What follows comes from the heart rather than the head.
I make no apologies for that and perhaps, just this once, the grammar police will offer me a little leeway for some unashamed tub-thumping.
In the unlikely event an Ipswich supporter is reading this piece – sorry. I suggest you change channels (I’ve already incurred their wrath off the back of this week’s Metro blog).
Hyperbole has flowed freely since the final blast of Anthony Taylor’s whistle last Saturday and, while Alex Neil’s call for calm from his players has been heeded, the online chatter has been incessant and of an intensity hitherto unseen.
And as the clock ticks it will build and build until 12:15 tomorrrow, when it will reach a crescendo.
Ipswich were rightly proud of their “wall of sound” as the players entered the Portman Road arena but tomorrow it’s our turn. And I trust the Yellow Army to match it – better it even.
By Town’s own admission their stadium was full by virtue of some 10,000 part-timers who leapt aboard the play-off/local derby bandwagon. Tomorrow will be different.
The old place will be jam-packed with the same folk who were there when Walsall, Stockport County, Bristol Rovers and Tranmere were visitors.
The same folk who also cringed their way through the 7-1, who squirmed at the FA Cup defeat by Luton and who suffered some dark days under the auspices of Hughton-ism.
Folk who have been there for for richer and for poorer.
When divided the Yellow Army can ooze negativity – we know that only too well – but when united it can be an irresistible force. And right now now I’d say it is every bit as united as it was in the heady days of the Paul Lambert era.
Among many unforgettable traits of that particular spell in the club’s history was the team’s uncanny ability to win games with late goals. But to win so regularly in that fashion was no fluke.
City didn’t win all of those games at the death because they got lucky or because of the odd quirk of fate.
They did so because the team comprised a group of individuals who would would run through brick walls for their manager, and who had the backing of an army of fans who had implicit faith in both parties to deliver – whether it took 95, 96 or 97 minutes.
Simeon Jackson’s famous late winner against Derby was simply sublime – and will go down in the annals of Norwich City history – but when that ball trickled joyously over the goal line towards the Barclay the overriding emotion was not disbelief.
Instead it was pure, undiluted ecstasy. And why? Because we all believed they could snatch a winner – however late in the day it arrived.
And it’s that same belief and trust in the manager and players that stands us in good stead again now.
Alex Neil commented recently on a tangible change of attitude in the stands. When he first arrived he detected a aura of distrust, symptomatic of the fractured relationship between fans and players.
We didn’t trust them to deliver and questioned their hunger and desire. They performed under the premise that even the smallest error would be seized upon, and anything other than victory would likely be greeted with a cacophony of boos.
It was unhealthy, ugly at times.
Yet, among a whole plethora of good things that Neil and Frankie McAvoy have brought to the Fine City, it’s that restoration of harmony which is probably their finest achievement.
Even if tomorrow doesn’t go as we have all been dreaming, or even if it does but we proceed to fail at the final Wembley hurdle, the Yellow Army will be more than prepared to simply dust itself down and go again in 2015/16.
The appetite has been restored – on and off the pitch.
But, unlike many of our number, I’m not about to make a prediction for tomorrow. I still consider it too close to call. With the tie so finely poised it may hinge on a slip, a slice, a shank or – dare I say it – a missed penalty. All of which could go either way.
For City’s part, the key will be keeping the ball better than they did at Portman Road and being more decisive and precise in the final third. If they can do both successfully the game is theirs for the taking.
Key too will be denying Town a decent supply line to Daryl Murphy Freddie Sears and – depending on how the game pans out – possibly David McGoldrick.
Ideally this will be achieved by City having the lion’s share of possession but when the Blues do have the ball it will be vital that the service to their forward-line is restricted.
What can’t happen is that balls launched into the Norwich penalty box are delivered under little or no pressure. Offer Murphy enough chances and he will eventually take one.
And when the ball does arrive, defensive headers and clearances need to be decisive and no-nonsense. No more mis-hits or weak headers.
For Town’s part they’ll want exactly the opposite.
They’ll look to go long early and crank up the pressure on City’s back four. They’ll look to deny us space and time in the midfield area and recreate the intensity of that 20 minute spell just before half-time last week. And, above all, they’ll look to snaffle an early goal.
Ultimately it could boil down to who can implement their game plan best but, equally, it could just be one of the aforementioned quirks of fate that tips the balance.
It’s the fine margins that so often determine the victors and therein lies the role of the Yellow Army. A wall of sound as the teams exit the tunnel is a must but so too an incessant cauldron of noise throughout the 90+ (and possibly 120+) minutes, which will be accompanied – by the sound if it – by some flag-waving.
For those in yellow Portman Road was uncomfortable, unnerving and intimidating – just as predicted. Tomorrow, the very least we can do is make Carrow Road exactly the same for those in blue – and some.
And for Alex Neil’s chosen XI: We ask that you tap into the spirit of Canary heroes of yesteryear. Play with the heart of Duncan Forbes, the vision of Ian Crook, the pace of Darren Huckerby, the hunger of Jerry Goss, the fearlessness of Iwan Roberts and the bravery of Grant Holt.
Wear the shirt with pride, give your all, have no regrets and above all…
“Never mind the danger…”
Gary Field says
Excellent piece Gary. I just hope that the nervous tension doesn’t have a negative impact on the atmosphere.
Oh for an early goal or two – in the right net Bradley – 😉 to calm the nerves.
Failing that, an eighty something minute bullet header, from Russell Martin, in front of the Barclay, from a corner, taken Snakepit side. (It’s been the same nightly dream all week).
Stewart Lewis says
The grammar police have been given the week off.
It’s now all about passion+composure on the field, and pure passion from the stands. OTBC!
Azores Canary says
Nice one, Gary.
I really hope we can do this: not only because we’re battling The South Folk in a knife-edge tie, not only because it would put us a step closer to the Top Table, but because it gives us a chance to show our true colours to the world against (probably) Middlesboro at Wembley.
Why? Because of that dreadful display by Boro at The Carra one month ago. Cheating, timewasting and negativity were Boro’s better attributes on that day, all beamed live around the world.
Let’s quickly put The South Folk to the sword, don our bootiful plumage, lift the Wembley roof with our famous Hymn, and show that our brand of football will win out in the end.
The world will be watching – they will see!
OTBC like never before.
Cosmo P says
A right rollicking rally cry to get the juices flowing even more. It has to be destiny that Alex Neil shares the same initials with Admiral Nelson – I’m sure our feisty leader is prepared along with his charges to give their right eye or left arm (or vice versa) for victory on the battlefield.
Anything else is unthinkable. A Tory majority and Ipswich playoff defeat and I’m off to Azerbaijan.
I’ll be there only in spirit so give it a couple of extra decibels from me.
Derek P says
Wow, I’m nervous already about this one and Gary’s piece has done nothing to dampen that down.
I don’t care how they do it, just get the result, leave the other lot behind and let’s go to Wembley.
It’s in our hands now, 2 wins and we’re going up.
Ash Diback says
Good luck to Brentford tonight and of course us tomorrow. The Bees wouldn’t be any easier opponent at Wembley – far from it, but a McCarthy ’50 shades of hoof it and see’ vs. Karanka’s Kriminal Kapers has the potential to turn a generation of watching kids off the old game and onto rugby.
Colin Mason says
Got the defibrillator ready, can’t get to The Carra so off to the sports bar in Leicester Square casino then to work. Wish all you folks at the match the best time ever and sing your hearts out. I’ll try not to get ejected from said venue. We’ve not lost at home to ‘Them’ for many years, it’s gonna be okay. Great article. Kick it off!