It is probably impossible to measure – just how longer the ‘hang-over’ lasted from Saturday’s premature FA Cup exit at home to Leicester City.
A day? Come Monday were all thoughts fixed on events of this weekend coming when Manchester United roll into view? Or did the mumbles and grumbles last longer into the week?
Having now covered all things Norwich City for the last 20 years, one thing you do know about a Canary punter is their love of a good cup run.
Tradition dies hard in this corner of the kingdom and whilst 85% of those present on Saturday were probably not alive in 1959, a far greater proportion would have been around in 1985; even more still treasure their ticket stubs from Munich and Milan.
That the game has changed beyond all recognition since I first stepped into the old Press Box in the old South Stand is stating the bleedin’ obvious.
Membership of the Premier League is totally and utterly the be all and end all of everyone’s thinking these days.
As much as the powers that be have tried to ‘cushion’ the impact of relegation via the parachute payments scheme, it still does not wholly protect a club from the crushing blow that is a return to whence they came – financially, emotionally and every other –ally, it is an experience that both manager and board will move heaven and earth to avoid.
So, in that sense I ‘get’ Paul Lambert’s decision to rest four of his more central players of late.
And the manager, equally, has a point – that any team that he selects from his current crop of players should still have the wherewithal to outwit Championship opposition.
There may have been no Grant Holt, but there should still have been more than enough in the Canary locker to have at least forced the Foxes keeper into at least one decent save of note, penalty aside.
With the odd exception – principally in the back four of the team – no-one hit the heights performance-wise of which they are clearly capable.
With one final caveat. For all their trials and tribulations over the last decade and for the numbers, the noise and the colour with which they take to the road this season, personally I think City’s supporters deserve a decent cup run; they have earned the right to grace Wembley Way sooner rather than later – even if it was only for a semi-final.
The place needs to be a celebratory sea of yellow and green.
Ever the smart cookie, afterwards Lambert played a blinder in terms of giving the supporters something else to focus on.
First, of course, was the prospect of James Vaughan slaying his injury demons between now and the end of the season and making a contribution towards Norwich’s survival cause.
He looked sharp enough in those final 30 minutes; busy and incisive; aware of where the goal was.
The second piece of ‘news’ that Lambert threw out to the broody masses was the fact that ex-Leeds skipper Jonny Howson was due to join full-time training this week after his switch from Elland Road came complete with a long-standing knee injury. Well, since the start of December.
On the basis that Norwich paid £2 million plus for basically the last six months of his Whites’ contract – allied to the fact that the lad was captaining the side aged 19 – there looks to be both a player and a character there. And with the better part of a third of the season still to go, he could yet find the time to bed himself fully into supporters’ affections before the start of the 2012-13 campaign.
And then, of course, there is Ryan Bennett whose ‘loan’ spell at Peterborough ends next week – at which point he can properly hop across the Fens and add his presence to Norwich’s final run-in.
As much as Lambert will protest otherwise – that until the mathematics are certain, etc, etc – Norwich aren’t going down this season.
Look down below and there are too many teams still looking listless and leaderless to suggest that the Canaries under Lambert’s watch will get sucked back down into a Fulham (a) scenario on the final day of the season.
The question then remains as to whether or not Norwich can sustain enough momentum and belief to finish in the top half of the table come May. Survival… And then some.
Quite rightly, Lambert insists that sheer survival will be the biggest achievement of his managerial reign in Norfolk.
If Norwich not only survive, but finish 2011-12 in the top half of the Premier League then it will be a quite extraordinary achievement.
Particularly given the wage cap at Lambert’s disposal.
Inevitably, it will make the City boss one of the game’s most coveted managerial stars; certainly for those clubs that don’t quite demand a Champions League winners medal as a *manager* as a foremost requirement for the post.
Those sort of fun and games can, however, await the summer. For now, look forward to United and Sir Alex on Sunday. And keep the fingers firmly crossed for the cup run the supporters have long deserved in 2012-13.
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