As City bask in their League One title glory, long-serving defender Adam Drury has admitted that systems made a big, big difference in 2009/10.
Boss Paul Lambert switched to the famous ‘diamond’ midfield fairly early on, with Darel Russell and Wes Hoolahan at both ends, and, to be fair, the Canaries never looked back, winning the division by a whopping nine points.
“The diamond has fitted our team perfectly,” said Adam, speaking to the NCFC Matchday programme after a season watching Wes Hoolahan go to work in that little, withdrawn role behind Holt and Martin.
“The lads have got straight into it and done it perfectly,” he added. “You can see from where we’ve ended up in the table that it suits the players that we’ve got.
“The table doesn’t lie – once we got that belief then we just kicked on from there. We’ve never looked back – we’ve always had the aim of getting promoted and going up as champions.”
It was, he readily admitted, all a world away from the feeling that descended at five o’clock on that first afternoon of the season.
“It was horrible; it was horrific. It was one of those where you don’t want to leave the house – that sort of thing.
“You’re upset to lose at the best of times, but to lose like that… All the phone calls: ‘Was it really 7-1?’ I just don’t think anyone could quite believe what was happening. But – as I said – that’s in the past now. It’s a distant memory.”
Such days can, of course, pull people together – especially in the face of such almost unprecedented adversity as followed that shocking opening day defeat.
“Sometimes when things go against you, when things like that happen it brings everyone closer together.
“And I think we all knew that we had very good players here; that that was just a blip. It was just a one-off – we knew that we were a good side. It was just one of those days.”
If having Forster delivering at one end of the ‘spine’ was key to Norwich’s success this term, having Holt doing his bit at the other was also instrumental in the club’s title triumph. Finally, Norwich had an edge; a player who instinctively knows what his elbows are for. And, of course, where the goal is.
“Massive,” was Adam’s description of the skipper’s contribution. “He’s our skipper and our leader and you can see by the way that he puts himself about that he’s got this passion about everything that he does. And he scores goals – you can’t ask for a lot more.
“And anyone who has someone who scores 30 goals in a season – like he has for us – is going to be up there challenging. He has been top class for us.”
Then, of course, there were one or two unknowns. Few would have ever have guessed that youngster Korey Smith would have dealt so well with the physical rigours of League One football; the consistent level of his performances wholly defied his tender years.
“Korey’s come in and done fantastically well – or ‘The Rash’ as the lads call him. Because he never gives anyone a moment’s peace on the pitch,” said Adam, offering a dressing room ‘take’ on the phrase ‘over them like a rash’.
“But you wouldn’t realise how young a lad he is – he’s come in and done unbelievably well. He’s fitted into the team and the system we’re playing brilliantly.
“He’s never dipped and you know what you’re going to get from him – week in, week out. He does a fantastic job for the team and it sometimes doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves.
“The front lads and people like that get all the credit whereas Korey does all the hard, unnoticed work similar to what Simon Lappin does. They’ve both been fantastic in there.”
Was there one, single thing that above all else had brought this team together? The management must have played its part in Norwich’s title triumph?
“With the manager you know what he wants – and if you don’t do it, you won’t play. Simple as that. So you go out week in, week out knowing what you’ve got to do to stay in the side.
“And, obviously, that breeds competition for places because he’s brought other players into the club and he’s made his own mark on things. He has made a massive, massive difference.”
He also lets his coaches coach. Cue the credit to the two Ians, Culverhouse and Crook.
“Training has been very, very good,” said Adam, not quite old enough to have played alongside the two heroes of City’s UEFA Cup run.
“The lads enjoy training every day which makes another big difference. And, yes, he lets them get on with it, but if he’s got something to say, he’ll definitely say it.”
One final – and crucial – plank is that everyone, by and large, has stayed fit. The big players have all delivered 30-plus games. That in itself makes a welcome change.
“If you look at the nucleus of the side, I think most lads have played 30 or 35-plus games. A few have had niggles and missed one or two here and there, but the majority of the lads will end up playing 35-plus games – and that’s a massive, massive plus.
“You look at most sides that do anything, you get a settled side that you can more or less name the team week in, week out. And when you’re winning it all helps.”
“Going up as champions, you don’t know where that might take you,” said Adam. “You only have to look at other teams that have gone up before us as to what you can do.
“Because if you can keep that momentum going, hopefully, we can achieve something next season.”
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