At some point over the next seven days, I have to pen a short ‘half-time’ report for The Observer on Norwich City’s season thus far.
So, feel free to add your thoughts before I finally put finger to keyboard.
Without wholly stealing anyone’s thunder, my line will be something about City doing as well as anyone had any reasonable right to expect; that, by and large, they had beaten who they needed to beat; had fought well and lost to those you would expect them to lose to; and had played Manchester City.
Manager, players, supporters and finances are all a credit to the Premier League and come May, there will be three worse teams than Norwich occupying the bottom three places.
Anything I’ve missed?
I think City fans have reason to be quietly encouraged by the fact that the Canaries aren’t over-reliant on one, single player keeping a swift return to The Championship at bay; as hard as he grafts and, right now, as frequently as he scores, Steve Morison isn’t carrying the club on his back in the manner of a van Persie at Arsenal.
Norwich have more strings to their bow; Grant Holt, for one, still makes things happen whenever he sets foot onto the pitch.
And in between the likes of an Andrew Crofts, a Bradley Johnson, a David Fox and a Wes Hoolahan City probably have enough graft and guile to keep themselves out of real harm’s way and whilst the back four continue to have an ‘Ooops…’ moment in them at least once a game, spirits are still more than willing.
They merely look human when faced with the genuine Premiership article.
And nor are the Canaries about to change manager in mid-race.
Martin O’Neill’s appointment at The Stadium Of Light is a magnificent appointment to coin one of the Irishman’s favourite phrases, but he doesn’t suffer fools. And short-term, there could be feathers flying in that dressing room.
Not that I expect Sunderland to be relegated under his watch. But, likewise, both Martinez at Wigan and Kean at Blackburn appear to be on weekly life support – all of which merely adds to the air of tension and uncertainty that hangs heavily around such clubs.
Norwich have none of that – and are that much the stronger for it.
Yes, they got caned at The Etihad; and on the slow-mo, at least three of the goals didn’t look particularly big or clever.
But I wouldn’t be too swift to judge this Norwich side on that performance. The level of concentration required to keep those individuals under lock and key for 90 minutes is probably unsurpassed by any other opposition in the country right now.
And the manner in which they have already disposed of their neighbours – at Old Trafford – suggests that they could yet prove to be a one-off. As in the Premier League has become a three-tier league of Manchester City, a ‘Big Four’ of United, van Persie, Chelsea and Liverpool and The Rest. Tottenham lie somewhere between the Big Four and The Rest depending on which way Her Majesty’s Judiciary work come the spring.
Newcastle we will find out more about this weekend; but all credit to Mr Pardew. I eat my summer words on a Barton-less St James’ Park.
The one, other question that The Observer raises is a tricky one; who should the manager buy in the January transfer window?
And as we all start to pen our Christmas letters to Santa, I guess the same applies to Messrs Lambert and Culverhouse as they knock on Mr McNally’s door.
Goals will, ultimately, decide Norwich fate and it is to their credit that this season they have arrived from pretty much all corners of the side; they remain a collective force driven on by a highly individual manager as opposed to a collection of individuals looking after the individual.
But that will be the knee-jerk reaction – get in a proven goal-scorer to get Norwich across the finishing line.
That is a tricky one – given that every noise from both dressing room and board-room suggests that there a certain places, wages-wise, that Norwich won’t go.
And anyone who has ‘proved’ their worth in terms of a Premiership goal-scorer is probably beyond the pale, wedge-wise.
The trick there would be to find someone young and hungry and on the make – rather than one who has already made it. Someone like a fit James Vaughan?
Further back, would Lambert look at further bolstering his centre-half department when Messrs Whitbread, Ayala and Ward have yet really to have had a proper crack at it?
I wouldn’t dismiss Russell Martin’s efforts too lightly; City are still far from perfect when faced with an Agbonlahor or a Walcott, but they are a better defensive unit with a ‘talker’ at its core.
It’s a tricky one; which is one of the reasons for both the piece and the invitation – you’re Lambert, where do you spend your January cash? On one condition; rule out anyone who would command more than, say, £20,000-a-week.
I just don’t see City going there.
Otherwise, all yours…