With my pint pot still just above half-full, even if the beer is a little warm and flat, I still remain hopeful that Saturday will be a turning point.
The one area where Hughton has always trumped Lambert – the defence – is no longer a strength and speaks volumes. It further undermines the credibility of those, like me, who have defended his tenure throughout.
With a new fire-breathing Scot now occupying the United dugout things are not about to get any easier for opposition teams with regard to referees. The last thing they need is an excuse to award a penalty.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the passing was again of a decent quality, the stats show we enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, we played with an attacking intent throughout, created a shed load of chances and had 31 attempts on goal.
Hughton has clearly been at the heart of much debate of late and will continue to be. While I may disagree with those who call for his head I respect their views; the perception of him as a good, bad or indifferent football manager the only thing that matters.
That City came up well short was naturally disconcerting – crushing in fact in the hour or so after the end of the game – but, as often proved by the post-match interviews of Neil Warnock, perspective is a beast to grasp when the taste of defeat still swilling around.
While Islington won’t be ablaze with green and yellow flares – or the Yellow Army singing about playing “at home” – there will be a wall of noise in at least one corner of the Emirates as City look to put right some of last season’s wrongs
Backwards clearly isn’t an option with both CEO and chairman both making clear their desire for ‘continued improvement’; City’s ‘mission statement’ making that crystal clear
That Mourinho chose to turn to Hazard, Willian and Eto’o to save a potential embarrassment also tells a story of its own, with Willian’s transfer value alone usurping the not inconsiderable sums that City spent in the summer. But that’s where the fine margins come into play.
With Gossy providing John Motson with his finest Norwich moment, and the site of one Robert Chase lauding it over his kingdom, the second leg joined the first in the annals of City history. Unlike for the Vitesse game, European football had finally captured the Norfolk imagination and Carrow Road was full
Seldom, certainly of late, can I recall City smothering an opposing midfield like they did yesterday; the ball being won back at will for long periods of that first half – the centre-mid triumvirate working just how Hughton must have dreamt it on Saturday night.
City had Howson’s strike to thank for going in at half-time 1-0 to the good; the mixture of boos from the home fans and cheers from the travelling Yellow Army telling a story all of their own.
If supporting Norwich for over forty years has taught me one thing, it’s that scenarios such as this rarely end well. While there has been much talk of Hughton ‘losing the dressing room’ – something that will remain conjecture to all but a few – to lose the crowd is arguably even more damaging.
Certainly the boos that accompanied the withdrawal of Redmond told a story of their own; the City boss defending his decision afterwards in conversation with BBC Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham, citing that the greater threat – in his view – as coming down City’s right flank.
The seventies were the formative years of a ‘top-level’ Norwich City just as they were for a third-generation City fanatic – my dad having been indoctrinated similarly in the post-war years by his own City-mad father.
With Leroy Fer reminding us that he’s still finding his Premier League feet and Bradley Johnson re-affirming once again that passing isn’t his strong suit, the central midfield area looked exposed from minute one. All a far cry from 12 months ago when Johnson and Howson outplayed Sandro and Livermore in a straight two versus two match up.
As the game unfolded and Jeremy Goss scored what’s been described as “the greatest Norwich goal ever”, a little part of my childhood crumbled away. My father tried to comfort me and predicted that Bayern would triumph 3-1, but then Norwich scored again.
If the much vaunted ‘promise’ had shown even the slightest hint of coming to fruition you can bet your life that Hughton would have given it a chance to flourish; the fact he didn’t confirms perhaps that, at 23 years of age, said midfielder’s career has stagnated.
Of course there are many other issues that stretch far beyond the stereotypical ‘too many foreigners’ debate’, not least the permanent collision course on which the FA and the Premier League find themselves.
Alas, despite a busy day (one suspects)of enquiring phone calls by David McNally and co, there was no deal to be had and so City’s summer activity 2013 has ended on eight new signings; value in the region of £25million.