As Norwich City's quest to find a new manager gained an ever more urgent edge after this weekend's 3-1home defeat to Bristol City, so the club's selection panel could have done worse than to have sat and watched Robins boss Gary Johnson at work.
The diminutive former Yeovil boss clearly doesn't rule through fear; he doesn't have the physical stature to back that up – nor the icy, far-away stare that a Bruce Rioch would add to his particular personality brew.
But having guided the Ashton Gate club out of League One and on into second place in the Championship – lacing bright, inventive football with real belief and spirit – Johnson clearly has got 'something' in his locker that works.
From the way in which he got his players together in a pre-match huddle, to the way that they all went over to salute their travelling fans before a ball was kicked and on into the Press conference afterwards, there is an air of affable 'togetherness' that follows Johnson, his players and the West Country club around.
Right now the terms 'affable' and 'together' are about the last words you would associate with Norwich City Football Club.
The Annual General Meeting might have passed off without major fireworks on Thursday night, but come the final whistle on Saturday and the air was thick with poison, recrimination and deep despair as Jim Duffy's first game in caretaker charge offered little by way of change.
New-boy John Hartson almost bludgeoned the life out of the visitors in the first 20 minutes, but having weathered that early storm the Robins pinged the ball about with growing confidence as the game progressed.
Norwich, by stark contrast, duly retreated further and further into their shell.
And rather than crawling under the nearest rock when Darren Huckerby drilled home an 82nd minute leveller, Johnson's troops merely stepped up another gear and made sure of the points with two late strikes from substitutes Scott Murray and Lee Trundle.
For the visitors it was 'All for one and one for all….' For the home side, it was all too often every man for himself. And with away trips to Burnley and West Bromwich Albion now looming, the 'team' could fall apart completely.
?We had to defend well – I thought Norwich started really well,? said Johnson afterwards. ?We had to work very hard to keep them out; had to pick up cuts and bruises to keep the ball from going into our net.
?And then we started playing our game and once we started playing our game, then I thought we looked very strong.?
They had a shape, a belief, a confidence and a purpose to their game. Compare and contrast to Norwich circa the 70-minute mark. And again at 86 minutes.
?At 1-0 up, we was absolutely gutted to let the equaliser in – at the time we didn't think that we deserved that. But the boys – as all managers say – showed great spirit and we scored two fantastic goals for us and for our supporters,? said Johnson, who insisted he knew he'd get a response the moment Huckerby finally broke Norwich's recent wretched scoring record.
Sure enough, the Robins put the foot on the gas, slipped up a couple of gears and motored to a comfortable win – even if Scott Murray's second owed much to the base of two Canary posts. There again, that might be the kind of luck that you earn.
?There's that trust isn't there?? said Johnson afterwards. ?They know me inside out – and I know them inside out.
?And I've got a fantastic dressing room – I'm always saying that. They're great lads. You'd be happy for any one of those lads to come home with your daughter.?
And there lies one, big point as Norwich's search for a new manager continues. For if only judging by the level of their performance this Saturday, if any one of those lads came home with the apple of Gary Johnson's eye on their arm, then you get the distinct impression that they'd be equally happy to have him as a father-in-law.
?Gaz is a great lad,? they'd probably say. More than anything else these days, it's simple 'likeability' that helps get people to the top. Or into the early promotion spots in the Robins' case.
?It would be wrong of me to say I'm surprised – although we didn't talk about being second in the league after 11 games,? said Johnson, quizzed as to how far his newly-promoted side could go.
?All that we wanted to do was make sure that we competed at this level – and that we played with the confidence that we are a good Championship side. And today we could take a lot of confidence from our football.
?And that was the second game that we played like that – we did against Sheffield United last week,? he added.
?But the lads have always believed that we can compete in this league.?
A shared belief – something that's also desperately missing from Norwich's game right now as Johnson revealed more of his home-spun philosophy afterwards.
?You earn the right to pass it by tiring the opposition out in that first half-hour and with no disrespects to Norwich, I thought we did that for long perionds of the second-half when we passed it around very well.
?We don't just try and pass it for passing's sake – we try and have something on the end of it and I think we've got a squad that suits our philosophy,? he said. ?The supporters are enjoying the way we're playing; we're enjoying the way we're playing.?
Whether skipper Louis Carey enjoyed his afternoon out with John Hartson is a moot point – he spent most of the game with a huge bandage wrapped around his forehead. Three, big points would have helped ease any headache.
Johnson's view on the new Canary loan signing was interesting; get the ball to him and he can still be a real headache. Literally.
?I was just talking to my chairman and I said: 'You don't move for the millions that he has and play for the big clubs that he has – and score the goals that he has – if you're not a very good predator and know where to be in the penalty area….'
?And he does. And sometimes he can just stand still and be hard to mark because he's clever that way. And he will score goals – of course he will score goals. He is a very, very difficult person to play against because you are going to get cut, you are going to get bruised.?
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