The players’ decision to refund the 899 hardy souls who made the long and fruitless trek west on Saturday has to be applauded.
In typical Norwich City fashion the announcement was seized upon and dissected in many quarters; some suggesting it an ‘insult’. A little harsh in my view. The gesture was clearly a heartfelt one, borne of a sense of guilt for those who had travelled to South Wales in the vain hope of three points (or even one).
And while a £20 refund is a drop in the ocean compared to the real cost – financial and emotional – of following the Canaries to all four corners, surely it should be accepted graciously and seen for what it is. A gesture.
Of course there have been plenty of away-days that were as bad – worse even (if that’s possible…) – than Swansea, but following this week’s no-show it’s clear Russell Martin and co decided, on reflection, it was one let-down too many for the travelling support. And credit to them for that.
I’m struggling to see how their offer can be construed as anything other than benevolent. If they hadn’t made the offer nothing would have been said – so how does that work?
However, for the players’ undoubted generosity to really mean something it has to signal the end of the horror-show. More of the same at Craven Cottage will deem it hollow… and none of us want that.
As my colleague, Ed Couzens-Lake wrote on this site yesterday: next Saturday would be the perfect time to end the Fulham hoodoo.
And so say all of us…
For those who haven’t seen it, Jamar Loza’s goal last Monday night is well worth a look. The City Under-21 striker is currently on loan at Southend and, in just his second game in deepest Essex, he opened his account in some style.
It is the youngster’s third loan move of a season that’s also seen 28-day stopovers at Coventry City and Leyton Orient, but this one that made headlines thanks to his stunning solo effort being played out on live TV. He’s since been joined by fellow Academy product Jacob Murphy – the pair both playing their part the Shrimpers’ 1-0 win over Torquay at the weekend.
While Jacob’s twin, Josh, has seen his mini-run of City first-team action come to a temporary end, their FA Youth Cup winning captain, Cameron McGeehan is another who has prospered courtesy of a loan move away from Colney. His move to Luton Town who – as we know to our cost – ply their trade in the Skrill Premier (the Vauxhall Conference in old money) has, by all accounts, been an unqualified success.
The Hatters look to be strolling their way back into the Football League and on Tuesday night cemented a healthy looking thirteen point gap at the top thanks to a 2-1 away win at Dartford; McGeehan playing a pivotal role in the centre of the Luton midfield.
Last season’s victorious cup run suggested young McGeehan had a little something about him – he looks to be proving it down in Bedfordshire. (For the record that thumping penalty in Final’s first-leg last May remains one of my abiding memories of season 2012/12).
While several of those who performed so heroically in said cup run are still eligible to play in the Under-18s – Carlton Morris, Ben Wyatt and Henry Randall among them – those who, last season, were second-year trainees have now progressed into the Under -21 Development squad.
The big question that remains, for said Under-21s and those who are currently on loan, is have they reached the end of their Canary line? Chris Hughton, like most Premier League managers in truth, has entrusted his relegation battle to those with experience or who come accompanied with a hefty price tag; Josh Murphy the only one to have had even a sniff.
Only Mauricio Pochettino – who in fairness to him has continued the Southampton ethos of giving youth a chance – has consistently picked a side with a sprinkling of home-grown talent. His hand has naturally been forced by the Shaws and Ward-Prowses of this world being technically and physically equipped for the rigours of the Premier League, but still they needed to be afforded the chance.
The Southampton academy has long been hailed the model that others need to follow – and it’s impossible to argue – but one suspects it’s their embedded policy of integrating the best of the best at the earliest possible age that sets them apart from the rest.
It doesn’t happen overnight of course, and a lot of time and cash and gym-hours have made Luke Shaw the 18-year-old he is – but an FA Youth Cup in the trophy cabinet also suggests something of a similar ilk is occurring in deepest Norfolk.
The hard bit is obviously translating good 17-year-olds at Under-18 level to good 18-year-olds at Premier League level – and that only happens if the opportunity is offered.
It’s too easy to say ‘if they’re good enough, they’re old enough’, but if the class of 2012/13 are to avoid the pitfalls of the class of 1982/83, at some point soon a few are going to have to been given a chance to wear the yellow shirt in anger. Ditto young master Loza.
And if not, why do we invest millions in our Category One academy status?
And finally… West Brom.
I refuse to dwell on ‘must-win’ or ‘six-pointer’ (both go without saying) but instead I’m looking forward to Saturday as one that will maintain the away-famine, home-feast cycle.
While last weekend I was foolishly banking on Hughton’s chosen XI to draw on the spirit of Sunderland; this week I’m relying on the events at the Liberty Stadium to have been well and truly erased from the memory.
Nothing that occurred in South Wales will have prepared Hughton’s troops for the Baggies but, by the same score, if they can tap into the pre-Sunderland mindset we could yet be in for one of those legend/clapper-ridden Carrow Road afternoons that propel us that little bit closer to safety.
Monday night’s agonising events at the Stadium of Light proved to us all that, as unnatural as it is to throw our weight behind the likes of West Ham, it feels like we’re currently in the realms of relying on others for favours.
A win against West Brom and all of a sudden our fate will start to feel like it’s in our own hands again.
Is that too much to ask?