For City’s part they refused to lie down and in terms of effort and work-rate, Hughton would have few complaints. Where they came up short – well short – was in terms of quality, the Champions-elect showing a comfort in possession that eluded those in yellow for the whole afternoon. The four bookings picked up by City – Snodgrass, Garrido, Johnson and Turner – at least demonstrated a fully committed performance.
Turn up, marvel at the surroundings, be grateful to be there and enjoy the occasion by all means, but turn up with a game plan that may involve defending in numbers at times? Not a great idea unless you’re prepared to risk the famous wrath of Sir Alex.
In many ways those final fifteen minutes put the ‘winning v entertainment’ debate to bed once and for all. While for 75 minutes the general standard of fare on offer was of the average variety, I don’t suppose any of the 25,000 city fans present would swap them given the 19 minutes of drama and pure sporting theatre that followed.
As much as I’d love to frequent a stadium with four sides of a similar stature – the current lop-sided look reminds me of the old Filbert Street – and one that’s tad more aesthetically pleasing, if we had 32,000 seats to fill I’m not sure we’d be able to fill them as regularly as we’d like.
Given that the plan was to play two ‘up top’ against Fulham I expect the skipper to have some help at close quarters on Saturday. If, come 16:50, Messrs Jagielka and Distin fall into the ‘known they’ve been in a game’ bracket, it will go a long way to being job done.
If my memory serves me correctly, one of the many statistical reports produced at the end of last season deduced that City played more long balls than anyone else. While I can recall being more than a little sceptical of its accuracy – how could City have hit more long balls than Stoke for example? – for this purpose at least, it doesn’t portray a team with a penchant for the beautiful game.
Credit again is due the Match of the Day production team who – not for the first time – excelled themselves in finding five minutes worth of highlights, although showing a Luciano Becchio that flew ten yards wide from four different angles is cheating bit.
With Harry Kane having been returned to sender – his first-half appearance against Luton being a rather inglorious way to bring his Canary career to a close – Chris Hughton finds himself back to ‘as you were’ in terms of striker numbers, but with a different looking mix to his striking pool.
The similarities between the Premier League and the Championship (and the SPL for that matter) are few and far between; even taking aside the riches on offer. The intensity and tempo of your average EPL game is what sets this league apart from all others, and is precisely what makes it such an unforgiving environment.
If the first half was pretty much a case of honours even, the second was a more open affair and was dominated for long periods by the home team. Buoyed – one assumes – by some typical Harry Redknapp ‘rabble-rousing’, the home side carried more of a goal threat in the second period and forced the Canaries into some desperate defending.
The next few hours – as absurd as the January scrum is – promise to be interesting ones. So interesting in fact City have been assigned their very own Sky Sports News reporter at the gates of Colney. We have indeed arrived, but let’s pray that Hughton isn’t cunningly lured into a roadside interview through the wound-down window of his 4×4 in an ‘Arry Redknapp-style.
With TalkSport reporting a third unsuccessful bid for Celtic’s Gary Hooper , ‘believed to be around £6 Million’, it’s worth reminding ourselves that even if successful in our pursuit of the former Scunthorpe man – or any other striker – the hovering clouds of doubt remain.
We’re used to lows and horror shows – part and parcel of being a Norwich supporter – but since the unveiling of Messrs Bowkett and McNally, days of that ilk have been thankfully few and far between. In fact since ‘that’ game against Colchester, they have been virtually non-existent.
When all is said and done, it appears Hooper is top of the City list and anyone else will be perceived by many as either second-best or a compromise offering. Wholly unfair on anyone who does arrive late in the window and who doesn’t answer to the name Gary (I do still have some boots in my garage), but such is the risk of doing business so publicly – however unintentional that may have been.
A confirmed member of the ‘Plymouth Brethren’ – a group of players ‘black-marked’ by Roeder following that 3-0 defeat – he found himself well and truly out of the first-team picture, and was consigned to train and play with the reserves and youth-team.
There is no hiding away from the abjectness of yesterday’s performance, and even those of us for whom the pint-glass is half-full have struggled to unearth too many positives. But we need to remind ourselves that this is the same group of players who took us all on that terrific ten game unbeaten run.
The first sign that it wasn’t to be City’s afternoon came in the form of the team-sheet, with no sign of Sebastien Bassong – one assumes the result of a late injury or illness. In his place, Ryan Bennett was drafted in to the starting XI – to slot in alongside Michael Turner; the last time they lined up together in central defence – in a league game – was the opening day of the season.
One player likely to figure, and who was also part of the September debacle, is Michael Turner. The source of much derision early in his City career – the Liverpool game looming large in his early-season CV – he would almost certainly take the ‘most improved Norwich player’ award if such a thing existed.
There were a few positives – the obvious one being the clean sheet – and it was important that we ended the four-game run of defeats; but to quote the BBC’s commentator, ‘it was not one that will last long in the memory’. And he wasn’t kidding…
As Jonesy would say, those delicate souls ‘don’t like it up ‘em’… and our Holty is just the man for that role. The joint-demolition job done on Newcastle’s makeshift backline by Holt and Steve Morrison last December – when City beat the Toon 4-2 at Carrow Road – was a classic case, and what we’d give for a repeat on Saturday.