If just knowing that we were ‘going for it’ with real intent wasn’t exciting enough, to hear that the deal had been concluded was positively thrilling. In terms of the excitement generated this is certainly right up there with Boxing Day 2003 when one Darren Huckerby made his official Carrow Road bow following the loan spell to end all loan spells.
For his part in proceedings, Chris Foy now finds himself added to that ever growing list of those deemed to have ‘wronged’ the yellow and green. Step forward Eddie Ilderton, Andy D’Urso, Michael Oliver and Mark Clattenburg.
Football being what it is, the magnificent Yellow Army will still head north firmly of the belief that just around the corner is that elusive away win; that their heroes are on the cusp of bucking the recent trend of blanks and the odd scrappy goal; that it’s only a matter of time before one of Bradley Johnson’s wayward long range efforts pings arrow-like into the top corner and that Grant Holt will yet again prove the doubters wrong.
Newcastle’s win over the purists from the Potteries has certainly made life interesting, with Stoke now firmly ensconced in the mid-table ‘pack’ – and with a very similar record to Norwich. Alas where it all starts to unfurl a little for City is when the goal difference column comes into view.
That Southampton have trodden a similar recent path to City also endears them to me with their two consecutive promotions also coming off the back of an ignominious spell in the third tier. They too have kept faith with some key players along the way; for Grant Holt read Rickie Lambert, for Wes Hoolahan read Adam Lallana.
As painful as it was – and there’s no doubt it was infuriating at times – yesterday was a perfect snapshot of reality. A gulf in class and quality that was evident from the second minute when some typically neat City inter-play worked Bradley Johnson into that exquisite crossing position. What followed was neither pretty nor clever, and I’m not expecting the Johnson Sky+ box to have been in action last night.
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.
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.
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.
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.