The exact wording of Neil Adams’ half-time team-talk will, in true footballing tradition, ‘stay in the dressing room’ but there can be no doubt of its underlying message. And I suspect it was delivered with some wide eyes and bulging veins.
‘A rocket’ is how Adams described it and, alongside the manager, one can also imagine a red-haired Scot being instrumental in getting the message across. Gary Holt was brought in, by his own admission, to bring some authority and discipline to proceedings and he’ll have earned his corn yesterday.
But, regardless of whether the message was relayed through raised voices, flying plastic bottles or airborne hairdryers, the important factor was the response of the players. And it was emphatic.
Team Adams had passed their first real test.
Other than the opening day teething troubles at Molineux things have been ticking along nicely, with the first XI almost picking itself and with few big decisions to be made.
But it’s when the chips are down and the brown stuff is within striking distance of the fan that it becomes a difficult – sometimes impossible – job. And following a first-half that was just about as abject as anything we witnessed last season, that’s where Adams and co found themselves.
More of the same would have undoubtedly ended in a thumping defeat.
Yet it’s easy to make sweeping changes – it’s making the *right* changes that counts. And in Cameron Jerome, Adams identified one who could make an impact on the game.
The approach also was given a refresh. Out went the tippy-tappy passing in front of the Cardiff back-four and in its place was a slightly more direct approach that played to Jerome’s strengths – with balls being slid into the channels. And crucially – as alluded to by Adams afterwards – the tempo and intensity were upped significantly.
The result: a second-half every bit as thrilling as anything witnessed in City’s last Championship season. (Ironically, while we were all in the midst of the post-match glow, the architect of that very campaign was also enjoying his Saturday teatime on Merseyside).
The Jerome factor is the one that has grabbed the headlines, and it’s now difficult for Adams to not include him on Tuesday evening at Brentford, but from one to eleven the performance level was raised.
Even John Ruddy, who was largely blameless for the first-half debacle, found another level and the save he made to deny Federico Macheda was the ultimate match-winner.
Wes Hoolahan – who had an uncharacteristically poor first-half and was singled out for some social media ‘treatment’ – was also typically key in the City revival. His twisting and turning of the second period was the very antithesis of his first-half display, where his tendency to give away possession threatened to be costly.
But, along with ten others, Wes pulled up his metaphorical socks and managed to get himself on the ball after the break. City prospered as a result.
The little Irishman is undoubtedly one of the best dribblers ever to grace the yellow and green but occasionally – just occasionally – is it just me who thinks he’d benefit from having just one or two touches? Particularly when things are not ‘clicking’? It probably is.
To have passed such a severe examination with flying colours obviously bodes well and the hint of a successful Plan B is something the Yellow Army has long desired.
Adams and McNally have arguably compiled a squad with more depth than any other seen in these parts. With yesterday’s bench reading Whittaker, Jerome, Garrido, Murphy, Rudd, O’Neil and Odjidja-Ofoe, and Elliott Bennett, Carlos Cuellar, Ignasi Miquel and Conor McGrandles not even making the eighteen the manager has probably the best hand in the division.
Throw Jonny Howson and Gary Hooper – both on the cusp of returning from injury – and Ryan Bennett into the mix and things have seldom looked healthier.
With Team Adams having now ticked the ‘snatching victory from the jaws of defeat’ box their next big challenge is one of man management: how to keep those individuals who are not in or around the first XI happy. If not happy, content.
And that is going to be a challenge.
The early signs are good, with Cuellar and Elliott Bennett both tweeting post-match in celebration of the victory. But for that feeling of togetherness to span the whole season Adams needs to do at Carrow Road what Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini have done so successfully at Stamford Bridge and the Etihad. And it’s a skill all of its own.
For now though we should all bask in the glow of an afternoon that will be remembered for some time. Days like yesterday don’t come along too often and that feeling of half-time despair being replaced, one hour later, with unbridled joy is one to remember.
Now bring on Brentford.
It’s not “just you” who thinks Wes should take one or two touches on occasions, I frequently find myself saying this several times a game.
And it’s not an anti Wes conspiracy, it’s more to do with keeping the ball moving, upping the tempo. Sometimes, the twisting and turning, whilst great to watch, actually gives the defence time to recover.
As for the “depth of squad” issue, with 7 games in 22 days, rotation is going to be key. I really don’t think this will be a problem, given the number of games.
Azores Canary says
Nice one Gary.
1st, I don’t think we should dwell too long on Neal’s ‘rocket’. What happens in the dressing room should be totally confidential, and I suspect that Neal will quickly learn not to talk to the media about his motivational leadership skills – footballers are only human and nobody likes their Boss to blow his trumpet too loudly. Neal is a fantastic natural leader who has no need to blow.
2nd: Our large, hungry squad will need plenty of matchtime. Let’s have a good long Cup run or two to keep all the lads fit and ambitious. I have no doubt we’ll be playing PL football again this time next year, but if we had a Wembley appearance on the way that would do very nicely.
Keith B says
One encouraging aspect of the results so far is that most of the teams we have played so far are in the top half of the table; Brentford are in the top 6, so by Tuesday evening 3 out of 7 games will be against top 6 teams.
With Birmingham, Blackpool and Rotherham not far off we have a really good chance of firmly establishing ourselves in the top 2 or 3.
I imagine Odjida-Ofoe will be making his debut midweek, perhaps from the start, maybe later on; I would expect Johnson to give way. Interesting that Josh Murphy appears to be ahead of Elliot B for a place on the bench. Also wonderful that after Josh’s match-winning performance against Crawley Redmond has stepped up a gear.
McGrandles by the way seems to have played for the U21s in a heavy defeat at Man City on Friday night – a game that doesn’t seem to have been reported on either the Official site or Pink’un.
Mind you the official site is such an awful mess to find your way around I might have missed it.
Damian Sal says
Whether it was the hair dryer or flying teacup approach, clearly it had the desired effect. It helped that the Cardiff defence was leakier than a field full of leeks but we were clinical in converting chances and not even old ‘magic hands’ Marshall could deny us this time. Brentford looked useful on Saturday, so we can’t afford to turn up for one half again there..note to Wes especially.
By my reckoning that’s the first time we’ve scored 4 away in the league in a single half since Dec. 2003 when we did a demolition derby at Pride Park.
I followed yesterday’s game via the BBC website – particularly pleasing to see host Jason Mohammed’s (a Cardiff fan) face turn increasingly pallid as his team imploded.
Leni Masad says
Re(4) – a comparison of Neil’s team/squad and Worthy’s from that 2003/4 season is worth making. We finished top back then, scored a hatful of goals (79) and did the double over the Tractor boys – a repeat of that would do very nicely.
Comparing first pick teams, I would say 2003/4 maybe pips it in defence and midfield but up front and squad depth is arguably better now..discuss
2003/4: Green, Edworthy, Fleming, Mackay, Drury, Huckerby, Mulryne, Holt, Francis, McVeigh, Roberts.