It was interesting to read the thoughts of Reading manager Brian McDermott after witnessing his newly-promoted Royals grant Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas his first managerial win for his new employers.
I didn’t watch the game, so can only take the reports of an ‘insipid’ first-half performance by the home side as read.
That and McDermott’s own downbeat assessment of his side’s performance in that 3-1 defeat at the weekend.
“We were too submissive,” he said. “That’s not how we play or what we are about, so we have to move on very quickly, you have to do that in this league.
“It’s a learning curve for all of us. We know we are playing against a team full of world-class individuals and we didn’t cause them enough problems.”
At home, Reading supporters and manager alike would clearly be looking for rather more by way of spirit.
But these are early days; the Royals are still getting their bearings back in the big-time; and who is anyone to mock in this neck of the woods given that Norwich kicked off their campaign with a similar level of non-performance at Fulham.
The interesting point for me, however, is McDermott’s acknowledgement that his side never really knocked Spurs out of their stride; never got at them. ‘We didn’t cause them enough problems…’
Without going over too much old ground, Norwich clearly did. Even once they went behind at White Hart Lane, they continued to cause Spurs problems – problems that included grabbing a deserved leveller in the game’s latter stages.
Equally Jermain Defoe – two-goal hero at Reading this weekend – caused Norwich very few problems. Nor, really, did Mr Bale. Or late England call up Mr Livermore.
Norwich competed; held their own; won their individual battles across the park.
As they did again on Saturday against West Ham United. Carlton Cole may be no Andy Carroll, but he’s still no mug. Yet he got no change whatsoever out of Leon Barnett and Sabastien Bassong at the heart of that City defence.
Right now, those two look the part. Whether Chris Hughton threw them together more by luck than judgement on the back of the Bennett-Turner misadventures at Craven Cottage is for the manager to know and the rest of us to guess. But they have pace, power and, certainly in the case of Bassong, presence.
Presence enough to hold few fears travelling back to St James’ Park this weekend; back to the place where he first made his mark on English football.
The other two that – for now – have clicked are Bradley Johnson and Jonny Howson; brain and brawn in the middle of the pitch.
In short, there is a solidity and a spirit to the back two-thirds of Hughton’s side that McDermott would love to see replicated in his Royals.
As, you suspect, would Nigel Adkins at Southampton who managed to hit Arsenal on one of their purple days – and got right, royally ripped apart.
So as the early runners and riders start to settle down and people start to fret over what three points from the first four games might mean for Norwich’s survival hopes 34 games down the line, I think there is much heart to be had from the solidity that now sits at the heart of this Canary side – compared to the fragility of two of the three Premier League new-boys.
The Hammers – as is the wont of the Sullivans and Golds, the Bradys and the Allardyces of this world – have thrown money at the problem. Carroll doesn’t come cheap. Nor does winger Matt Jarvis. And the nine other new arrivals at the Boleyn.
Which will, in most likelihoods, stand them in good stead.
No, the fear would be that Southampton and Reading are going to be the ones taking the greater time to find their Premier League bearings; the fact that Norwich found their’s relatively quickly this time last year being testament to both the momentum and the managerial nous of the man then at the helm.
But I don’t see much in the course of these opening four games to suggest that Hughton isn’t building again on said solid foundations. Fortune could do him a favour or two; Harry Kane could – should – have stolen all the headlines against the Hammers. But the kid still looks a capture.
No, Norwich look OK; they’ll be fine. And with a spot of luck and a touch more class in front of goal, they could even be just as fine as they were last year.