Saturday’s draw at West Ham was a great advert for the Premier League at a time when increasingly tedious manager spats and on-field handbags dominate the headlines.
Rarely has the self-appointed ‘best league in the world’ tag looked so unconvincing and tatty.
However, City’s 2-2 draw contained all the positive elements from both teams – fast, end-to-end attacking, great goals and a last minute plot twist. And all done without a single yellow card being shown and no nasty, niggly head-to-head confrontations.
Afterwards, both managers, although disappointed not to have won, complimented the opposition and the interviews weren’t dominated by the whingeing at decisions and the bemoaning of bad luck.
A refreshing change but it won’t be like that every week.
For us, while the excellent Robbie Brady (£7 million – a snip at twice the price) probably got the man of the match award from most, for me Jonny Howson epitomised all that was good of a cracking game played in the right spirit of competition.
The unsung cog of an increasingly well-oiled midfield engine, Howson did his stuff with no fuss – endless back and forth energy, solid clean tackling, slick, accurate passing and an eye for goal (four efforts, two on target).
On top of that, in the heat of battle our Birdman of the Boleyn found the time and decency to move a stricken pigeon from the pitch to the sidelines. A small gesture which no doubt some will ridicule but, for me, speaks volumes of the man.
Would Diego Costa have done it? More likely he would have done an ‘Ozzy Ozbourne’ and casually tossed the remains to one side. Most would have ignored it and left it to its fate.
Howson has no Beckham-esque hairdos or garish tattoos on show. He’s the Iniesta to our Wessi.
The last of the Leeds conveyor-belt to remain at Carrow Road, Howson is now an integral ingredient in Norwich City 2015-style.
He maybe doesn’t find the back of the net as often as he should – 13 goals in 108 league games – but when he does it’s invariably worth the wait. He doesn’t do tap-ins.
His superb instant control and outside of the foot strike at Elland Road last season being one of my personal favourites in the run in to Wembley. Pure class.
The goal he scored at Portman Road in the play-off semi-final was a typically great strike and kick started our push to the capital.
On that wonderful May day in the capital, the multi-pass Redmond goal was a thing of beauty with ‘four-pass Howson’ at its heart. Yet if you listen to this TV commentary to the build-up for the goal, Howson’s name isn’t mentioned once… typical.
He rarely gets voted man of the match.
He has never been close to the Barry Butler Trophy.
And yet he was probably one of the first names to appear on a Lambert/Hughton/Adams/ Neil team sheet and has played all but four minutes of this Premier League campaign.
Maybe unknown to most, he was awarded the ‘Real McCoy of Football‘ trophy last season before the final home match against Fulham.
Not the most prestigious of awards maybe and Jonny may have been slightly embarrassed to be recognised by a crisp firm for his contribution as a role model on and off the pitch. However, Alex Neil’s words in recognition of the award spoke volumes:
“Jonny Howson deserves to be the Real McCoy of Football, because he’s a top player on the pitch and a top lad off the pitch – I think every team should have a Jonny Howson”.
Even for a club still going well under the radar of TV pundits and experts alike, Jonny manages to maintain a cloak of anonymity entirely in line with his Yorkshire roots and football career to date.
Born in Morley (part of Norwich’s own Ed Balls’ former West Yorkshire constituency), Howson can probably best be summed up by the following gritty Northern labels:
Maximum effort with little fuss – no bother – leave the interviews and spotlight for others – back home to the wife and kids.
No Grabban-like hissy fits or tedious Costa-like on field antics for our Jonny.
My kind of footballer and my kind of role model.
He did get sent off at Bournemouth last season, but that was a poor decision from the ref towards an honest, full-blooded tackle with no hint of malice. Just a dozen yellow cards in those 108 games.
You might put him in the James Milner category? Another former Leeds man often ridiculed for lack of personality and for being boring.
Fair enough, but like Milner he’s the kind of all-action pro gifted with enough flair and drive to almost always get the nod from the manager come match day.
Unlike Milner however, Howson has been criminally overlooked at international level – just one Under-21 cap to his name as a second-half substitute in a friendly match.
Now 27 years-old and contracted up to 2019, Howson is at his physical and footballing peak. He probably wouldn’t want the attention but let’s savour his big contribution to our success and give him the recognition and praise he deserves.
I sense Leicester on Saturday will witness his first goal of the season. If so, it will be a classy one for sure.