To attempt to draw too many conclusions from City’s end-of-season friendly tour is a futile exercise, not least because Irvine’s men continue to blow hot and cold, depending on the appetite of the opponent.
Preston’s desire was of a similar ilk to Reading’s, for different reasons, and so lacked the bite and venom to hurt City in the way Fulham did so brutally on last Friday.
But still that’s not to detract from yesterday’s first half performance from the Canaries, which sounded right up there with anything they’ve produced away from home all season.
The changes promised post-match by Irvine on Friday were duly delivered with Wes, Jacob Murphy and Nelson Oliveira, three of Friday’s strugglers, finding themselves rested in favour of Messrs Naismith, Jerome and Josh Murphy.
And all three contributed to the oddity that was a non Carrow Road half of fluidity, even if the second was full of traits of which we have become more familiar. But on this occasion the defensive lapses went unpunished by a Preston side who, despite being a different proposition in the second-half, were not a million miles from the beach.
The cherry on top was that James Maddison, one who has been much vaunted but rarely spotted, offered a tantalising cameo to the travelling faithful and rounded it off with a very well taken third goal.
In his post-match round of interviews Irvine appeared keen to put into context the swell of opinion that has demanded the ex-Coventry youngster be handed his Canary spurs – reason being the same lack of defensive awareness that has blighted the progress of the Murphys to varying degrees – but those calls are now going to be harder to resist.
The argument will return to how Maddison can be accommodated in a team that has three other potential number 10s at its disposal but with three meaningless games left and with there being no doubt as to what Wes, Steven Naismith and Alex Pritchard can (or cannot) bring to the party there can be no better time to hand him a full debut.
At the other end of the experiential spectrum Graham Dorrans – another of the rarely spotted variety, albeit for different reasons to Maddison – offered food for thought for those who had waved the get rid card in his direction.
Whether Stuart Webber and the new head coach will perceive his ability to pass the ball to a yellow shirt and to keep things ticking over as sufficient to thrust him again centre stage is open to debate – if its energy and dynamism they require from the centre of the pitch then Dorrans is not your man – but his ability on the ball when he’s fueled and fit is unquestionable.
Josh Murphy was another to use Deepdale as a platform to offer food for thought.
But, as mentioned in my opening gambit, aside from a positive here and a fillip there, the lessons to be learned when the jeopardy levels are virtually zero are few and far between.
Webber will learn more from sitting behind a screen at his Colney desk and digitally observing how this group react when the stakes are high and the opposition have top six aspirations; Brighton away, for example, offering more insights than Forest at home.
And talking of Brighton, it’s not going to be a whole lot of fun watching the Seagulls celebrate promotion and probably the Championship title on Friday night, but there’s no debate to be had over the fine job done by Chris Hughton.
It didn’t work out for him here, and Brighton may see a different side to his managerial skill set next season, but I hope his achievement this season will at least be acknowledged on his Carrow Road return.
martin penney says
Good article. Personally I reckon Alan Irvine has done the best he could be expected to under the circumstances.
I’d love to see James Maddison on Friday – I’ve never actually seen him play!
Finally I agree with you about CH. Apart from the odd Richard Bonce I’m sure he’ll get a civilised reception.
Gary Field says
Seasons with Newcastle and Brighton indicates that Chris Hughton is clearly accomplished at Championship level and, for that, he deserves credit. Whether he’s capable of replicating this in the Premier League is a wholly different matter – but I have no reason but to wish him the best.
As for Norwich, the rebuilding process is likely to be substantial and probably will take more than one season. And given the huge drop in income the season after next, that’s likely to be the biggest problem.
If nothing else, there’s promise. It takes no guts whatsoever to throw youngsters in when your season is all but over, but there’s a glint of hope now. We have this consistent habit of making necessary moves very late (too late usually), but we’re seeing young lads come through at the same time and that bodes well.
If you look across and you see another young guy with a massive smile on his face, you are going through the same exciting squad breakthrough based emotions, which builds a huge spirit inside and outside the team.
It makes a big change from looking at Russell M quizzically while he gives you a lecture in the dressing room about making silly mistakes…
tim sell says
Hmmmm, typical, very little credit given for a fine win at Preston. No doubt another scathing damnation of an article would have been forthcoming had we lost yet another away game. No game is meaningless, as professional footballers there is always something to play for. We have been spoiled, always fighting for promotion or against relegation, you just can’t handle fixtures where points are irrelevant, an unusual occurrence for a city fan OTBC 🙂
Michael D says
@Gary Field (2), Yes Gary, the rebuilding will take more than one season – but both Fulham and Huddersfield are examples why there is still no reason that with a decent head coach now, and especially substantial rebuilding of our defence, that we should not be able to mount a much more successful challenge next season.
Really it comes down to the CBs. If we have 2-3 CBs next season who can insert a much stiffer defensive spine, then the rest of the team, even without significant change, will start to look much more competent. And given Ben Godfrey has potential, that is really 2 good CB signings we need. It will make a huge difference.
On the goalkeepers maybe one more, if all the present incumbent’s go, but we still have Declan Rudd and Remi Matthews… and if Jordan Thompson returns, then even Alex Tettey has a replacement. There will no doubt be considerable churn, but at root, a few very judicious signings in those critical areas, plus a new head coach, with the right attitude and adaptive skills.. and we will be a very different team from the outset.
Dave H says
I’m disappointed that we didn’t introduce the likes of Maddison & Godfrey earlier in the season when there was still the possibility of something to play for while it was obvious that rotating round players not up to standard wasn’t going to work.
Things clearly didn’t work out for Hughton at Norwich but I would hope he gets at least a respectful response for his impressive achievements this season.
Why should Houghton get a decent reception? He took us down, squandered the biggest transfer kitty this club has ever had, turned our creative players into cloggers, sapped the morale out of the squad Lambert built, and performed the miracle of turning three strikers with over 90 goals between them in the season before at their previous clubs into the most expensive incapable strike force we’ve ever had. And we’re still paying for it.
Not advocating wanton disrespect on the night but let’s have some perspective.
martin penney says
#6 Dave H: excellent comment. This will be the mother of transitional summers…
Anyone who is less than respectful to CH is, well, erm, you know what I mean.
Alex B says
A great away win even this late in the season just hope the last few game can finish with similar good results.
As I have mentioned a few time some of the players that possibly could depart might improve with the right coaching or fresh ideas as like in any job people get stale so lets not throw the baby out with the water.
The best thing is for city to announce asap which players will not be kept even release them early so they might get another club, Then city can start looking early to fill in the gaps players not getting game time at city will not show what they can do and prove worthy of getting another contract from SW or the new coach.
Gary Gowers says
Cityfan (7) – Not sure I even mentioned a ‘decent’ reception, and I’m certainly not advocating a standing ovation (or even a single solitary clap for that matter). Was just an acknowledgement of what a fine job he’s done at Brighton, and thought perhaps the abuse should be kept to a minimum. In my view that offers perspective. But hey…
Ben K says
Michael (5), I agree with what you’re saying. Some are hoping for a mass exodus this summer. I think that would be throwing the baby out with the bath water. Like you say, the key positions need sorting out (like they did last summer).
Cityfan (7), Chris Hughton gave us the highest league finish we’ve had since the 90s.
Food for thought, Gary. If Preston were indeed on the beach, I am surprised given the battling nature of their recent defeats and the noises coming out of Simon Grayson.
Listening to the commentary, whilst watching the goals as they were being scored on sky, it was apparent that our play had an element of snap and purpose and the likes of Naismith, Josh, Dorrans, Dijks, were in the mood.
Unlike most, I never see a Norwich city fixture as meaningless, witness my celebration as the third decisive goal went in yesterday for confirmation.
The names touched on by others on this thread are indeed positives. Thompson, Godfrey, Maddison are amongst a crop of excellent prospects upon whom much is dependent.
It would indeed be churlish not to acknowledge Brightons achievement this season. Chris Hughton took just a year to wreck Paul Lamberts good work and should have been dismissed far earlier than he was. The usual sentimental dogma ensured a needless relegation. What’s done is done however and it is to be hoped that Brighton will enjoy their promotion party this week in various south coast nightspots until the early hours,
martin penney says
#10 Gary: none of our little lot in the Upper Barclay will be going on a clapping mission. I just agree he shouldn’t be subjected to abuse. Trouble is, there’s always one or two, especially tanked up early on a Friday night…
Stewart Lewis says
Chris Hughton was gracious when he left us, despite the awful abuse he took from our fans (some justified, but nothing like what he received).
Can we be classy in return? I hope so.
I seem to be in a minority (another one?) who admire Graham Dorrans. No-one else challenged the “get rid” dismissal we saw in these columns last week, and even Gary’s praise today is a bit faint-hearted.
I reckon he’s a good player who keeps possession in our hands better than anyone else at the club. His languid style gives the appearance of lacking effort, but (at least as I see it) it’s only appearance.
Bucks Canary says
Couple of thoughts:
1 Hughton has done well everywhere he’s been, but Norwich. Was his brief to be totally conservative in his approach? And if so, did that brief come down from our former CEO?
2 How about Alan Irvine running the academy. Any thoughts?
as far as Hughton is concerned .I believe many managers could have done it at Newcastle. this one at Brighton is however different that is two season of being in the top six. he deserves credit. However it remains to be seen next season what he can do what money he will be given. I would treat the same as any other manager visiting Carrow Rd. I am them to cheer my team on not the opposition . I would love to see us make his party put back another game.
GG) not getting my Jeff-on at you, just that the general sentiment around the local media seems to be asking ‘what could have been’ when frankly CH was the man who blew our biggest opportunity to give us stability in the premier league. It was the one season the board gave the manager everything he asked for. Credit to him for learning from his mistakes but the whiff of lament is a bit much from the Kings & Queens of Hindsight.
Stewart Lewis says
Bucks Canary #15: There’s a fundamental difference between Hughton’s time at Norwich compared to his time at Birmingham, Brighton and most of his tenure at Newcastle.
They were all big fish in a small pond (ie well-equipped clubs in the Championship). We were a small fish in a big pond (ie a modest club in the Premier League).
Newcastle didn’t like the way he played in the PL; we’ll see about Brighton.
I always find it hard to assess CH at Norwich. He took a team which Lambert didn’t think he could repeat the trick of keeping in the PL, and led them to our highest position in 20 years. Then he made awful spending decisions and presided over a depressing relegation season. Hmmm…