‘Where there’s life there’s hope’ they tell us and, for three days at least, the monitor is not about to flatline.
Crunch time of course arrives at 10pm on Wednesday but for now the Canary is still chirping thanks to the most unlikely of draws. And how typical is it that Norwich City, who have been marooned on 32 points since the home win over Sunderland on March 22, should get their next point away at Stamford Bridge.
In that time we have succumbed to the likes of Fulham and West Brom (games that ultimately sealed our fate) but bring on the King’s Road billionaires and we go within a whisker of bringing home all three points. All part and parcel of being a member of the Yellow Army…
Naturally we managed to irk a few along the way – another by-product of being part of Norwich City Football Club – including Jose Mourinho who, with the usual rancour, expressed surprise at Neil Adams’ tactics. It seems we were supposed to ‘go for it’ from minute one without regard for the consequences – an approach that would clearly have played into the hands of the Special One.
In the event it felt as if Adams almost got it spot on.
The plan – as confirmed afterwards by Michael Turner – was virtually a carbon copy of Jose’s at Anfield; to park a bus or two and look to make hay on the break. The first part worked well – Turner and Ryan Bennett did a superb job in the centre of defence – and, aided by John Ruddy’s woodwork, they managed to successfully frustrate the Blues all afternoon.
The second element of the masterplan – the hard bit – was reliant on taking an opportunity when it came along. It fell to Robert Snodgrass. He didn’t take it.
As ever, the Scot put in a tireless performance and over the last month he, more than any other player, has shown the heart required of a relegation scrapper. It was therefore disappointing for him, and us, that when the chance arrived it required a deft touch with his right foot – the one he normally uses for standing.
Instead of being deft the touch was a little heavy and, in a split second, Gary Cahill was offered the chance to make that last ditch, goal-saving, challenge. As the ball disappeared into the Chelsea fans in the Shed End, so too did City’s chances of avoiding the drop.
All of which is very harsh on Snoddy – for the reasons stated – but winning games at the highest level tend to hinge on the finest of margins, especially when you’re staging a smash and grab.
That City only created one other chance of note – Bradley Johnson’s late header – was symptomatic of the almost constant Chelsea pressure, but the late introduction of Nathan Redmond as the lone striker, as a straight swap for Johan Elmander, did change the dynamic of the game.
With different questions being asked of Messrs Terry and Cahill, the previously impenetrable looking duo found themselves backpeddling and it was at that point it felt almost as if the game were there for the taking.
Perhaps to have sacrificed a midfielder for another striker or maybe to have gone with three at the back; it just felt that, in the circumstances, there was a screw there that needed to be turned, but wasn’t.
Adams will argue of course that by staying in the game, rather than going for broke and risk losing it, we live to fight another day and he’s right. But given the need for Sunderland to lose two games when they are in such fettle, it felt like an opportunity missed. A misjudged strategy of risk and reward.
All eyes will obviously now turn to the Stadium of Light on Wednesday evening but, as I wrote in last night’s Metro piece, I can’t help but cast my mind back to Gijón 1982. A draw will suit both the Black Cats and West Brom so we shouldn’t expect either to go hell for leather for the win. I hope I’m wrong.
But, regardless of what occurs in the North East in midweek, yesterday’s display did restore a little of the pride that has been so absent of late. It may not have been pretty at times (for most of the time in truth) and the age-old failing of not keeping the ball persists but they showed passion, and it felt like it did matter to them.
That we upset a few celebrity Chelsea fans with our approach – some of whom should know better – matters not one jot and quite frankly if, as expected, we ply our trade in the Championship next season that will be one facet of the Premier League I’ll not miss one bit.
For three seasons now it has felt like City have been unwanted guests at a billionaire’s party. Derision and scorn have never been far away, with most expecting us just to be happy to be there; to gasp in awe at the surroundings without touching the ornaments.
There remains a lot to be admired in the English Premier League – the ‘product’ is a global one that is the envy of the World it seems – but with it comes a greed and opulence that stinks; yesterday’s opponents at the very heart of it.
On that score we’ve never fitted in. And that can be no bad thing.