The fullness of your glass probably dictates whether yesterday’s win over Rotherham was in the same envelope as Burton, Cardiff and Wigan or a clinical, professional job done as seen through the eyes of Radio Norfolk’s summariser, Simon Lappin.
If I were to use the stroll back to the car down King Street and beyond as the barometer then the consensus appeared to be the former:
“We should be beating sides like this easily”, said just about everyone.
It’s the sort of lingo you expect to hear from swaggering Gooners, spoilt Mancs and Scousers with long memories, but now we’re at it. That word ‘entitlement’ never seems far away when we hit the second tier.
On paper we probably should be beating Rotherham “easily” and if it were a case of balance sheet v balance sheet instead of 11 v 11 then we would. And we would probably beat three quarters of the Championship comfortably if that were the case. But it’s not and football’s not like that.
The Millers are bottom of the table for a reason yet they came and had a go, especially in the second half, and set up to make it difficult for City to break them down. And as the game opened up they had enough about them to carry a threat going forward; Alan Stubbs no doubt regaling his players with tales of our occasional soft centre.
So, against that backdrop it came as no real surprise that it took until the 89th minute to secure the three points. That’s the Championship in a nutshell. And for that reason I’m in the Lappin school of thought.
Carrow Road has been the scene of numerous banana skins over the years – so much so, some of us almost come to expect it – so to have successfully negotiated the hurdles set out by Burton and Rotherham in successive home games can only be a good thing and, ultimately, who cares if it wasn’t entirely plain sailing along the way.
Yet still the hard yards are ahead. Paradoxically, running alongside the ‘why aren’t we hammering teams like this’ brigade, I also detect a sense of complacency around the place; some appearing to assume that now we’ve hit top spot it’s our for keeps, or, at the very least, top two.
Not going to happen folks – at least not in my opinion.
We’re only a quarter of the way into the season and there’s not even the slightest hint of clear water between City and the top six, even following a run of six league wins in the last seven games. The slogfest has only just begun.
All of which should take nothing away from yesterday’s win which, despite not being the free-scoring free-for-all of dreams, was littered with exceptional performances – some of which came with bells and whistles, others which nestled below the radar.
Wes, of course, was sublime and given that the Millers saw fit to not close him down as I’m sure Stubbs would have liked, absolutely ran the show. It has become a cliché, but there’s no escaping the fact that he really does seem to improve with age and at this level his ability to jink and dribble and create is something quite rare.
We’re so lucky to have him and, for many of us, have that fortnightly opportunity to witness him in action first-hand. As one #NCFC tweeter put it, he’s one that in years to come we’ll be speaking of fondly to those who never had the pleasure.
‘That Wes Hoolahan was brilliant. Tiny little bloke. Best dribbler I’ve ever seen. There’ll never be another’.
Yet, there is another – well almost. Alex Pritchard, while of a different playing style to Wes, appears to be the ‘number 10-in waiting’ and while he may have a fair bit more waiting to do before the shirt is his, his link-up play with Wes et al yesterday was top drawer stuff.
The manager clearly has ongoing issues around his work rate when not in possession of the ball but when he’s on it he has that spark to make things happen – a Championship oddity. We have two who possess said quality, and that’s even before James Maddison enters the equation.
So let’s all agree that on that particular score we’re well equipped – although there will be days when, due to the ferocity that accompanies standard Championship fare, Wes and Pritchard won’t be on the pitch at the same time.
And then there’s the one about the Englishman, the Scotsman and the Irishman. No, it’s not a joke (when do you ever get one of those on MFW?) but instead a cheap, loose description of those who didn’t make the headlines but whose contributions were equally important.
Messrs Jerome, Dorrans and McGovern were magnificent yesterday, each bringing their own specific skills to the party, and have all emerged as vital cogs in the current set-up; Jerome for his tireless running of the channels AND goal, Dorrans for his range of passing and voracious work-rate, and McGovern for his ever-increasing presence and fine shot-stopping.
So, while the fettle is decent and the league position healthy, some big challenges await, starting at Craven Cottage on Tuesday evening. Let’s just hope Alex Neil is able to tackle the Cottage hoodoo with the same aplomb he did the Manager of the Month curse.
“Never mind the danger…”