After driving home from the Road and watching it all again on Sky-Plus with a take-away curry (my new definition of “Life cannot get any better than this…”) I trawled Ipswich message boards to prolong the euphoria.
Amid the ‘Roy Must Go!’ threads, I found a stimulating offering.
It said: “Don’t get me wrong, Norwich were the better side today and clearly have some good players. Pound for pound though I honestly don’t think they have a better squad.
“What they do have however is a tactically adept manager and a good team spirit.”
The contributor had chosen the pseudonym truebluetractor83.
I don’t know whether the number is his IQ or what, and I am not even going to bother with his assessment of the relative quality of squads, but he was spot on with his implied criticism of the paucity of Roy Keane’s tactical nous.
When the visiting manager was not standing in the technical area, practicing his glare and ignoring our requests to wave, he was seated in the dug-out giving his bubble gum a severe mastication.
I might be unfair to Roy here (Heaven forfend!), but it did not seem as if he was having much input into the tactical discussions.
He just appeared to be listening to the guy sitting next to him, Tony Loughlan his assistant manager.
Loughlan became pals with Keane when they were both players at Nottingham Forest. Both left that club in 1993, Keane after 114 appearances, Loughlan after two.
Keane went to Old Trafford. Loughlan went to Kettering, before a spell at Lincoln, where he took his career total of Football League appearances to 14 before going to the League of Ireland, the Conference North and then oblivion.
Well, it would have been oblivion if his old mucker, Keane, had not taken him from coaching 13-year-olds at Leicester City’s Academy to make him first team coach at Sunderland.
When Keane walked out on Sunderland, Loughlan was placed on “gardening leave” but he was able to stop tending his roses when Keane became Binmen boss and appointed Loughlan as his number two again.
Make your own fertiliser gags, but I always think you can learn a lot about people from their number twos.
I don’t mean scatology. I mean that, in any walk of life, a confident boss with real ability will select a capable deputy.
An inept boss will pick someone who is not a threat. Now I don’t doubt that Loughlan is a lovely bloke or that he knows more about coaching than, say, me.
But is he capable of providing the advice Keane needs when the team are down to ten men, trailing 2-1 and the opposition are knocking the ball about comfortably because your lone striker is too knackered to close anyone down?
From the desultory way the visitors went about their business in the second-half at Carrow Road on Sunday, I’d say not.
I can’t pretend to know whether Keane retains the support of Marcus Evans.
The Suffolk club’s owner is a poor-man’s Howard Hughes, refusing to be photographed and, on one occasion I know about, ordering a television company not to use a segment of film which might have captured the back of his head.
I can understand why an owner of that club might not want to show his face, but the obsessive secretiveness means nobody knows whether he is brave enough to tell Keane to pack his bags. Let’s hope not.
Meanwhile, truebluetractor83 was accurate with his assessment of our manager, Paul Lambert.
The team spirit the pugnacious Scot has fostered and his tactical awareness have made it a joy to watch our team. In particular, his fondness for the use of attack-minded players in bold substitutions has cheered the soul and harvested the points.
So, Norwich City are the “Pride of Anglia”. Compare and contrast with the club he left behind, Colchester United.
Last mid-week they had a home fixture against Brentford which offered the chance of going second in the table. They had won the previous four home games. So how many do you suppose flocked to that new stadium of theirs?
The attendance was 3,172, or roughly 21,000 fewer than our average gate for the same division last season. The Community Stadium has only ever been full once.
You know when that was and you know what the result was that day.
OK, time to make myself unpopular with City fans.
One of the reasons Grant Holt played so well against the team in blue was that he was cautioned after three minutes and from thereon in did not dare clatter an opponent.
Instead he had to concentrate on beating them through speed of thought, at which he excelled. The skipper was excellent.
He terrorised the team in blue and, as I first wrote on this site about him before Lambert took over as manager, he finishes “with the unhurried, dead-eye accuracy of someone who expects to score, rather than hopes to.”
I f-f-fervently love Grant Holt.
But he could have been sent off for clobbering Jack Colback. I am not saying he should have been. I am merely pointing out that if the referee had judged that the challenge “endangered the safety of an opponent” he would have been correct to produce a red card.
As for Holt’s part in the sending off of Damien Delaney, well, how do you suppose City fans would have reacted if one of our defenders had been sent off for “denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity” with a fairly innocuous tug on someone who was 40 yards from goal?
I can tell you how they would have reacted – with the fury of the partisan.
That is what all football fans do. On successive weekends, the following events have occurred. 1) City equalised against Burnley after what looked very much like a handball by Crofty. 2) Holt was sent off, erroneously, at Reading. 3) City equalised against Leeds with goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel flat on his back after being sent sprawling by Chrissy Martin. 4) Holt survived a potential sending off to score a hat-trick.
And which of those four events do you suppose lit up the Pink Un message board and earned the Wrath Of The Barclay? As I say, that is the way of all football fans.
So, the week after Holt’s sending off at the Madejski Stadium, Reading manager Brian McDermott complained after a draw at Watford that few decisions had gone his club’s way this season.
Anyone who cared about a club is angered by every decision that goes against them, yet thinks those that go their way are “just part of the game”.
This tendency to things through the prism of fierce bias is what lies at the heart of the referee’s strike in Scotland.
There, Celtic fans perceive religious bigotry and conspiracy theories when any decision goes against them. So the tenor of the criticism of referees takes on a much more threatening edge.
But in England, phone-ins routinely broadcast intemperate, defamatory comments about referees which they would not allow about any other profession and message boards (where anonymity encourages a lack of civilised restraint) carry foul calumnies.
Here is a stat for you.
In the area in which I live, a recent round of county youth cup matches only had 16 referees for 66 matches.
That saddened me, but did not surprise me at all, because the attitude towards match officials throughout the game has become so full of corrosive criticism and spite.
And here is a thought for you.
Ipswich fans are currently deriding Sunday’s ref, Keith Hill, just as our supporters abused Michael Oliver after the Reading match.
Do you really suppose they are completely wrong and we were completely right?
Is it not possible that both men just made honest mistakes, some of which benefitted us and some which hurt us…
Nicholas Mead says
Of course what you fail to mention is that Burnley’s second goal was offside, the Leeds goal was a handball, and the usually card happy Mr Oliver failed to award even a free-kick for the assault on Corey.
Tor Erik Alsli says
Many of the same thoughts crossed my mind while watching the game. Holt could easily have been sent off right at the beginning, and the Delaney sending off can definately be questioned. Maybe a referee shouldn’t take players speed into consideration when deciding if a player is robbed for a clear-cut goalscoring opportunity, but I’m not convinced that Holt would have made it to a one-on-one with Fulop if Delaney hadn’t fouled him.
When it comes to the challenge where Holt was sent off against Reading, both me and a friend watching the game was convinced that it was a correct decision after watching the first replay. From other angles, however, we saw that it was correct to let Holt escape the 3-match ban, but the referee did not have the privilige of checking the replay from different angles before having to make a decision. And, honestly, I think it’s a silly thing to do to even start to challenge an opponent like that – especially in a non-threatening area like that.
So, would you agree that adding video technology to football league games, and giving the ref the opportunity to ask the opinion of the 4th official (with access to footage), would bring back respect to the officials from both players and supporters ?
east of hampstead says
Nice piece Mick.
It would be lovely if you could remind the Hd of Media at NCFC that luck DOES even itself out in football – unless, of course, he is planning to balance his recent programme notes (v Leeds?) by examining the decisions that have gone FOR City in recent weeks.
Keith B says
I agree about the relative merits of Lambert and Keane generally, and results have proved it. In fact I agree that Town, player for player, potentially have a better squad. But Keane is unable to get the best out of his squad; as the BBC team kept saying on Sunday Lambert has probably got as much as possible out of most of his.
I want to take issue with one point though.
When we went down to 10 men at Reading Lambert’s response was as poor as Keane’s on Sunday. It was virtually half time and we were leading by 2 goals. We had suffered one seriously bad decision which made life hard for us.
Lambert’s team talk should have been on the lines of:
“Forget that decision, we have to live with it; we’ll sort out the injustice after the game. We’ve all seen before how 10 determined men can frustrate 11. The longer you can hold out the harder it gets for them. And watch the ref. Don’t do anything to further antagonise him, and he might actually even things out which when they think they’ve made an error they sometimes do.”
But Lambert obviously didn’t say that, or if he did nobody was listening (which is very unlikely). Because for the next 15 minutes we caved in and, when a fairly clear cut penalty was awarded, 4 players surrounded the referee. How stupid was that?
Everyone says Lambert has learned a lot from Martin O’Neill, so perhaps his reaction to Holt’s dismissal and his later behaviour showed how true that is. On the whole if he can follow in the Irishman’s footsteps that will be good news for us but it would be better if he could learn a more mature reaction to adversity.
By contrast few of Fergie’s disciples have shown they can manage unless megabucks are available, at least compared with the resources of those around them. Keane seems to be the latest, thank goodness.