There’s a lot to be said for a good old fashioned relegation battle. Just imagine how mundane these next five games would be if we were already safe and yet had no chance of challenging for the European places.
With Reading already teetering on the brink, Saturday would have been all about going through the motions – posing if you like – with only City’s professional pride getting in the way of an afternoon of coasting.
Instead – thanks to the run of one win in sixteen (sounds worse every time you say it) – we’re gearing ourselves up for the mother of all ‘must-wins’; the Evening News taking it as the cue for some hardcore rabble-rousing.
One hopes their call for the #Yellarmy to create a cauldron will have the desired effect – although it would be good to think that unequivocal backing of the Yellow Army would be a given on such occasions regardless. It’d certainly be helpful if the dissenters could find it in themselves to ‘button it’ from 2:45 to 5:00 on Saturday afternoon.
With the Under 18s benefitting hugely from the wonderful, unconditional support of almost 10,000, one can only imagine the lift 26,000 in unison can give to Chris Hughton’s men; those same souls who so revelled in the success of Neil Adam’s youngsters’.
That the first-team squad were there to a man, struck a chord with an old romantic like me – although the suggestion is their 100% attendance record had more than a little to do with a three-line whip in the form of Grant Holt. Either way it was a terrific show of strength and conveyed perfectly to the rest of the footballing world that in the Fine City we really are ‘in it together’.
On the subject of the Under 18s, it’s hard to recall a more uplifting Carrow Road evening. While the cynics love to remind us how few of the Class of 2012/13 will actually make it through to the first-team, now is not the time for hard cold facts.
Just for now – for a few weeks – can’t we all dream of a first-team, in three years’ time, with a flying Murphy whizzing down either flank; a rock in the shape of Carlton Morris leading the line; a centre-mid bossed by the calm head of Cameron McGeehan, and a back-line containing the left-footed nous of Ben Wyatt and the dominance of Harry Toffolo?
Or how about a midfield inspired by the mazy run-ups, backflips and match-winning goals of Reece Hall-Johnson?
An edifying prospect and, for now, I’m happy to dream.
Of course it would be great if the first-team are somehow able to tap into the feel-good factor generated by Tuesday night – and you can bet Hughton’s team talk will make reference to it – but, in the unforgiving world of the Premier League, Saturday will have an altogether different feel.
If the Canary Fairy was to grant me one wish, it would be for Saturday’s crowd to afford the same level of tolerance to individual errors as in evidence on Tuesday night. On a normal day the slack given to a talented but raw youngster should far outweigh that given to a hardened pro.
Saturday is not going to be a normal day.
With the current relegation battle playing havoc with the emotions – we’ve found ourselves supporting QPR, Man Utd, Newcastle and Man City over the last two weeks for heaven’s sake – it’s sometimes hard to keep the faith when it feels as if the gods are conspiring against us; events at the Stadium of Light and merely compounding this belief.
It’s also easy for forget – particularly if you believe all you read on Twitter – that City are still in control of their own destiny.
While the last-day trip to the Etihad is unedifying in the extreme – although Wigan proved on Wednesday that it can almost be done – 35 points on the board with Reading (h), Stoke (a), Villa (h) and West Brom (h) to come is about as good as it gets in terms of Premier league run-ins.
If City were unable to muster a win out of those fixtures, then it’d be hard to argue their worthiness of a place at the top table – teams who win once in twenty-one tend to end up relegated, and probably rightly so.
But with safety still well in City’s grasp, I’m expecting a response on Saturday – one that will hopefully still be fuelled by the simmering anger brought about by events in North London.
Without wishing to resort to the ugliness of a ‘siege mentality’, let’s hope that City’s route to the riches the 2013/14 Premier League will be achieved through of their own volition; no reliance on officialdom, no favours from other teams, no final-day nail-biting but some hard-earned points that leave nothing to chance.
No need for fortune or favours.
And if, during the next five games, we need a penalty to be converted Hughton could do worse than turn to young Hall-Johnson. With a hop, skip and a mazy run-up I reckon even England’s finest could be bamboozled!
I jest of course, but let’s pray that the season doesn’t hinge on a penalty kick.
And just in case you were wondering – the bit about enjoying the thrill of the relegation scrap was a load of old twaddle. Give me mid-table mediocrity any day.
Next season maybe.
Never mind the danger…
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