Those expecting anything other than an afternoon of turgid football on New Year’s Day were always destined for disappointment.
Think about it. Selhurst Park; wet and windy; Tony Pulis; a quagmire.
If ever there were a recipe for ninety minutes of attrition surely that was it. And so it proved.
To be fair, for much of the first-half City made a half-decent fist of trying to play some football but the sucker punch on the stroke of half-time was the signal for a second period of ‘Pulis ball’.
Pretty it most certainly wasn’t and if part of Cameron Jerome’s knee wasn’t still embedded in Joe Hart’s eye socket we may been looking at a defeat. Luckily for Norwich it appears it’s still there and explains why when presented with the afternoon’s two best chances he missed.
So, an ordinary performance, but another point from a tricky away day that helped City limp to 20 points at the season’s half way stage.
Typically such a result merely served to entrench the positions of ‘inners’ and ‘outers’.
For those with beef, how on earth could we fail to beat a newly promoted side that has spent virtually all season in the drop zone and who we managed to beat at home only a few weeks ago? If City are to win away from home “these are the sides that just have to be beaten”.
But flip it 180 degrees and City ground out a point from a game that could so easily have slipped away, a la Fulham, and have now gone three away games without defeat. They are still on target to reach the much vaunted 40 point mark and with the transfer window now open Chris Hughton has an opportunity to strengthen and improve in areas he sees fit.
Regular readers of this site know on which side of the fence I sit and without wanting to mull it all over yet again, and accepting it’s a game of opinions, it is saddening when some who demand change do so via a mixture of four-letter name calling and borderline abuse.
Football is an emotive game of course – and for fans to disagree is completely normal – but there is nothing remotely healthy with the impasse at which we find ourselves.
Hughton announces his starting XI – he’s got it wrong. Hughton rests players for the Fulham game – he’s devaluing the FA Cup. Hughton targets a winger in transfer window – it should be a centre-back. Hughton makes a substitution – he should have done it sooner. Hughton sneezes – he needs to ‘man up’.
In truth I can see no scenario from which a lasting peace will break out. The die is cast for too many. The tipping point has already been reached.
All of which makes for a fairly miserable few months with there being little realistic chance of managerial change between now and the summer.
City win, the inners make hay. City lose, the outers find their voice again. And so the cycle continues. Doesn’t sound like much fun to me.
As compelling as some find the argument for managerial change I can’t help but think back to the Wolves scenario, with the similarities between their position three seasons ago and ours now a little too close for comfort.
Mick McCarthy – a manager for whom I *used* to have oodles of respect – was effectively given the ‘Hughton’ treatment culminating in him being hounded out of the job. His replacement, Terry Connor, did nothing but take them down to the Championship with barely a murmur of resistance.
The image of Wolves fans – wide-eyed and frothing with venom – castigating McCarthy as he made a Molineux substitution is my abiding memory of that time; presumably his crime being to swap the wrong player or make the change too late.
And to think we derided those from the Black Country for acting in such a spoilt, childish and unreasonable way. From where I’m sitting we have become the very thing we once despised.
Wolves of course have no divine right to play Premier League football – despite their supporters thinking otherwise – in the same way City’s place at the top table is not theirs by right . Far from it. And for it to ever become one of comfort is going to take one seismic shift in off-field infrastructure.
Whoever manages Norwich City will invariably find himself embroiled in a battle to keep us out of the bottom half; mid-table mediocrity regarded a success.
For Hughton to be on the receiving end of similar angst strikes me as a parallel of scary proportions. Both he and McCarthy are (were) likable characters who are generally courteous to those who question them, but who have found themselves strangled by expectation (just imagine if Glenn Roeder were to receive similar brickbats…)
But… regardless of my inane waffle, nothing is about to change any time soon. Perhaps I need to realign my own expectations and brace myself for a weekly battle, because that is where we are heading. A winter and spring of discontent.
Ultimately it will come down to a choice for the City board.
How bothered are Alan, David, Delia and co about discontent on the messageboards and social media? Does it make a difference to the business model if derision from the stands greets decisions from the technical area? Should they contract Ban Ki-moon to kick-start a peace process?
Whatever the answers – if indeed there are any – 2014 is destined to be a little fraught for the Yellow Army, with frayed nerves, chewed nails and petty arguments the norm rather than the exception.
I doubt if a FA Cup win over Fulham will serve to right too many of the wrongs, but it will be a start and will exorcise one or two Boxing Day demons. Also, if Ricky would care to chip in with a goal or two and kick-start his City career that would be good.
Happy New Year folks…