I’m quite sure right now City boss Chris Hughton isn’t short of headaches.
It is, after all, what Premier League management is all about. Crisis management 38 times a season; with the odd cup headache thrown in between.
Just how do you tell the supporters that, when push comes to shove, you really don’t give a toss about the oldest professional football cup competition in the world?
In fairness to the ever-maligned Norwich chief, he’s not quite tied to his colours to that mast – Paul Lambert and Sam Allardyce are slightly ahead of him in that queue.
But yesterday’s latest cup ‘adventure’ threw in two fresh headaches he could well do without – one is Wes Hoolahan who didn’t play and the other is David Fox, who did.
Because in those two players is the embodiment of the huge challenge every club of a Norwich ilk faces in making the transition from simply making up the numbers in the English Premier League to actually making yourself at home on a more permanent basis.
And Norwich are no different in that regard from 20-odd second tier provincial clubs. No different. From a Bolton to a Leeds, from a Sunderland to a Southampton and on to a Birmingham or a Palace, Norwich have yet to crack this Premier League nut in the manner of an Everton.
That’s the common challenge. For everyone. Norwich are not a special case; they have no divine right to be any better – or worse – than the afore mentioned clubs.
They are all in the same boat; wrestling with same challenges.
One of which is scoring goals. Which we have done before.
The other of which is finding anyone with that one spark of midfield creativity that can, finally, lift a game and a club out of the turgid war of muscular, midfield attrition that is life in the bottom half of the Premier League.
Without over-playing the First World War metaphors, a Fox and a Hoolahan can rescue a club like Norwich – or Villa – from another season in the trenches.
But with one crucial caveat. They could if they were three inches taller.
Because to my money as skilled and as gloriously technically adept as both players are, they both lack that extra something in the athleticism department.
As Gary rightly points out, you put a Fox in against a first choice Fulham with a Parker or a Sidwell in yer face for 90 minutes and he hasn’t the muscularity to shrug one or either off and then play the telling ball.
He is no Lampard; no Gerrard; no Ozil. Just as van Wolfswinkel is no Remy.
And this is the Norwich version of events. You can substitute any of those names for any other club in their position. Managers that still feel a duty to play and deliver to the punters entertainment-wise all struggle similarly – to find that one player that can be both athlete and play-maker, creator and destroyer.
Or else find a six-foot creator with a six-foot destroyer in tow. Ian Crook would be the first to admit that he would struggle to make a living in this Premier League. No-one would give him the time on the ball to destroy them.
Is the entertainment value that much poorer because of it? Yes.
Do those supporters that believe their club is wedded to a tradition of ‘playing’ football come to feel short-changed? Yes.
Is anything about to change? Is the English Premier League about to become less power-orientated, less muscle-led? No.
Lambert’s reported pursuit of Hoolahan is, for me, as much about supporter politics as it is about the 31-year-old’s ability to turn Villa’s season around.
He’s playing for time with a baying Villa Park crowd that is growing increasingly vocal at the dire, turgid fare that the Scot is serving them up. Losing 1-0 at home to a Palace is right down there with the worst of them.
So give them an ‘entertainer’; get them off my back. And if, in so doing, it adds to the discomfort for a Hughton-led Norwich, so much the better.
Destabilise one of your bottom half rivals via one piece of incendiary transfer business. That’s pure Lambert.
If the ex-City boss really, really rated Hoolahan, why has it taken him this long to return for him? He is coming back now to get the crowd off his case – and keep them on Hughton’s. In the full knowledge that with 18 months to run on his City contract, the money men will be seeing a window to sell at a profit this month.
But if ‘Wessi’ goes, the pressure on Hughton to ensure that the ball is kept at the feet of a Fox and not a Johnson will mount.
Happy New Year, Chris.