Let’s be honest, putting together a title-winning football team isn’t rocket science. But it might just as well be. For it remains a very, very difficult trick to pull off.
Most of us, I suspect, could sit in the corner of the nearest Coach & Horses and draw a title-winning team on the back of the nearest fag packet.
Particularly a Football League title-winning team. Most of it is about gathering a decent spine together; some of it is about finding stout hearts and leaders of men; a little bit of it is all about injecting a touch of the unexpected into proceedings.
For somewhere in the mix is a creative spark. Throw in a large dollop of luck injury-wise – in that your big players don’t get big injuries; add a sprinkling of (relative) off-field stability and you’re starting to get there.
And as the years go by, I’m not sure that I wholly buy into this idea that you must have this fantastic team spirit; this sudden chemistry within the dressing room – a ‘Band Of Brothers’ ethos that sees 22 grown men as one together at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and again – some ten, befuddled hours later – at 1am on a Sunday morning.
If you look very closely at the two, other great teams of this last generation, there were individuals within either set-up that were poles apart in character and outlook. And, indeed, what made for a great Saturday night out.
If a team wins on a regular basis, it papers over all such cracks. No-one is any the wiser; or, indeed, remotely bothered.
Nine times out of ten, a great dressing room is a dressing room that’s winning games. And how do get a great dressing room? By winning games. That horse leads the cart.
So with such scribbles on the back of a fag packet in mind, how have the Canaries walked away with the League One title?
By having a decent spine. A young keeper destined for greater things; two-to-three centre-halves who fall firmly into the no-nonsense, heart-of-oak category; a midfield that runs all day; and a big lad up front who scores goals all day. And has a heart of oak. And is a leader of men.
And at this level – indeed, even that above – knows what his elbows are for. The icing on the cake came in a second striker who knew where the goal was and, of course, a gem of a creator who did things with the ball that – in other years – only a Huckerby or a Crook could.
They discovered in young Korey Smith a midfielder who played way beyond his years but one who – crucially – never gave the opposition a moment’s rest and had the legs to step into any holes that Hoolahan left.
As long as Wesley stayed fit, then they could afford to rely on his trickery than someone else’s pace to unlock the majority of defences. Credit to Paul Lambert, as the season unfolded, so the issue of pace started to be addressed. Now they have players that can get in behind a flat back four and hurt an opposition with their speed of foot, not speed of thought.
So to whom are thanks due? Well, all concerned pretty much. I wonder whether Chrissy Martin would have been half the player this season had Glenn Roeder not sent him into exile with Luton last; Bryan Gunn produced a complete transfer peach in the case of Grant Holt – the fact that he had to out-muscle Lambert’s Colchester United last summer to land his man suggests his talents weren’t lost on his soon-to-be successor.
I would strongly suspect that Holt’s arrival might not have been possible without Michael Foulger dipping into his back pocket with the season ticket rebate scheme; I doubt Lambert would have been dug out of the U’s with quite such decisiveness under previous regimes.
There is a ‘You do what it takes…’ streak now running through Carrow Road; the word ‘nice’ is not one that would cross the lips of at least one League One chairman.
Lambert has proved sure and steady – on and off the field. Issues have been addressed; solid individuals have been bolted onto the team as and when required; those at the more flaky end of the spectrum have been squeezed quietly, but firmly out of the door.
Again, to his credit, he has let his coaches coach. He’s ‘merely’ there to manage. The long-standing chemistry between his No2 and No3 – Messrs Culverhouse and Crook, respectively – should not be under-estimated.
There’s little competing schools of thought as to how the game should be played. And then there’s Delia and Michael. Fair play, they’ve hung in there when the easiest thing to do would have been to have walked; to have taken the first sniff of an offer and run.
Had, of course, there ever been an offer. Was Peter Cullum a lucky escape? Who knows. The fact that Delia is still working to help keep the banks at bay is evident every time you walk into Waitrose. Or travel on the London Underground.
So the reality is that the owners have stayed the same; it’s as was. With the Foulger family continuing to do more than their share in the background.
Norwich are flying back into The Championship at the first time of asking; everyone loves each other again. Kind of. And financially? The Canaries remain just as much of a basket case as every other professional football club in this country; be it Manchester United, Portsmouth, Hull City or whoever… football’s finances have long, long gone to the players pot and nothing in that regard has changed.
For now, however, just bask in the glory of a job very, very well done. For it ain’t easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it.