In a season where the negatives have sadly outweighed the positives it’s odd to be looking for an opening gambit that doesn’t bemoan the state of the defending, the decision making or lack of cojones, but other than conceding one goal – something that tends to happen in football matches – I’m struggling.
And how nice is that.
Actually, to be fair, all of the above have predominantly been traits of your average away-day performance and if home form was the only barometer that mattered we’d indeed be contemplating the play-offs – but the home wins have tended to be against those we expect to beat.
Of the teams above us only Derby have departed Carrow Road pointless and so to put fourth-placed Reading to the sword in such emphatic fashion was, in the greater scheme of things, astonishing.
As it transpired, those hoping for a window of opportunity to unleash their wrath were to be disappointed and the general mood as the folk filtered out at the end of the game was an odd mix of joy, mild amusement and bewilderment.
Joy because we’d just witnessed our team score six goals in a single half of football; something not done by any collection of Canaries since 1908 and which is usually the preserve of Sunday morning football when the opposition have been on it the night before.
Mild amusement because there was something very Norwich City about waiting until the season’s effectively over before choosing to tear your opponents of the day limb from limb in the most brutal and destructive way possible.
And bewilderment because simply no-one could really believe what they’d just witnessed.
It was a performance and an afternoon for which there is no category and one that just has to be regarded as a one-off and savoured.
That they were able to find a performance of such excellence as we near the end of a season that has been notable mainly for its varying degrees of misery tells us that hidden behind the scowls, frowns, pointed-fingers and apathy there was always a team capable of winning at this level.
But, for reasons too numerous to mull over yet again, they have been unable to collectively muster the wherewithal to consistently do it when it really matters.
Why, as a group, they were able to muster it yesterday when for much of the season it remained elusive is one for the psychologists but Russell Martin did offer a few clues in an emotional post-match interview with ‘Norfolk’s’ Chris Goreham.
Russ spoke of his desire to honour the memory of Peter Oldfield – the club stalwart who sadly passed away in March – and also of a personal desire to respond to those who have questioned his credentials to wear the shirt.
And as one who falls into that category, the cupping of the ears after the skip has scored his goal was a deserved touché moment and hats off to him for that. Massive respect too for his touching gesture at the end of the game when he gave his shirt to the Oldfield family.
He’s a good, decent guy, of that there’s no doubt, and is one who cares passionately about this football club – something that can’t be said of too many in the dressing room I suspect. Whether or not he’s the future is an entirely different question, and one for another day.
But let’s not underestimate the Stuart Webber factor.
While I have no doubt it was a side picked and managed – and managed well it has to be said – by Alan Irvine, now there is a sporting director in the house, who has made clear the need for a summer turnover of players, there’s finally someone there for the current group to impress.
Master Webber, who cut an impressive figure in his Friday round of interviews, also made abundantly clear his integral role in the recruitment process and so will already be evaluating and scrutinising the suitability of the current crop and how or if they fit into his brave new world.
And when your future is so evidently on the line that doesn’t half focus the mind. And it clearly did focus the mind.
The model that Webber embedded so successfully at Huddersfield, and is now looking to implement here, is one that obviously relies on key personnel performing to a high level but it’s one that if done correctly will offer a platform beyond the short term.
It’s one that needs buy-in from the very top to the very bottom of the hierarchy and one that will, and it’s an ugly word, require patience from those of us on the outside. At the moment it’s a club in limbo.
But yesterday offered a brief respite from the gloom and angst and a day that could have turned ugly – especially if City had conceded an early goal – was in the end at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, with old and young, in the form of Messrs Hoolahan and Pritchard, thrusting their CVs under the SD’s nose.
It was fun – and I haven’t typed that for a while.
Astonishing is the word. Slightly frustrating too when you see what they’re capable of. Now watch the clamour to keep these very same players on yet again next year after one freak result.
Gary Gowers says
Hopefully those that matter will see through a bizarre one-off Jeff. But, yes, some will no doubt be hoodwinked by an ‘astonishing’ afternoon.
Stewart Lewis says
Yes, that was rather stunning. While Gary touches on some clearly pertinent points, including the presence of Stuart Webber, it’s hard to assess its significance.
One point perhaps worth making is that it wasn’t entirely a one-off. We’ve put five past Forest and Brentford, and overwhelmed other teams in patches. Without taking anything away from yesterday’s excellence, we’ve done it against a particular sort of opponent – essentially, against passing/footballing teams.
Also, of course, at home.
The challenge for Stuart Webber and his chosen Head Coach is to maintain the flair we showed yesterday, while creating a team that can be equally effective against a different kind of opponent – the more physical kind that populates much of the Championship. And do it in their backyards.
Gary Field says
I sense Stuart Webber has far more about him to be taken in by one result. There will be numerous other factors in his mind to take into account too, not least the next four games against Fulham, Preston, Brighton and Leeds, all of which will be significant tests for the selected players to pass.
Even if we were to win all of those, I still suspect the rebuilding to be major and brutal – this isn’t the time of sentiment, it’s about building for the future.
I’ll echo previous comments in that as much as yesterdays result was very welcome – and very surprising! – it cannot mask the fact that the squad as a whole have failed to perform this season. Many of them should not be given another chance, yet can we keep hold of the likes of Pritchard – who has been treated shabbily this season – for next year?
Hopefully the Webber + new manager factor can base a team around our most creative players next season. There are huge lessons to be learnt from the board downwards as many of us are there to be convinced.
Gary Gowers says
You’re absolutely right Stew (3) – other good performances and big wins have come invariably against those who allow us to play (and do so themselves). The crux is of course doing it against those who scrap and spoil. Mr Webber will no doubt be acutely aware.
Gary Gowers says
Gaz (4) – Agreed – Stuart Webber will certainly not be fooled by a bizarre (but very enjoyable) one-off.
Andy Delf says
What a cracking afternoon.
Flying High (not) says
OK so the scoreline was a bit crazy, but a convincing home win is not a freak result. We are still unbeaten at home this calendar year, and it would be great to take that into next season.
Also we should bear in mind that we need to make sure NCFC is an attractive proposition for new signings, so there’s still plenty to play for.
I know it only one game with Mr Webber in official capacity. He is no mug and doesn’t sound he will suffer fools gladly. I would imagine he is also watching closely at Colney. But does there need to be a mass cull ? I said a while I believe these player did not suddenly bad . in the right hands and of course with the right psychology, they can play. I agree that there is deadwood and must be moved on, but with clever recruitment perhaps the job isn’t as massive. We have one season of parachute money left so we know next season is vital, is there time and money for a massive clear out and buy ?
I wholeheartedly agree with the new structure and the appointment of Stuart Webber.
However, my reservations are what happens when he reports to the owners that several contracts need to be terminated and several replacements purchased at a substantial cost?
Don’t underestimate the return of Nelson to the starting line up. Gotta love CJ for his commitment but he is not a player particularly suited to our style of play. Despite that he still scores, gawd luv ‘im, but Nelson’s movement and goal threat is a cut above.
PS not there yesterday – were Reading on the play off beach? They’re pretty assured of that top 6 space but in our own indulgence (understandably) no one’s mentioned whether they could be arsed…
Like most l never expected yesterday’s result. Was thinking Reading, going strong, wld get a narrow win. Joyous and frustrating in equal measure. If only…. The irony is that in AN’s first Championship season our away form was good. Our caretaker manager has done a good job in steadying the ship.
One very good win can’t paper over the obvious cracks and l just hope Webber and the new HC can convince players like Pritchard that the future is bright.
Douglas Millar says
Sad to say that I missed the game and no one wanted my ticket either. This is partly a reflection of the abysmal train service from London which often means that straight through services are not available and partly due to the dejection following a season of disappointment.
The form of Pitchard in recent weeks offers promise for next season. As does the level headed determination of players like Russell martin to prove critics wrong. City have the players to make an impact next season if we can keep the likes of Howson, Djyks and Ja Murphy .
mr webber needs to be ruthless in weeding out those who have underperformed and if replacements cannot be found or afforded there are promising youngsters to fill in. If we aspire to be like Southampton this is what they would do.
In the meantime, let’s show Fulham that we are better than them! OTBC
Dave H says
3&6 – True. However, we need to be mindful not to fall into the trap of thinking that we only lose to teams that scrap & spoil. A number of these teams play attractive & positive football but have the ability to do mix it when necessary. Huddersfield are a good example. We had that ability a couple of years ago, but it’s sorely missing now.
Chris R says
Enjoyed yesterday immensely, but was rather reminded of the blinding performance against Watford last season – amazing what the players can achieve once the expectations and pressure have disappeared… my summing up of the majority of this squad is “psychologically fragile” – can this be corrected by coaching??
I’ll think later about what a train wreck this season has been, but yesterday Norwich started like an express train and continued to run over Reading.
Pritchard was outstanding, Wes, Jacob and Oliviera combined superbly. We scored seven and missed several more we should have scored. This was a game that will live in the memory for a very long time! The sun is shining and Norwich scored 7 (seven). Something really special to remember, I know so much change is needed, but this was fun, for now I’m just going to enjoy it! OTBC
Keith B says
“Now watch the clamour to keep these very same players on yet again next year after one freak result” (Jeff, 1)
Judging by the rest of the comments Jeff you can stop worrying that you might be the only intelligent fan the club has.
I think Jap Stam has it right about yesterday – what’s frustrating is that we dominated the Ipswich game, especially in the second half but on that occasion every block, every deflection, every rebound fell their way instead of ours.
The implication a couple of days ago was that Webber has two [possible candidates for the role of Head Coach at the moment. Given his liking for foreign coaches I wonder if Stam is of them. If so presumably on the basis that we don’t want to read too much into one performance he still could be.
Stewart Lewis says
John #11: I’ve no doubt that Stuart Webber is fully aware of the financial situation of the club, with its possibilities and constraints.
He’s spent considerable time with Steve Stone; apparently the two get on well.
I was there yesterday, and came away stunned – chiefly because I didn’t think we had really played that well. For once it seemed that every bounce and ricochet in/around the oppositions’ goal area fell to someone in yellow for a change, and boy, did we make them pay!!!
What a difference Oliveira makes to our attcking options; as said above, our set-up is ideal for him and he always looks capable of scoring.
Ruddy brought some much needed calmness and assurance at the back, and Pritchard was immense.
Something similar next Friday will be much appreciated.
O T B C
Alex B says
Finally it is good to see the players have turned up, but I agree 1 swallow doesn’t make a summer so 1 good performance shouldn’t colour our view of these players
There are still too many at the club that just turned up to get paid.
Here is a question that needs answering when the team wins does the whole 25 man squad get the bonus, in my view it should only be paid to the match day squad if the rest missed out on any match day bonus it just might make them try harder and put pressure on the players ahead of them.
Stewart Lewis says
Alex B #21: Good question! There are one or two players at the club that I’d be pretty unhappy to think were sharing in win bonuses.
From conversations yesterday, I suspect that unhappiness would be shared by the club’s hierarchy. Fortunately, some contracts are running out…
Keith B says
I’ve always had the impression that match bonuses – appearance, goal, clean sheet, unused sub, win – are negotiated individually in contracts. But seasonal bonuses for success in the league or cup would be pooled – although that’s not necessarily to say everyone will get an equal share.
But frankly once a player’s agent has negotiated his contract I’d doubt if a player thinks twice about bonuses. They may be a motivator to get the player to the club in the first place, but not afterwards.
Guys like Lafferty are on money the likes of most of can only dream of, even if they aren’t playing. I don’t seriously think that Kyle will be saying to himself “I really must try harder because I get a bonus if I play and we win”.