If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same
How apt are Kipling’s words for Norwich’s start to the season. And how apt for David McNally and Alex Neil are the first two lines of the poem:
If you can keep your head while all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you
Clearly, Kipling was a regular listener to Canary Call.
Hard to deny it’s been a roller-coaster start to the season, though, and the emotional ups and downs are surely set to continue.
So I’ve no idea how I’ll feel after the Stoke game on Saturday. Actually, that’s not quite true. Whatever the result, I’m pretty sure of one thing I’ll feel: that we gave a good and positive account of ourselves. That’s the Alex Neil way, and the way we’ve been in both opening games.
Stoke will be a tough nut to crack, though. A friend summarised Palace’s performance at Carrow Road as “slick, savvy and very Premier League street-wise”. We’ll need to deal with quite a few teams like that, starting with Stoke.
In my contribution to the MFW writers’ season forecasts, I picked out Nathan Redmond’s role as key. Nothing so far to change my mind on that, but a couple of other performers have stood out too.
Robbie Brady looks well worth the wait, while Graham Dorrans is beginning to seriously challenge Jonny Howson as my favourite player. His ability was never in doubt, but I heard reservations about his workrate and commitment at previous clubs. Well, either AN has galvanised him or he’s out to prove the doubters wrong – either way, he’s making a top-drawer impact.
By the way, let’s try to hold back on our incredulity and outrage if Alex Neil changes his team on Saturday. As fans, we tend to want a starting XI comprising our favourite players or those we think are in form. But there’s an added factor in AN’s thinking: his forensic analysis of the opposition. Like other true managers, he picks a formation and set of players to nullify opponents’ strengths and exploit their weaknesses.
It means we mustn’t have sacred cows – even Wes, Jonny or Dorrans.
Though I had a dig at a few of our fans last week, they ARE brilliant. And widespread. On social media I follow Canary groups in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Malta, Scandinavia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and numerous parts of the USA – and I know there are many more. They aren’t new, and they didn’t go away when we slipped from the Premier League. Real fans.
Regular readers may recall that I was in Australia at the time of the play-off final. We were travelling between cities that day, so I still regret I wasn’t able to get together with any groups of the evocatively-named Canaries Down Under.
Speaking of global connections, my wonderful American niece Lindsay has spent some time over here. I’ve tried, of course, to indoctrinate her into the Canary faith. The unfortunate complication is that her boyfriend is an avid Arsenal fan (partially my fault – it’s a long story).
We’ll all be in the States for Thanksgiving at the end of November, when the Norwich-Arsenal game is televised. While boyfriends trump uncles, as they should, I think she’ll feel some divided loyalties; I hope a little of her heart is with Norwich.
Let’s finish back at our starting point, composure and level-headedness. Another quote for City fans to keep in mind: “The important thing is, regardless of the result, we need to maintain equilibrium this year. Let’s not get too high or too low.” Stewart Lewis? No (I don’t use fancy words like equilibrium). Many of you will probably know – it’s our captain and ace goal-poacher Russell Martin.