In a week where the release of the new Beatles film perfectly captures the unbounded sense of joy the band’s music unleashed on the nation during the 1960s, it feels like something similar may too be emerging in the depths of East Anglia fifty years on.
The impact of City’s strikingly complete performance at the City Ground last weekend followed by our cup miracle at Goodison has been profound, propelling us fans’ sense of optimism from somewhat limited levels to ones comparable with the a fervent Brexiteer on June 24. We all have hope.
Saturday was a turning point. City – incompetent defending for Forest’s opener aside – were terrific in the Midlands, showing a potent combination of resolve, application and discipline to overturn a deficit in front of 2000 elated travelling fans. In the second half in particular, we really were superb.
Timm Klose’s now seemingly notorious changing-room snap was indicative of a range of things, not least the considerable sense of unity and spirit that this City team currently possesses. Even Alex Pritchard’s best Ashley Cole impression in the corner failed to undermine the overriding message the image conveyed: our team are a tight unit who are very much up for our assault on the Championship together.
At the end of August, we all know things were looking bleak. A Steven Whittaker horror show and a 3-0 thrashing fifty miles south west of Saturday’s triumph left us all perplexed, undecided over whether our side were as strong a contender as many of us initially thought.
The rout at Blackburn seemed to have functioned as a false representation of our credentials, providing us all with a streak of optimism that looked to have been ruthlessly crushed.
How things have changed.
Saturday’s triumph was compounded by an almost surreal result in Merseyside in midweek, where a defence that included the erratic Whittaker and Seb Bassong as well as the frequently impetuous John Ruddy in goal somehow thwarted the likes of Ross Barkley and Gerard Delofeu for ninety triumphant minutes.
Dare we dream of a cup run to accompany our blossoming league success?
If there’s one thing the two recent results have done to City fans, it’s fill us with a staggering level of optimism, hope and spirit. The atmosphere behind the goal at Forest was joyous, witnessing an unparalleled sense of unity amongst our fans that culminated in making it one of my most memorable away visits.
City’s success is infectious.
Whilst Saturday’s comeback was visibly indicative of our team’s high level of class and ability for the Championship, it’s what the performance was demonstrative of psychologically that was so striking. Wes Hoolahan’s penalty miss and a moment of questionable defending would have inevitably left our side dejected at half-time, in need of some inspiration to desperately salvage something from the game. The way in which our players delivered with such alacrity was a pleasure to witness.
The duo of Jonny Howson and Graham Dorrans were so effective in the second half, with the latter’s more conservative tendencies enabling Howson to deploy the dynamism and energy that he has done on so many occasions in a City shirt. Dorrans’ winning strike was obviously special, making his terrific display even more noteworthy.
Wes Hoolahan’s ability to rapidly move on from his poor penalty miss was also telling, reminding us of his considerable mental resolve and the fact that he is so determined to contribute to City’s promotion push. Cameron Jerome was yet again excellent in his lone role up front, holding the ball up with great strength and conducting his defensive duties in a way that Jose Mourinho would adore. Who needs Mbokani anyway?
City are back. The subsequent result in Merseyside sent us all into footballing dreamland, toppling a very strong Ronald Koeman side in a type of cup upset that I never ever expected to see in my lifetime as a Norwich fan. Tuesday night felt genuinely quite surreal, seeing our most berated players – Ruddy, Whittaker, Bassong, Naismith – all perform laudably.
In terms of Steven Naismith, he does have my sympathy owing to his relentless effort and hard work, but his failure to gel with our other attackers when employed by Alex Neil this season has been conspicuous. On current form, the menacing trio of Brady, Hoolahan and Jacob Murphy behind the renewed threat of Jerome will be difficult to infiltrate.
With Tuesday’s miraculous victory only serving to intensify our united sense of jubilation after Saturday’s performance, this season feels like it could be a special one. We are witnessing an attractive blend between home grown talent – the developing Murphys – along with our more expensive acquisitions, with the likes of Klose playing a fundamental role both on and off the pitch.
The importance of Klose must not be understated. Whilst providing a continual sense of stability and solidity to our historically brittle defence, his influence of fostering unity off the pitch as well as mentoring younger players will be pivotal if our promotion push is to be sustained. He is a leader, a type of character that City will need so badly for the remaining 38 games.
Norwich’s season has been utterly transformed in the space of four brilliant September days, instilling us all with a renewed and fervent sense of hope.
We have visibly witnessed that our team possesses the ability, character, desire and resolve to launch a successful promotion challenge. We have visibly witnessed the strength in depth of our squad in the form of Tuesday’s result. We have visibly witnessed a brilliantly complete away performance in Nottingham, a performance that explicitly manifested the fact that Norwich must be taken seriously in this long Championship season.
It may not quite be Beatlemania, but the sudden wave of spirit, unity, hope and optimism that City’s recent success has unleashed has surely infected us all.
Long may that continue.