To say that Saturday’s 5-0 defeat at Fulham on the opening day of the season may yet prove to be a blessing in disguise is – clearly – stretching a point.
Particularly when decent people spend decent money for a decent day out.
For that, they have every right to expect a decent performance. Which clearly never happened; instead they got a re-run of another sun-baked afternoon on the banks of the Thames.
But up until five o’clock on Saturday afternoon and, in every likelihood, nine o’clock Monday morning, the players will have only seen the one side of Chris Hughton, their new manager.
Look back over the summer and pre-season delivered very little to get excited about – one way or the other. Norwich flat-lined. Everything was easy-oasy; OK; neither black nor white.
Nothing, in short, for the new Gaffer to lose his rag about.
Saturday, however, would have changed that. The players – if not the supporters – will have seen the moment when Mr Hughton is no longer Mr Nice Guy. If they didn’t, then Norwich might have a problem – because, players being players, will then know what they can get away with.
How little they have to fear on their return to the dressing room after a shambles like that.
They will – you fervently hope – have touched Hughton’s rawest of nerves. And will have felt the full force of his wrath, accordingly.
For see that result and that performance from Hughton’s view-point and he would have every good reason to send the proverbial tea urn flying.
Forget for a moment the whole new manager at a new club thing. Much was made of his friendship with Martin Jol; one of the principal mentors in his managerial life.
I’m not sure it carries the same significance as Paul Lambert’s relationship with his ‘Gaffer’ – Martin O’Neill – but on a very personal level, such apprentices hating losing to the wizard. There is always that extra point to prove – that I have learned all-too well at your side. To be humbled in such a fashion must have hurt.
And there must be that side to Hughton’s personality; by and large, dressing rooms are way too cynical places for the nice guys to win; silk has to hide steel.
Both O’Neill and Lambert wore such steel on their sleeves; you didn’t go verbally head-to-head with either of them. You’d lose. Painfully and in front of the boys. Humiliation was very much part of the manager’s armoury.
Hughton’s approach may well be different; but if the players now know where the line in the sand is then that may be no bad thing. If they opt to cross it again, then Houston we may have a problem.
If they know that there lies a dressing room experience that they could do without on a Saturday afternoon, then good. They have been told.
I’m not wholly fussed about the debate that ever rages around systems; who should have been doing what in support of whom.
And you can see what Hughton set out his stall to achieve; albeit the practice never matched the theory. Walk away with a 1-1 on a Holt-led 4-5-1 and few would have complained.
It’s players that make systems and deliver the performances that make such systems work.
Arguably the two players that would make such a system work to its best effect – Wes Hoolahan and Jacob Butterfield – were denied the manager through injury. That will change.
And with a new left-back in the building and ten more days of the summer transfer window to go, further reinforcements could follow. Cue Bassong.
The point is not to deny that Saturday was a shocker; or to under-play its shock to the Canary system.
The point rather is to stress that in the course of these seven days and, in particular, during the course of this Saturday’s home clash with QPR, City players and supporters alike will get to learn more about the new man at the helm than they ever would have done if Norwich had nicked a 1-1 on their opening bow of the new season.
People will get to know the depth of fire in his belly, the rage and the passion that drives him on; the determination that his team make swift recompense for the events at Craven Cottage.
To my mind, seeing such traits coming to the fore may be no bad thing at all. Particularly if it yields a big three points on Saturday.
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