For those that can remember the fag end days of Nigel Worthington’s managerial reign, there was a City player called Andy Hughes.
I thought he was half decent.
For one, simple reason. He was a scrapper.
And when everyone else was running for cover that particular season, Hughes-y was out there; fighting the good fight until his very last breath.
He might not have been able to do this – or that. He might more often than not plant the ball in Row Z when it came to that or a simple pass. But if the next three months in the life of Norwich City Football Club can be likened to a bar room brawl, I would put a pound to a penny that Andy Hughes would be one of the last men standing. He certainly was on one particular derby day.
And as everyone begins to look rather anxiously at what now lies in wait for Chris Hughton’s struggling Canaries, they are going to have to find a bit more by way of the Andy Hughes if safety is to be their’s.
Which is one reason I will defend Bradley Johnson; Ian Crook used to have a lovely phrase for those that liked to scrap. They were a bit of a ‘mongrel’.
Now is not the time for a pedigree poodle. Now you need your mongrels more than ever.
It will set the purists off; that between David Fox and Wes Hoolahan, Norwich have the ability to pass their way out of trouble. That if only City kept the ball better, they wouldn’t be sat tonight one point off the relegation zone nervously peering over the horizon at that final, four-game run-in.
Where Messrs Fox and Hoolahan are unlikely to out-pass anyone.
Because they’re not big enough. They bounce off your standard Premiership midfielder.
Instead salvation might – in theory – lie with a five-strong midfield that has a bit of the Hughesy about it; that has a mongrel air. That gets into people’s faces early; closes down space and angles; doesn’t let the opposition breathe.
Invariably in life, you don’t know what you’re got till its gone – or rather, injured. Alexander Tettey adds something to the party.
Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Manchester City was no fluke; it was built on a decent shape matched with an excellent work ethic. Simples.
There is, however, one, substantial flaw to the whole argument – one that has bevilled the Class of 2013-2014 from almost the start of the season.
That if you play five across the middle and leave just the one up front, the one ‘up top’ has to deliver. He has to play with the heart and the lungs of two men.
In short, he has to play in the manner of a vintage Grant Holt. Or a fit Dean Ashton.
He has to ruffle feathers; pull, big athletic Premier League centre-halves out of the comfort zones and into areas of the park that they don’t want to go.
He has, in short, have to have a bit of a mongrel to him too. He has to put himself about. Floor people; flatten them; make them work.
And once he has earned the right for his team-mates to play, ideally he has to score. He is, after all, the fella on point; the one at the sharp end of the system.
Given Norwich’s predicament, to have your record strike signing warming the bench for 88-odd minutes is not good.
But Ricky van Wolfswinkel is there for a reason. He hasn’t delivered. Nor really looked like delivering for weeks.
For to my mind, Norwich have managed to buy themselves a no doubt lovely lad, who has very little of the Andy Hughes to him. He won’t have fought his way up into the professional game from the streets of Moss Side. Or North London.
He looks too nice for this world.
More than that, he looks a jack of all trades rather than a master of any. Be it presence or heart, touch or pace, the lad appears to lack one stand-out quality right now – although in fairness his confidence is probably shot to bits. Nothing has fallen for him.
He has, of course, still got time to turn his season around; be the player everyone hoped for when he arrived amid such fanfare.
But I go back to my starting point. He will need to find from somewhere the heart of an Andy Hughes if he is to lead Norwich out of the increasing mess they find themselves in.
And Andy Hughes’ don’t grow on trees. Nor do Grant Holts.