How the heck do you sum that up in 1000 words?
As is traditional after a game that my dad hasn’t attended – he decided his macular degenerated eyes could see the action better through the prism of Sky Sports – we spoke on the phone.
“Boy, have been watching City since 1945… in the circumstances, has to be the best ever”
This from someone who was there for the 1959 run and is not prone to hyperbole.
As ever, I wasn’t about to argue. He was right.
It was simply one of those Carrow Road occasions that will live in the memory forever. Up there with Dave Stringer’s late equaliser securing City’s First Division status in 1973, Gossy socking it to Bayern Munich and the play-off semi-final second-leg of 2015.
And the noise! Wow… the noise.
The old place shook when Stringer, Jerry and Wes did their thing, but for some reason – and I couldn’t possibly say why – the intensity and the way that sound reverberated around the ground in the evening twilight took it to another level last night.
The way that every tackle, block, lunge and over-hit Kyle Walker crossfield pass was cheered and roared made for an atmosphere that, hopefully, made those who mock the reserved Norfolk nature stand up and take notice. And hopefully didn’t disappoint Pep.
I marvelled at the Headingley crowd roaring on Ben Stokes at every milestone as he pulled off one of the greatest Test cricket escapes of all-time and how they fuelled the Stokes fire at every turn.
Last night that was us.
Yet it wasn’t about us. It was about thirteen heroes. It was about Daniel Farke and his team. And it was about a club that’s united, from the top of the tree down to its roots.
This was David vs Goliath, except David turned up with a sprained ankle and his arm in a sling.
Man City, as the 5hit and the fan threatened to collide, turned to their bench and brought on Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez. Our bench had two goalkeepers on it and a lad who has never kicked a Premier League ball in his life.
The cost of their starting XI was £406 million. Ours was £6.5 million.
Their ‘cheapest’ player was Gundogan who cost them £21 million. We included two players who were ‘free’ and two academy products.
The list of comparisons is endless but ultimately meaningless because when it came down to 11 vs 11, those in yellow and green refused to be cowed. They refused to be intimidated by reputation. Refused to look up or take a backward step.
This was a lesson. A lesson in tactical excellence, of organisation, of technical excellence but most of all bravery.
Bravery in the way that bodies were put on the line to protect Tim Krul, to make tackles and take the hits when they came, but also bravery in the way they stuck to the principles embedded by Daniel Farke and his team. The way they steadfastly refused to just lump it when there was the option of a short, measured pass was there. Even Ian Wright on MotD commented on it, so…
There was also bravery in the approach and the way Farke had set his team up from the limited resources available, and how he spoke before the game of believing in them and trusting them. The fact they approached this most gigantic of challenges without fear was borne of those words.
And the camaraderie among that group.
The high fives between Ibrahim Amadou and Ben Godfrey as attack after Man City attack was repelled, the veins bulging in Godfrey’s neck as he and Krul embraced after another fine second-half save, and the constant and incessant encouraging and cajoling between the group.
The problems that were laid so bare in Stratford a fortnight ago had been digested and rectified. The issue of the gap between Godfrey and Amadou was no more, in fact, it was as though they were joined by an invisible 10-metre thread.
Both were giants and the way they communicated with Jamal Lewis and Sam Byram was outstanding, as was how both full-backs quelled the threat of Sterling and Bernardo Silva, with Byram being the player we all remember at Leeds. Has there ever been a better full league debut in a yellow and green shirt?
Alex Tettey too, armband and all, was simply heroic as, with Kenny McLean they repelled and tackled and blocked and, when the opportunity arose, kept the ball. Those who mocked Tettey, who we all agree has probably gone beyond his peak, were made to eat their words.
While Emi Buendia, Marco Stiepermann and Todd Cantwell were forced to defend more they have done at any time in a City shirt, they still, very importantly, offered potency and verve when City did get themselves in the final third. All three were involved in the goals in some capacity and were collectively wonderful.
And Teemu. What’s left to say?
On an evening when he knew he’d likely be feeding off scraps, he scored one and made one, giving Stones and Otamendi an evening that will likely (and hopefully) trigger nightmares. The awareness to pick out Cantwell’s lung-busting run when nine out of ten centre-forwards would have gone for goal was exceptional.
What a man.
So, where from here? Well, there’ll be no laurel-resting and it’s just three points but the belief and confidence that last night must have injected into that group of players – and the club as a whole come to that – is immeasurable.
It simply has to be used as a springboard. Has to be.
But for now, it’s one to be enjoyed and savoured and I really couldn’t give two 5hits if the national media give us or don’t give us the credit we deserve. That was huge… massive… and whatever else happens this season, no-one is taking away the night we took down a money-driven, gold-plated, swaggering giant. No-one.
Final word goes to Anglia TV’s Malcolm Robertson who encapsulated perfectly in less than 280 characters what we are all feeling:
I’ve enjoyed many great days supporting Norwich City. I’m not sure there’s been a better one than this. Never been prouder of my club.
— Malcolm Robertson (@RobboITV) September 14, 2019
And so say all of us.