That went rather well didn’t it. Finally an end to the ‘we haven’t won on opening day for 87 years’ platitude.
Perhaps, while they’re on a roll, Alex and co would care to bring an end to the Craven Cottage hoodoo and the ‘along come Norwich’ theory? That’d be good.
But one step at a time and after a fortnight during which the opening game of the season became almost a sideshow to the main event of signing a ‘number 9’, it was nice to have some competitive football to get our teeth into. That City won in such glorious fashion was one huge, shiny bonus.
And it’s funny what a win can do.
Following on from a gut-full of non-stop social media whining and moaning over the club’s refusal to be held to ransom by Ross McCormack, Fulham and Master McCormack’s lovely agent (£45k a week?), it took just twelve minutes and a swoosh of Jacob Murphy’s right boot to change the mood almost beyond recognition.
Thirteen minutes later, more ‘hot knife through butter’ football led to it being game over – Wes and Cameron Jerome both getting off the mark for the season.
The mood was celebratory, borderline triumphant, in complete contrast to the collective demeanour following the official announcement that Villa had caved in to McCormack’s outrageous demands; thoughts of a new striker (or two) temporarily put on hold while we whooped and hollered over a rare win on day one.
Football’s weird isn’t it.
Of course there were those who couldn’t wait to tell us how poor Blackburn were but I’d suggest City’s high octane opening simply didn’t offer them the opportunity to get a foothold in the game.
Rovers certainly looked half-decent late on when the City foot was off the gas and, despite Micky Gray’s ridiculous knee-jerk relegation prediction, they’ll be a side capable if winning games as the season progresses.
But, from a Norwich perspective, there is no escaping that if the players consistently perform to a level near the top end of their comfort zone – as they did yesterday – then they’re going to win plenty of games and be up there challenging Ipswich and co for a top two spot 😉
One of the biggest collective fears was that the much-fabled relegation hangover would hang around for a while and give our competitors a head start, but if there were any lingering doubts and fears yesterday should have blown them to smithereens [which includes my already-filed programme piece for the Wednesday game].
And if fragile or brittle confidence was an issue, what better way to boost the belief in their ability to tackle the pending 45-game marathon.
Of course it’s important that the feet remain on ground (and if there’s one thing that Alex is good at… ) and, as results yesterday confirmed, freak results do occur on opening day but there is unquestionably a different feel to the place now that one is out of the way.
Work will naturally continue behind the scenes to bring in another striker or two and, as Alex stated in Friday’s presser, firepower is key to a promotion push but it was fitting that Jerome should get his own season off to a flyer with a goal.
He suffered last season, no question, and will be acutely aware that his shortcomings in front of goal were but one element of our downfall, but the Championship is a very different animal and he knows his power, pace and work-rate will unsettle many a second tier centre-back. The strut has returned. I was pleased for him.
It was a memorable one too for Jacob Murphy, so often in the shadow of his slightly more high-profile twin, and ironic that he signalled his arrival on the scene in an almost identical manner to Josh; his particular 25-yarder finding its way into the Vicarage Road top corner in the Capital One Cup three years ago.
But now is their time to shine – both of them. At 21 years of age and both with a full season of EFL football behind them, they – along with Harry Toffolo – look set to be the main beneficiaries of City’s slide to the Championship.
They both have terrific pace – something the squad is not particularly well endowed with – and an eye for goal. Yesterday confirmed that they are at the forefront of the manager’s thoughts and so they will get opportunities. They must take them.
Wesley’s virtuoso performance was also timely – a continuation really of his form in the Euros and pre-season – and was a gentle reminder to Messrs Naismith, Pritchard and Maddison that if they want the ‘number 10’ role they’ll have to fight him for it.
In fairness to Naismith, his contribution yesterday – especially his linking up with Wes – was exceptional and he too will have benefited massively from a goal on opening day.
Like Jerome, he will be aware of his own role in last season’s disastrous run-in and keen to make amends via the extra millisecond of time he’ll be afforded on the ball in the final third this season. Yesterday was a fine start for him.
So, with both feet firmly rooted on terra firma, the Ewood Park adventure was about as good as it gets on day one. And it felt good.
Now bring on those Owls.
Right, that’s me done for a fortnight. Am departing these shores for a break (poor timing… long story…etc) but will leave you in the more than capable hands of Rick and the team. Be gentle with them. On second thoughts…
See you after derby day (part one).