Being 60 isn’t at all as I envisaged it when I was 20.
Happily, some of the physical declines aren’t as great as I imagined. On the other hand, wisdom remains elusive. Despite the years and experience, my friends (and certainly golf partners) would confirm that I’m still prone to making dodgy judgements and doing silly things.
One of the silly things I’ve done recently is speculate about players Norwich should sign this summer.
Sometimes it seems so logical. Having released Javier Garrido, we need another left back. A wide left midfielder/winger is also a gap, already acknowledged by Alex Neil when he tried to sign Craig Noone in January.
And we’re weak on consistent delivery into the box, especially when Gary O’Neil isn’t in the team.
So I suggested Robbie Brady should be on our target list. He ticks all of those boxes, is talented and well trained – having come through the ranks at Man Utd – has plenty of experience but is still only 23. He’d cost, but his versatility is a huge plus. Perfect for us, surely?
Well, yes, as far as my view goes. But it’s very limited one.
If Brady has a disruptive personality, a gambling addiction or one of many other good reasons for us not touching him, I don’t know it. However, David McNally and Alex Neil do. Any professionally-run club – this doesn’t necessarily apply to QPR – would do that kind of homework and more.
The point is that however keen people like me are on our football, we’re simply ignorant about crucial factors in determining whether a given player is right for our club.
It’s fun to speculate, but essentially we have a decision to make: do we trust our manager and chief executive to sign the right players to take us forward?
As a Norwich fan in June 2015, I know my answer to that question.
I suspect we’ll be surprised at some of the players coming into Colney during the summer; one or two may even fall into the Alex (“who the xxxx is he?”) Neil category.
But let’s keep an open mind and consider – something more easily done at certain times than others – that the manager may actually know better than we do.
Obviously, the presence of Alex Neil is a big reason for optimism about the coming season. However, I’d bracket that with the presence of David McNally.
His tenure at Norwich has been five years of remarkable success and one of failure. The hurt of that failure makes him determined to avoid a repetition, and his determination is as steely as the strength that led him to appoint AN when we were all clamouring for an experienced head.
McNally must have considered quitting after the relegation of 2013-14. I’m delighted and relieved he didn’t. We should feel much better with him in our corner.
The draw for the third round of the FA Cup, Boxing Day, the publication of next season’s fixtures – magic moments of the football season. I know some will argue against that – reminding us that we play each opponent twice etc – but for me it’s a spine-tingling day.
If you’ve been relegated or promoted, this is the day it really sinks in. Away to Rotherham, or home to Arsenal? Home to Palace will do.
The real geeks will analyse the fixtures in detail for potential advantage and disadvantage. Do we have weekend matches against teams who may have just played a Thursday Europa Cup game in Albania?
I’m not into that level of forensic detail, but of course we see patterns in the fixtures. City will have a tough last few weeks, if not quite on the scale of 2013-14’s ‘run-in of death’.
But hold on a moment. Look back to 2013-14 (if it’s not too painful) and see that Sunderland faced a similarly daunting finish in which they forged improbable wins at Chelsea and Man Utd, and escaped. Perhaps the ‘tough runs’ are slightly illusory.
Each of us will look for special fixtures. Some of those will be common – when do we play Chelsea, Man U and so on – while others will be personal.
Living on the edge of Watford, I’m looking for our visit to Vicarage Road (5 Dec), and I’d love to make first trips to Anfield and the Etihad (19 Sept and 31 Oct respectively).
Home to Villa on 28 Dec still looks tasty, even though you-know-who is no longer involved.
Another thought to bear in mind – happy in some ways, frustrating in others – is that many of our games this year will be moved from their Saturday 3pm schedule. We’re back in the big league.
Oh, another special day in the season is of course derby day. But Ipswich will have to wait a while for another one of those….
Ben K says
I was writing on another site recently about what a brilliant, left-field appointment it was by McNally in January. It’s good to know the man is capable of that after the underwhelming (to put it mildly) decision to appoint Neil Adams. Looking back, though, it makes you wonder if the rest of the footballing world has lost all interest in Scotland. A man who took a small, newly promoted club to the top of the SPL and held them there towards the end of last year should’ve been getting attention before we came along. Perhaps he was and McNally pounced at the right time.
Personally I’m quite happy with the fixtures. The opening could’ve been a lot harsher, and we should have time to find our feet before playing a big gun.
The last three games will be tough. All three could have a lot to play for. On the flip-side of it, we’ve got the more winnable games ahead of those, giving us a chance of racking up enough points to be safe before that – something we could’ve done last time. We only had to beat West Brom at home.
I don’t see us being in the same position this time, though. 51 long days to go.
Russell S. says
On the 200th anniversary of a certain battle in Belgium, it’s right to focus on our commander-in-chief. He’s made strategic errors along the way, ditched a couple of loose cannons and received a few pot shots from within his own ranks.
His “relegation is a fate worse than death” quote was an awkward misjudgement. Sometimes on the field of battle it’s better to retreat in the face of a hostile enemy to rethink and strengthen resources and man power.
Through his inspired choice, we now have a lion leading our boys from the front who can take on the big guns with confidence.
*Happy 60th Stewart – “the older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune.”
Stewart Lewis says
Russ (2): thanks for the comment, and the comforting final thought.
With a different take on the same history, I was tempted to compare Alex Neil with Napoleon. A man small in stature but commanding in presence, emerging unknown from an outpost of the Empire to win the admiration and respect of hard-bitten professionals.
On the other hand, he comprehensively got the boot from Wellington…
Maillot Jeune says
(3) Touché. Hurray for the Iron Duke giving the French the welly. It’s the last time we did beat them when it mattered. Napoleon had the world at his feet at age 34 – AN likewise.
What with the general election result, who’d have thought a diminutive Scot would be so popular anywhere in England?
After the Hughton/Adams-inspired fan disgruntlement, I thought DM had suffered his Waterloo moment, but his credit bank is brimming again now.
We don’t want to have to repeat a Sunderland/Leicester miracle over the last few games to survive. I think (hope) we’ll be safely over that 40 point line before the last 3-4 games.
France's. Lewis says
Thank you Stewart for an interesting piece, also birthday
felicitations not only to your goodself but also to Delia whose
birthday it would appear you share