Here we go again.
Norwich City have won a game in the Premier League, and, surprise surprise, the victory and credit that goes with it is not ours to hold but is, again, down to outside influences, to circumstances out of our control. We never, it would seem, simply ‘win’ a game of football these days. Perish the thought.
Our victories, inevitably, seem to come via the Harry Potter school of football, that is, through a mixture of black magic, bad luck, the odd curse and the mistakes of footballing muggles –at least as far as some of the perceived wizards of Premier League football are concerned.
David Moyes is the latest recruit to a lengthening list of those footballing Illuminati who leave Norfolk feeling that they have been served an injustice and that, by foul means or, well, foul, their rightful three points have, infeasibly, gone to the team that wears the yellow shirts.
“They used to be such a nice team you know…”
Immediately upon the final whistle on Saturday, Moyes strode, in magisterial manner onto the Carrow Road pitch; an aggrieved parent fighting the corner of a son deprived of his glory by an uninvited interloper, dancing that little jig of indignation that all football managers adopt when they feel wronged.
His argument was the length of stoppage time given at the end of the match. It had been announced as a “minimum of three minutes” in duration –failing to note in his state of anguished perspiration the inclusion of that all important noun ‘minimum’. Dave, if you’re reading – that means the minimum time to be added on will be three minutes. That’s three minutes. One hundred and eighty seconds. Minimum time. Not the exact time or the maximum time permitted at the end of the game. The minimum. In other words, it won’t be any less, and it might be more. Which it was. By around twenty seconds which, according to Moyes, was a “big percentage” to add on top of what had already been added.
Around 11% to be fairly precise. So yes David. A “big” percentage. In worlds where they only count up to twelve.
These are the words of the same manager, remember, whose side turned a 1-0 deficit at Goodison against Tottenham in December into a 2-1 win with both of the Toffees goals coming in stoppage time. Clearly, on that occasion, the referee’s idea of discretion fitted the Moyes template. Because in he rarefied heights of Premier League football, added time is subject to rules outside of the accepted norm and all that Moyes is doing is following the first law of Fergie-dynamics which states that, “…the end trophy of a football match reaches a determined value as the time left to play approaches zero. If you are winning the time left to play is zero, whereas, if you are losing, the time left to play does not reach zero until you have scored an equalising goal.”
Suffice to say, teams such as Norwich City ruffle far more aristocratic feathers than their own when they break this law!
On a more serious note however, it was a pity that Moyes outburst remains one of the focal points of what was one of the better games to be seen at Carrow Road so far this season. All of the footballing talk post-match was, rightly, Kei Kamara’s goal and performance, the immensely likeable man from Sierra Leone showing that it is acceptable to play football and to enjoy the experience as you do so, his sheer joie de vivre at being on the pitch a delight to witness.
However, just as significant, perhaps, was the fact that, when something special was needed, it was Grant Holt who answered the call. The talking point, as far as Everton’s Manager should be concerned is not that he scored it in the added 20 seconds of stoppage time, but that, in scoring it he got the better of three international defenders – two of whom play for England – as well as an experienced, international goalkeeper who made his first appearance in MLS football when Kei Kamara was barely into his teens.
There, David Moyes, is the proverbial rub. Look to the faults amongst your own before you tread the familiar path of blaming anything and anyone for a defeat against Norwich rather than showing that you are a poor loser.
But he isn’t the first to come to Carrow Road and have a little tantrum at the end of the game. He most certainly won’t be the last.
When we beat Stoke back in November, Tony Pulis wasn’t having it either. He complained, bitterly, about the awarding of a free kick to Norwich from which Bradley Johnson went onto score the only goal, claiming that… “It certainly wasn’t a free kick. Earlier he’s booked Charlie for diving but that was a push in the back from Johnson. That was a double kick in the teeth.”
Funny isn’t it, the phrase “kick in the teeth” and Stoke City. They seem to complement one another.
After our 0-0 draw at Reading earlier this season, I read the post-match comments of a Reading fan who had furiously declared that that his team should have had “no difficulty in beating the likes of Norwich”. Big or small, they don’t like a bit of the Norwich up them.
September 2012, Tottenham Hotspur, White Hart Lane and a 1-1 draw in which the team that deserved to win, and which should have won, was Norwich. But not according to Tottenham’s Vital Football website which proclaimed it had been, “…the worse we had looked all season. There was no inventiveness, no creativity, and seemingly no desire to win from the players. Norwich City, meanwhile, seemed raring to go and forced the action right from the off…”
How very dare they! The cheek of it…
Yet these examples are by no means exclusive, nor the beginning and the end of a list of people and clubs who feel that they have been hard done by following their games against Norwich since our return to the Premier League. Thus, and curiously, whilst we have been striving to shake off the perceived inferiority complex that has clung to the club’s shoulders for many years whenever we have played clubs that once might have been regarded –but thankfully no longer – as our footballing “betters”, a similar type of complex has attached itself to our opponents – not so much an inferior one as an ‘unfair-ior’ one.
So what, exactly, leads to experienced and well respected Premier League managers like David Moyes to play that card and seemingly be resolute in their reluctance to give any praise or credit towards us when, as on Saturday, we put on a decent performance and get the reward that the attacking enterprise we showed for much of the second half deserved?
You can understand it, after all, when it comes from fans of other clubs. To many supporters of our Premier League peers, Norwich has always been, and remains, a footballing backwater, a team that plays in the middle of nowhere (opposing teams fans and players regularly complain about the time it takes them to get here whilst Arsenal were so frightened of catching some dreadful Middle Age illness lest they spend too long in Norfolk, they chartered a plane to get them in and out as swiftly as possible) in a land of fields, farms and fornicating relations. Perhaps it’s that they still see us as their footballing inferiors at a time when we are shaking off that reputation and standing up for ourselves – as results over the last season and a half or so have shown.
The Norwich City side that Nigel Worthington led to the Premier League in 2004 was not regarded in quite such the same way by their then peers. The overwhelming feeling around the club at the time of that unexpected Championship success was that the Canaries were going to ‘enjoy’ their time back in the Premier League, enjoy some time under the spotlight and make the most of those trips to the great arenas of football – Old Trafford, Anfield, Highbury et al.
There certainly appeared to be none of the energy and focus that was around the club seven years later when all the talk was about how the club was going to focus on staying in the league, a commitment echoed by David McNally earlier this season when he said that the club would be doing everything that it could to stay in the Premier League and that it was THE focus of everyone at Carrow Road to ensure that would happen.
Back in the Summer of 2004, it felt more as if the club had booked a once in a lifetime world cruise, was going to enjoy the experience thoroughly – but then return to the inevitability of Championship football. Which, of course, was exactly what happened.
Thus, during that 2004/05 season, there was much praise and many positive words of encouragement for the Canaries – and from all quarters. Opposing Managers, players, fans and the media all had nothing but praise for the club – how friendly it was, how they had enjoyed their trip to Carrow Road and what “lovely football” the team played. Sweetness and light indeed. Everything in the Carrow Road garden was lovely – even Thierry Henry was tempted to utter a few words of Canary praise, saying of Norwich’s number six, “Darren ‘uckerby, he is a very good player”. This was, of course, shortly after the Gunners had blown us up and away to the tune of 4-1 at Highbury.
And that was the problem. The more the Canaries struggled that season, the more they were praised by the opposition. To prove a point, the one bright spot of an otherwise miserable season, the 2-0 Carrow Road win over Manchester United that April saw an early breakout of the opposing attitude and response towards the club that we have, thankfully, seen all too often in the last season and a half.
Norwich had, after all, gone into that game, firmly cemented into place at the bottom of the Premier League and on a run of five successive defeats with fourteen goals conceded to only four scored. United, on the other hand, were 3rd in the League, had recently added Ronaldo to a star studded (arguably far more so than their present side) squad that already included Wayne Rooney and Ruud Van Nistelrooy and had lost just two games all season, conceding only 17 goals – the best defensive record in the league – in doing so. A three-point banker for the Red Devils then? You bet.
Alex Ferguson certainly thought so, consigning his three superstars to the bench and giving rare starts to the likes of Kleberson and Quentin Fortune. However, the only fortunes on offer that day was to those brave punters who had put money on a City victory.
Norwich’s 2-0 triumph certainly, finally, bucked the trend for that season, one which had, to that point, been typified by an “After you, Claude – no, After you Cecil” attitude throughout the club – glad to be there, enjoying ourselves, “little old Norwich “etc. And we were loved for it.
It all changed after that match though. In a fit of pique that should be bottled and preserved for future generations to marvel at, Sir Alex Ferguson refused to speak to his club’s own TV station or the press after the game – the first time in the seven years of MUTV that Ferguson had not shared his post-match thoughts with them. Gary Neville did however, saying, “That was not good enough from start to finish. I don’t know where to start. “If we do not score at Norwich and let a couple in, it amounts to an embarrassing day for us.”
And there you have it in a nutshell. Norwich City, “little old Norwich” – how I hate that phrase, everyone’s favourites providing that we conform to type, that we entertain, are colourful, friendly, a little naive and able to live up to our simple country ways. They came, they saw, they got three points at Carrow Road. Good old Norwich, lovely day out, don’t they play good football? We’ve all seen it; we all got heartily fed up with it. As had, and did, the regime that swept in with the intention of changing that perception forever in the summer of 2009.
The result? We’re not little old Norwich anymore. We fight our corner, we aim to win, to succeed, to buck the trend, to settle down to a permanent place at football’s top table rather than passing it by every now and again, doggy bag in hand. Yes, we may not have the resources or the pulling power that many of our Premier League peers have – at least, not yet. But one thing is very obvious – as far as being ambitious for the future is concerned and in the way the entire football club is being managed, there are few up there with us in terms of how professional we have become on and off the field – we’re not lying down to have our yellow feathery bellies tickled by anyone any more.
As David Moyes found out on Saturday!
FOLLOW US ON TWITTER