Given his voracious appetite for all things football – including the odd scouting mission – I’m pretty sure Chris Hughton will have watched the Oldham / Everton FA cup tie. If he did, I reckon one who will have caught his attention will be that little stocky bloke who spent the game scurrying up and down the Oldham right-wing?
I think his name was Lee something…… Cross? Crouch? Cruyff?…… that’s it… Croft.
For anyone with traces of Norwich City in their DNA it was surely nigh on impossible not to have felt a little something seeing him barnstorm down that right flank and find – from somewhere – a perfectly weighted cross that invited his fellow winger, Jordan Obita to tap in from close range.
The irony of him hitting that inch perfect cross was not lost on several #NCFC tweeters who – like me – can still vividly recall his regular offerings, while wearing a yellow shirt, being of most interest to those sitting behind the goals. Perhaps the Observer’s match reporter, who described his cross as a ‘misdirected shot’, once sat in the lower Barclay and was duly disbelieving of such precision.
In fairness Croft was always tenacity, energy and enthusiasm personified, with his lack of high-level quality usually forgiven due to his willingness to run his socks off for the cause. Given he was present for a few seasons of City’s recent inglorious history, his ability to run and run often set him apart from some of his team-mates – particularly those here for the very short-term.
In all honesty, anyone who can crash one home from twenty odd yards against ‘that lot’ – as ‘Crofty’ did in the 2-0 Carrow Road victory in December 2007- has automatically carved themselves a small niche in City folklore, however small that niche may be.
In his excellent autobiography [Hucks – Through Adversity to Great Heights. Page 207], Darren Huckerby refers to him as ‘one of the funniest people I’ve ever encountered in football’, although goes on to say the laughs were not always with him, but often directed at him. At still only 27 (can you believe that?) he still has time on his side and what’s to say he won’t make a Carrow Road cameo sometime in the future. For all our sakes let’s hope it’s in a cup match…
With Oldham giving a strong-looking Everton side a bloodied nose – albeit slightly less damaged than Arsene Wenger’s – one wonders the impact this will have on their pending visit to the fine city. Whilst it’s never a good idea to read too much into a ‘blood ‘n thunder’ FA cup tie, there’s no doubt that Hughton will have taken heart from the way the league one side were able to create goalscoring chances.
With the clean sheets now coming thick and fast, the obvious – and much discussed – trick needed is how to turn that solid looking base into one that can be equally effective at the other end. Whether Messrs Becchio and Kamara have what it takes to make that difference over the next twelve games only time will tell, but at least Gary Hooper’s non-appearance against Juventus on Tuesday night will spare Hughton and McNally the ‘why didn’t we push the boat out’ taunts – at least for a week or two.
With Everton in mind, I’m happy to assume that the 0-0 scoreline shown on Pink ‘Un website next to this coming Saturday’s fixture is the result of either: a) a joke or b) a mistake and is not the result of Archant engaging the freelance services of Nostradamus.
While another 0-0 draw wouldn’t be the end of the world, I’m not sure I can take another wrist-slitting Canary Call, with Rob Butler and guest attempting to quell the latest wave of Yellow Army unrest. So impressive was the job done by Paul McVeigh in calming the frenzied mob in the direct aftermath of the Fulham game, I suggest a job at the Samaritans helpline beckons if his media career were ever to go southwards.
On that basis let’s all keep everything crossed that the break in Abu Dhabi has not only topped-up the tans and refreshed the minds, but also honed that ruthless instinct in front of goal that has been so absent of late. Given that the plan was to play two ‘up top’ against Fulham – Grant Holt’s inopportune back spasm spoiling Hughton’s best made plan – I expect the skipper to have some help at close quarters on Saturday. If, come 16:50, Messrs Jagielka and Distin fall into the ‘known they’ve been in a game’ bracket, it will go a long way to being job done.
Despite the calls to be entertained, I suspect most of us would take any sort of win right now. If it were offered to me, I’d happily take a single 95th minute winner that trickles past Tim Howard via the chin of the visiting skipper, the nose of their left-back and Holty’s sixpack
Three points… just three little points… not too much to ask it is?
If only it were that easy of course, but with three wins and two draws still required from the remaining twelve it’s clear the sooner we can cross off that first win the better. I’m not wholly convinced the ‘point a game’ theory will do the trick, particularly given that the twelve includes two trips to Manchester and one to North London to face Arsenal. Take these bonus games out of the equation and it becomes eleven needed from nine.
All hypothetical of course, and with football being far from an exact science it’s quite conceivable we’ll pick up points where we least expect it and vice-versa. While the home game against Southampton, Reading and Aston Villa all flash brightly on the radar of the Yellow Army, the luxury of being able to target specific games – if ever such a thing existed – has long gone.
While those home wins against Man Utd and Arsenal have possibly served to make those respective away games look that little bit more difficult, they do at least act as a reminder of what City are capable of when it all clicks.
If the trip to Abu Dhabi produces a collective mindset akin to that shown in those heady days of autumn there’ll be few complaints.
On the Ball City…
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