit, won’t be walking straight back into. A midfield shield that doesn’t include super Tom Trybull. An attacking midfield trio that includes neither Mario Vrancic or Todd Cantwell. A forward line that doesn’t include Jordan Rhodes. I could go on…
Every single player mentioned, plus those I haven’t, deserving of a start and desperate to be a part of what’s unfolding on the pitch – all of which makes this doubly mouth-watering and, in some ways, offers some insurance against the difficult times that Webber spoke of.
But dips in form are for another day. Just now we’re riding the crest of a wave, and players like Emi Buendia and Teemu Pukki are just about as far away from a form dip as Ipswich are from getting a full house.
The little Argentinian has eased himself into Championship football, and it’s worked liked dream. There was no big entrance, no instant fireworks, no thunderbolts from 25-yards that set the bar so high it was impossible to maintain. Instead, he found his feet by doing the simple things well and putting in a shift.
And slowly but surely his impact has increased game-by-game. The goals are starting to flow and the South American flair is now revealing itself, along with the fire in the belly. He’s played himself into ‘first name on the team-sheet’ territory. The individual in the scouting set-up who passed the name ‘Emiliano Buendia’ to Stuart Webber, deserves a bonus.
Yet Emi is just one cog in an engine that’s currently purring like a Rolls-Royce’s. It’s hard to believe it’s only three months ago to the day when, in that second half against Leeds, it spluttered like a clapped-out two-stroke.
So, we simply have to enjoy this while it lasts. I have absolutely no idea how this is all going to pan out, but what I do know is that others are finally having to sit up and taking notice, and as long as we play this football we are going to win more games than we lose.
Whether we have enough for top two is not something to think about yet – but we are top of the pile because, as a once-wise man once said ‘we’ve earned the right’.
“Cheer up Paul Lambert…”