Alex’s credits in the bank extended to an ovation as he and the players sheepishly paraded around the pitch after the final home game against Watford. He expressed surprise; he expected at least a modicum of heat. Instead he showered with warmth. Hugs not brickbats.
The blame apportionment has gone no further than the players; Alex seemingly absolved of any responsibility. His pre-Ashton Gate presser told the story of a man who astoundingly is feeling not even the slightest hint of heat from above; of one who is already planning for a long-term Carrow Road future.
Money can of buy you a player with an impressive CV, one who has a deft first touch, who ping the ball onto a sixpence from forty yards and pull the ball out of the sky as if ball and boot were adorned with Velcro but unless that player has hunger, appetite, desire and is well managed it counts for diddly-squat.
Where it fell down was the inability to find enough quality in the final third to really hurt the massed ranks of blue and when half-chances arrived they were either snatched at or Town’s keeper was up to the task, and in a game of fine margins City’s cutting edge, on the day, went AWOL.
To get turned over by the old enemy would, for many, be a blow too far, especially with it likely killing off our lingering hopes of gate-crashing the top six. Wounds that had started to heal following the mini-revival could, or probably would, be re-opened in an instant. The mood would be ugly.
New dawns have generally been the product of flat-track bullying at Carrow Road – with admittedly the odd exception – and have ended up being the false variety, with City’s away-day woes the result of an embedded inability to stand up and be counted when it really matters.
Something has changed since that spell that’s still painful to even think about. Where once there was brittleness and half-heartedness, now there’s durability and fight. Belief too has been added to an armoury that was deficient in many things, and for all the technical difficulties that again revealed themselves in the centre of our back-four, there’s still heart.
As has been pointed out by many, it’s fun to sweep aside those for whom mid-table is home but where City have fallen short this season is when going toe-to-toe with those who currently reside in the top six. That needs to change, preferably starting on Tuesday evening.
That City conceded from two set pieces was no surprise and that the first came from a cross that was not properly dealt with was something that clearly irked Alex, but he continues to tread a very narrow path with his insistence on naming and shaming those who err.
That Dijks was able to come in at left-back after three days of training and equip himself so ably was a welcome bonus, and suggests those few days were well spent. He’ll do it differently to Olsson but hopefully with a similar level of success.
What became apparent quite quickly was that Moxey didn’t ‘get’ Norwich City – the most obvious and glaring example being the £25 tickets for the Southampton FA Cup game. And, for all the bravado, he’ll not have enjoyed being on the receiving end from the faithful.
Even if the left sided like-for-like trades have been successful, still there are defensive frailties that have been left unaddressed. Still we are only an injury to Timm Klose away from turning again to a central defensive pairing, whichever pair Alex chooses, that has proven itself unfit for purpose.
Eight defeats on the road, with a sprinkling of horror shows among them, is precisely what has afforded Delia, Michael, Jez and co a rough ride. And until that part of the equation is solved Carrow Road will continue to carry the air of a brooding, petulant teenager who’s awaiting the chance to kick off.
His potential arrival would signal the ‘domino effect’ Neil mentioned recently when quizzed about the timing of any window ins and outs and given City’s failure to land two Dutch left-backs this week he’ll be keen to get this one over the line.
For all the talk of hero worship amid a potentially acrid atmosphere, the Wolves manager was a peripheral figure in the afternoon’s proceedings, and the prospect of the bloodbath many had predicted was realistically quashed by Steven Naismith’s nicely executed 13th minute opener.
As an attacking force City were clearly limited – how they were set up to be – but they offered the odd threat, mainly through triggering counter-attacks via the pace of Josh Murphy but chances were virtually non-existent and Kyle Lafferty offered little by way of quality service.
The self-financing model this board perpetuates is not for the 21st century. Jez Moxey spoke with great pride of how this club likes to do things differently but for me the question should be why have we found ourselves on a path that is trodden by absolutely no-one?
If the same mentality as offered against Derby prevails then expect a convincing win, and some extended leeway for a manager who has already been afforded grace aplenty by his employers, but a repeat of the lethargy of Oakwell will only serve to reopen festering wounds.
Naismith was one of those I’d pencilled in for a January departure – and it may of course still happen – but the signs are he’s fully fit, is finding something like his ‘Everton’ form and is contributing in a positive way. Long may that continue, even if it means the cash-releasing departures will have to be found elsewhere.
It was solid, composed, no-messing when it needed to be, and the protection offered to Ruddy was in sharp contrast to the ‘hot knife through butter’ version that has so epitomised this dreadful run of form. And when was Ruddy was called upon he too delivered.