‘With a bit of belief, anything is achievable’.
It may well have been just a throwaway line in Chris Hughton’s post-match chat with Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham, but it certainly struck a chord with this River-Ender.
With the latest instalment of City’s triumphant march through the autumn of 2012 ending in another win, there’s little reason to doubt anything our leader says right now. That some of the aforementioned belief has been instilled in the class of 2012/13 is certainly not in doubt and with the unbeaten league run now stretching to a record-breaking ten games, the Canary Nation too is now starting to believe.
With the national media continuing to purport the myth of City’s unbeaten run as merely being the result of a heady fluke/good fortune cocktail, the credit afforded to Hughton and his men has been hugely disproportionate to the achievement.
Last night’s MotD again provided us with a classic example as, evidently, the victory over Wigan was only due to a couple of schoolboy errors by Emmerson Boyce. Clearly they deemed the exhilarating first half display hardly worthy of a mention or the fact that, had it not been for the excellent form of Al-Habsi, we could have gone in at half-time four or five goals to the good.
With Alan Shearer unable to contain his disinterest in anything green and yellow, we were treated to a poorly scripted critique and a monotone delivery not worthy of a place in my ten year-old daughter’s school Christmas production.
And before anyone tells me… yes, I should rise above it… yes, it is good to be ‘under the radar’… and yes, I am over-touchy about it. But to be second only to Barcelona in the European ‘unbeaten league run’ league table and still be treated with a degree of derision is a tad irksome.
And don’t even get me started on TalkSport’s Drivetime duo.
But enough of that; we have little control over how others perceive us.
For Hughton’s men to have reached the 25 point mark two games shy of the half-way point of the season is a huge achievement, and even the most pessimistic members of the Yellow Army must surely now concede that the required five more wins are within reach. To guarantee ourselves another season in the top flight – and a slice of the new TV deal – will be arguably an even greater achievement than survival last season. Even more so if you believe the theorists who prophesise about the dreaded curse of ‘second season syndrome’.
David McNally had earlier used Twitter to tease us all with some impending ‘good news’ and, despite theories abound, the best news of all was duly delivered in the form of a contract extension for Wes Hoolahan. Good old Wes then duly celebrated in the best way possible with a winning goal – a towering header no less – and reminded us all, if it were needed, of his value to us.
It was surely no coincidence that our return ‘back to business’ – as the gaffer described it – came courtesy of a return to his preferred starting XI. With Wes, Alex Tettey, Michael Turner and Steven Whittaker all shaking off knocks, Hughton wasted no time in bringing them back into the fold and in turn giving the side a more solid look.
The extra man in midfield – provided by Hoolahan dropping deep – worked a treat, and for the first 45 the ball retention was as good as anything we’ve witnessed this season. With chances aplenty, the only thing missing was the clinical finishing displayed seven days earlier at the Liberty Stadium, where City’s seldom seen ruthless streak was given a rare outing.
I look forward to the day when the truly impressive form of Robert Snodgrass manifests itself with a headed goal – something which he has threatened to do on numerous occasions to date, but has so far failed to deliver. It can only be a matter of time.
Clearly the shine was taken off the day a little with the sight of Grant Holt limping off with his hamstring strain. Let’s hope the optimistic tone of Hughton’s post-match comments are borne out, and the injury is a strain rather than a tear; and then the January transfer pot can be utilised to add to the squad rather than patch it up.
Finally, it would be remiss not to close without mentioning that Sebastien Bassong tackle, when the dangerous Arouna Koné looked odds-on to hammer in a 93rd minute equaliser. It epitomised his contribution to the Canary cause – and made his player-of-the-month award look all the more deserving.
Quite how Hughton, McNally and co. were able to persuade him to head east when there were – reportedly – better looking offers on the table is an interesting one. But I’m glad they did.
So… next stop the Hawthorns.
The Beeb and TalksSport will naturally predict a home win; let’s prove them wrong… again.