Ashley Young’s deflected shot gave Manchester United the victory they deserved at West Brom, but the assembled media were not amused when I suggested an angle for them – that the goal had knocked Norwich out of the Champions League places.
But then Press reports of City’s efforts at Wigan the previous day had not made me smile much either.
Friends, former colleagues and writers I admire were woefully predictable with all their comparisons to Blackpool. There were clunking metaphors involving Delia and recipes. And nobody seemed to spot that we started with the diamond system we’ve been using for two seasons.
Worst though, was the widespread assertion that our defence will struggle this season.
That belief was based on the two calamities when first Ritchie De Laet and then Zak Whitbread were caught fiddling about with the ball near the half-way line.
Yet there was other evidence from De Laet to weigh up: the way he caught up with Franco Di Santo after giving him a head start and the point-saving interventions in the second-half.
De Laet will be one of the Premier League’s top performers this season.
I saw enough of him in pre-season to be certain of that. He is a pro-active defender, blisteringly quick, intelligent and with a healthy hatred of ceding an inch.
We can be content that Paul Lambert has ensured De Laet won’t ever again take unnecessary chances in possession while at Norwich.
But he did foul Di Santo. The £2 million Argentinian ‘bought’ the infringement, by edging in front of our Belgian as the two men sprinted towards the goal-line, and so the ensuing tangle of legs was an accident. But it was still a foul.
And Russell Martin fouled Di Santo in the area again later in the same half.
Di Santo did not help himself by choosing to fall so unconvincingly and that encouraged referee Stuart Atwell’s reluctance to give a second penalty in front of the mighty Yellow Army.
Wigan’s scant support was pitiful by comparison. The few fans they do have abuse me online because I have ridiculed their attendances in print, but you get the impression that, because the club is bankrolled by Dave Whelan, nobody tries very hard to entice a crowd worthy of the Premier League.
There is no club presence in the town centre, no attempt to bus people in from outside the town, this season’s replica shirts are not available yet and there appears little effort to overcome apathy towards the club.
Attendances at the DW Stadium fell last season to under 18,000.
Meanwhile, QPR jacked the prices up by 40 per cent and were rewarded by a dismal crowd of barely over 15,000 – on the club’s return to the top tier after a wait of 15 years.
And over at West Ham, there were 10,000 empty seats for their first game back in the Championship, despite a radio advertising campaign in the capital and heavily discounted prices for kids.
So we shouldn’t take the Y’Army for granted. It has become a phenomenon.
It was extraordinarily moving to be part of a packed away end in the Premier League after six years. By definition the folk who trek the country to back the team are more committed and more likely to keep the faith than those who don’t and the sheer number and volume of City’s travelling support will be a factor all season.
So will the qualities on display at Wigan which have served the team so well for two seasons: Lambert’s insistence on a positive approach, a team full of hungry wannabes and the pervading belief that our chaps will score eventually.
Of course we’ll lose some games. But we won’t roll over for anyone and we won’t be flattened by reverses. This manager and this team don’t do that.
And, eventually, those who chronicle City’s exploits for national newspapers will stop making fatuous assumptions and come to more considered conclusions about Norwich in the Premier League.
After all, they’ll have plenty more seasons to do so.
Good article Mick. I am sickened by the lazy journalism that some press and pundits dish out. It’s so easy to predict that “who goes up must come down” and that appears to be the default position that many adopt. We held our own on Saturday against a team that was determined not to slip up again. De Laet’s slip was no worse that Richardson’s yet we are accused of naivety at this level. Every team will make errors through a season, yet so many “experts” assume that we will naturally make them every game, and cannot see that promoted clubs will adjust quickly to a higher league.
Red Rupert says
Haven’t seen a lot of de Laet at Old Trafford but what I have seen of him I like. So don’t get too attached to him. Nice to see you lot back. My first memory of Norwich was as a teenager in 1967? when they beat United at OT 1-2. I was devastated. We’ve had a few decent tussles since – hope you last the course. Or at least the first course.
Nice one, Mick!
Quite so, Mick. TV = shot of Delia, patronising talkover scan of Norwich fans ‘enjoying themselves’, then edited highlights that are ‘analysed’ as exposing our potential frailty. In the newspapers = picture of Delia, reference to Blackpool and City as somehow ‘fun’ teams to be in the Prem. All very predictable. I got the impression on MOTD that neither Shearer nor Hanson had bothered to mug up on us at all. I wish the press could be made to refer back to comments made sometimes – but the tomorrow’s fish & chip paper cliche ensures it just rumbles on …
No point bemoaning the press since generally they write the story before they go to the game.
Good work Mick. I think the jury is still out on De Laet quite frankly, but I appreciate we need ‘composed’ defenders if we are to stay up. I feel that the likes of Wigan/Blackburn/Fulham being in the Prem is an outrage. How many fans would they get in League 1??