Good things are brewing at Carrow Road. Stan finds himself looking forward to each and every game with a sense of confidence last felt sometime around Christmas 2003.
As such, here are five reasons to be cheerful as we move towards the festive period; five reasons why being a City fan feels alright at the moment.
Reason One: To state the obvious, we are winning.
Stan remembers having a conversation in those dark days early in the year, when relegation was looming like a black cloud on the horizon, that part of the footballing buzz comes from winning matches, whoever it is that you are playing. Beating Bristol Rovers 5-1 at home felt, to this Stan at least, just as rewarding and life affirming as
beating Bolton in the Premiership.
Of course there are those special games: those past glories where City have battered the Liverpools and Manchester Uniteds of this world.
But the bottom line is that football fans and football clubs thrive on winning games.
The sight of the ball hitting the back of the net and the pride that victory instils may be intangible, but it is real – and a crafted Grant Holt lob hits home just as much a Robert Fleck tap-in, a Chrissy Sutton header or, dare Stan say it, a Justin Fashanu turn and shot from the edge of the box.
Reason Two: Following on from the above, we are scoring goals by the hatful (cue 0-0 draw on Saturday).
Worthy’s team got into the habit of scoring goals.
Unfortunately, the Premiership experience ensured that they also got into the habit of shipping them.
Even our first year down saw us end with 65 goals against and a minus nine goal difference. Thereafter, three successive managers succeeded in blunting our goal scoring edge whilst simultaneously playing a defence seemingly trained by Laurel and Hardy.
Now, however, the goals are back. Holt, Martin and Wes have clicked and our attack looks multi-dimensional.
If Wes’ tricks do not unlock the opposition back four, then Lappin can set things up from the left or Martin can cut in from the right. As such, we have seen some great goals this year, and long may they continue to be plentiful.
Reason Three: We have a competent manager. Not only has Paul Lambert (and Ian Culverhouse) got things moving on the pitch, settling on a workable formation and instilling a bit of steel and balance into the side, but he has brought a sense of composure back to the club.
His comments about humility and his tendency towards simplicity in all things come as a blessed relief after past
experience. More to the point, he looks like a man on the up. If Granty and Gunny were simply out of their depth, and if Roeder married a misjudged strategy with an dubious track record, then Lambert looks focused, rational and aware of both the limits and potential of the club he oversees.
In his man-management, his tactics, substitutions and preparation, Lambert looks the real deal.
Crucially, his old-school pragmatism is not compromised by the challenges of the modern game. In Paul, we trust…
Reason Four: The running of the club now seems more settled and directed.
The past few years saw us drift to disaster amidst a series of inept managerial appointments, poor financial acumen, and ill-judged PR spin. McNally, it seems, may not be as ‘pleasant a fellow’ as former board members now departed, but he does seem to have a sense of purpose and that ruthless streak necessary to survive in football (and, spit… business) these days.
Note, however, that the ownership of the club remains in the same hands, suggesting that it is not so
much who owns but who runs a club that makes a difference in our footballing context
Reason Five: The players appear more ‘us’ than ‘them’. Stan knows he has banged this drum before, but the semblance of settled squad that mixes our own Academy boys with experienced professionals committed to the club seems an eminently sensible strategy.
By all means bring in the odd loan, but the tendency to build a squad around hired hands and journeymen was without question partly culpable for our recent demise.
Even the stories you hear about fans meeting players around the city seem to have shifted from arguments with Fozzy in Mercy to swapped platitudes with Holty in Japanese Sushi restaurants. Lovely.
As it is, Norwich are pushing on and 2009-10 will hopefully be one of those seasons where you actually want to buy the highlights on dvd at the end.
Indeed, having just watched the anniversary Milk Cup dvd (and hoping the Europe seasons – qualifying and participating – will soon be re-issued on dvd), Stan is currently bursting with City pride and optimism.
This could be our year – and Drinkell knows, we supporters deserve it.