Rob Butler – host of the much-maligned Canary Call – called it right. ‘Today we’ve seen the start of the Chris Hughton era…’ was the strapline for his post-match phone-in, and I agree.
There will be those who invariably point out the technical inaccuracies in this statement, but the sentiment is spot on.
The visit to Craven Cottage gave us all a bit of a wake-up call – Team Hughton included – and is best consigned to history. I’ve personally managed to do this to the extent I’m struggling even to recall the score.
The QPR game – whilst not producing the three points we deserved – saw a hugely improved performance and went a long way to restoring the faith of the Yellow Army.
Rightly or wrongly, the energy and verve on display was attributed by many to be a positive reaction to the nightmare by the Thames – and less to do with City, in fact, being a decent side.
Tuesday night’s win over Scunthorpe in the Capital One Cup was again met largely with indifference. After all, the visitors had made a rubbish start to the season and would surely just be there for the taking. As we now know, The Iron hadn’t read the script and gave a Norwich XI a real game – only our extra touch of class seeing us through in the end. So… through to the third round, but no more than we expected.
And on to ‘The Lane’…
If you were daft enough (like me) to listen to, and read, some of the so-called expert opinions prior to the game then there was little point in us even turning up.
With Mark Lawrenson having subscribed to the ‘Norwich will find it difficult this season’ club, he typically predicted a comfortable 2-0 win for Spurs. Similarly so, Conor McNamara and Graeme Le Saux on BBC 5Live , whose dismissive tone before kick-off – accompanied by a heap of factual inaccuracies – would have negated the need for a Hughton team-talk if the players had been in ear-shot.
Typically ‘Le Tiss’ on Sky Sports –as I understand it – was equally dismissive of our chances before a ball had even been kicked.
Shows how much they know doesn’t it?
From minute one to minute ninety-four we were the better side, showed the greater desire, created more chances and even passed the ball better than our North London hosts. There were good performances all across the park but special mention should go to Bradley Johnson who has responded magnificently to the challenge put before him, in the shape of Alexander Tettey.
The way that he, and the equally magnificent Jonny Howson, bossed the centre of the midfield early on, largely set the tone for the whole match – and I’m guessing that Andre Villas-Boas won’t be utilising the Sandro/Livermore combo in the centre of midfield any time soon.
To go in at half-time level was disappointing, given the chances we’d created, but one couldn’t help but be lifted by the half-reception afforded to their heroes by the Spurs faithful. Hughton knows them better than most and I’m sure he would have impressed upon his troops the need to keep the tempo high and the crowd quiet early on in the second period.
And, but for a ten minute spell during which Mousa Dembele (who else?) put the Londoners ahead, the City players followed their leader’s game plan to the letter. While the White Hart Lane crowd continued to play second fiddle to the wonderful Yellow Army, the Brad Friedel net was always the one that looked more likely to bulge.
We left it late, but Robert Snodgrass’ 85th minute leveller was no more than he and his team-mates deserved. That our heroes – clad in black – were able to celebrate the goal in front of the Y’Army was only fitting, and reminded us again how powerful we can be when we’re united as one.
The biggest compliment we can pay Hughton is that the ‘L’ man couldn’t have done it any better and – minus a late winner – this performance was right up there with that wonderful day back in April. This is why Rob Butler – in my opinion – called it right.
A fine all-round performance, played on the front foot, always looking to get forward, passing the ball with speed and accuracy, and energy aplenty. Sounds very familiar doesn’t it… and no wonder.
Those of us – me included – who were too quick to question Hughton’s style of football have been put firmly in our place. This showing was right up there with anything seen away from home last season and has most certainly whetted many an appetite for the season ahead.
Also worthy of note was Steve Morison’s excellent 20 minute cameo. Much criticised – unfairly so – he displayed touch and determination far removed from the distorted perception of some. If justice had been done, and Assou-Ekotto’s attempted shirt swap had been spotted by Mark Halsall, his ‘assist’ would have been no more than he deserved.
And in case any of you are still in doubt, take a look at his goal celebration… doesn’t look like someone who’s not bothered to me.
So… hats off to Rob and Canary Call, you called it right.
We are indeed in safe hands – we just didn’t realise it.