Even without an open-top bus ride around Norwich city centre this year – sort it out next season lads, eh? – it looks like being a very busy summer.
There are preparations to be made for the Jubilee street party. It’s only a few weeks away and I still haven’t invented a plausible excuse for not going.
There’s Euro 2012, of which more later.
And of course it’s not long now until the Olympics. (We’ve got tickets for the women’s volleyball – though not the beach variety, so I suppose I’d better read up on the rules if I’m going to derive any interest from it.)
With all this coming up, I thought I should try and get ahead with my list of summer jobs.
I’ve already assembled the kids’ trampoline in the back garden – which, if last year is anything to go by, will soon kill off the lawn and save me having to mow it.
I’ve scraped all the dried excrement off the patio table. (I do wish our neighbour wouldn’t do that.)
And now I’m sitting down to write a short piece about City’s prospects next season, which I wouldn’t normally do until the end of July.
Assuming that Paul Lambert doesn’t decide he’s taken the club as far as he can (God, it’s hard typing with your fingers crossed…), there’ll doubtless be more astute signings from the lower divisions.
My only concern on that front is that other clubs – alerted by our success to the existence of cut-price gems below the Premier League – might start doing more of their shopping there.
I wouldn’t put it past some of them to have Lambert followed to see who he’s looking at next. But given that he’s usually one step ahead, he’s probably anticipated this already and talks deliberately loudly about the wrong players at games he watches.
So the squad should be even stronger in August. But will we suffer from ‘second season syndrome’, the football equivalent of music’s difficult second album? Will we get The Bends or Beauty Stab? (Don’t look up the latter, it was rubbish.)
At the serious risk of jinxing things, and of causing myself serious injury by trying to cross already-crossed fingers, I think we could get the former. Maybe even followed by OK Computer. Though hopefully no tuneless noodling after that…
There are two reasons for my optimism. Despite the last three results, the team has looked increasingly confident as the season has progressed. The players may have started the season with learner plates on – but they have learned. We didn’t start with a rush of adrenalin-fuelled results and then run out of steam.
The other reason is that it’s going to be hard for other sides to ‘find us out’ because the line-up and formation change so often – even within games.
It’s usually been the case over the years that you’re never sure which Norwich is going to turn up on any given day. That still applies, but these days it’s about tactics rather than attitude.
Swansea, by contrast, play exactly the same way every week, no matter who they’re facing. It’s an admirable attitude, but it does leave them open to the risk of being rumbled.
To outfox Lambert, opposing managers would have to guess how he might set his team up to play them, and then set their team up to play against Lambert’s imagined side. And that’s not going to happen.
Not least because Lambert might well have thought about how the opposition might line-up to counter what they think is his line-up to counter their line-up, and have a plan lined-up to counter that.
OK, I’m making myself dizzy now, but I hope you get the point.
Now, Euro 2012 – and the question of whether Grant Holt should be included in the England squad.
I’m in two minds about it, really. On the one hand, I don’t want him risking injury in meaningless representative matches.
On the other, it would be a fitting reward for the way he’s learned his trade over the years and made the most of his ability.
And his goals – in their execution as well as their quantity – certainly merit a place on the plane.
The biggest obstacle to his selection would seem to be the perception that he’s not ‘international quality’, that his style doesn’t suit that level of football.
But as well as doing Holty an injustice, this overlooks historical precedents.
There have been few finer international sides than the Dutch team of the 1970s – Cruyff, Neeskens, Rep, Rensenbrink et al. But when they needed a goal in the 1978 World Cup final, who did they turn to?
Big Dick Nanninga. (Hmm, perhaps I could have phrased that better.)
Sure enough, he equalised against Argentina and took the match to extra time.
Yet perhaps the Horse can best be compared to a Horst: namely, Horst Hrubesch of West Germany. The similarities between the strikers are, well, striking.
I don’t know whether Hrubesch ever worked as a Reifenwechsler (tyre fitter, if you hadn’t guessed), but he too was a bulky centre-forward who took a while to reach the top of the game.
He played for a number of small clubs before belatedly getting his break in the Bundesliga, which he took with both feet.
He made the West German squad for the 1980 European Championships at the last minute when another striker was ruled out. The final against Belgium was only his fifth cap – and his two goals (including a bullet header in the 89th minute) duly won the trophy.
If a Holty type was good enough for those Holland and Germany sides, I’d say he’s plenty good enough for the current England squad.
Go on, Roy. Grant Grant his wish.
Have a good summer, everyone.
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