Molineux is a picture under floodlights, although I’m thinking more Hieronymus Bosch than Rembrandt.
Two replay screens that don’t actually show replays and an elongated away section that appears to have been specifically designed to prevent the creation of any atmosphere make it one of my least favourite away grounds and getting thoroughly soaked both on arrival and departure did little to enhance the experience.
Part of my antipathy may be due to the fact that I haven’t seen too much City success there over the years, but it was certainly a garden of earthly delights (one for the art buffs there) for City on Saturday, notwithstanding the nerve jangling finale to a game that the Canaries should in truth have won at a canter.
City’s first half dominance should have yielded more than the solitary goal, and a less jaded Jacob Murphy would surely have buried his chance, but there were warning signs towards half-time that their wealth of possession, and the relative ease with which it was regained when lost, was breeding a degree of complacency resulting in some sloppy passing.
Wolves looked uncertain at the back and that wasn’t helped by their tendency to overdo the concept of playing out from the back to a ridiculous degree.
However, their pace up front was always likely to cause problems if their midfield could establish a foothold in the game, and with a vociferous crowd behind them, the home side built up a head of steam which seemed to have been quenched by Robbie Brady’s stunning finish, only for Dave Edwards’ free header to leave us on the edge of our seats for 15 long minutes.
While Alex Neil will be disappointed that City didn’t make the most of their earlier dominance, Molineux is never an easy place to visit and Wolves have some quality players who, if they gel as a team as the season progresses, will cause problems for a lot of sides. It was never going to be straightforward but City made it harder than it needed to be.
Nevertheless, we enter the international break with City averaging over two points a game and looking in very good shape despite rarely having hit anything like top form.
What we learnt from our previous visit to the Championship is that there is no such thing as an easy game, but whereas in 2014/15 City were dropping points when they weren’t at their best (remember that awful run in October and November that went a long way towards sealing Neil Adams’ fate) this time around they are finding ways to win which are, while not always convincing or particularly comfortable, pretty effective.
Whatever slight issues City currently have we can take comfort from the fact that we’re not Aston Villa, whose struggles at Preston were greeted with delight by the West Brom fans that we met in our usual Birmingham pit stop, the Vine.
Having seen Villa go down they were keen that we should encourage City to “stuff the Dingles” later.
Glad we could oblige.
Roberto di Matteo was always going to be under threat after that result and it will be interesting to see who wants to be next to grab the poisoned chalice (go on Mick McCarthy, you know you want to!) , but the fact that Dr Tony clearly has very little patience should give any potential candidates considerable pause for thought.
Villa clearly have quality in their squad and its hard to see why they are doing so poorly, although it’s interesting that there were rumours at Fulham to the effect that a certain Mr McCormack was an awkward character to have around when things weren’t going his way, and the continued immaturity of Jack Grealish can’t be helping to maintain dressing room equilibrium.
Time will tell if a new manager can find a way to get more from the squad, but I suspect that an already disgruntled fan base will be unwilling to offer much of a honeymoon period to the new incumbent.
However, I’m more interested in the start of the Premier League managerial merry go round, simply because I don’t believe that Rafa Benitez will feel any loyalty to Mike Ashley if a decent job in the top tier presents itself, and its only a matter of time before one does.
To me Newcastle and City are the two teams to beat in this season’s Championship and the managers are a big factor in that, so if Benitez is tempted away that can only be good news for City.
While Swansea surprisingly opted to go stateside, with Slaven Bilic under pressure there may be another attractive position to be filled before too long.
Stability is a big factor in footballing success, and now that the “sack everyone” brigade have quietened down that’s something that City have in spades.