Ahead of Canary/Blade clashes, my go-to guy is Pete Turner. In his own words, he is “the Brixton arm of the Brighton, Brixton and Belgravia Blades” – aka the BBB Blades.
In the recent past, we’ve talked footie, obviously, but also John Denver, The Boss, Kell Brook and Test Match cricket, and had some generally convivial conversations – not something that can always be said when Blades and Canaries cross paths.
So, ahead of what promises to be an interesting one this weekend, I returned to the calm of chez Turner for what Pete describes as our ‘annual exchange of friendly insults’…
So, last time we spoke you were filled with an odd mix of dread and excitement at the prospect of winning a place in the Premier League. How does it feel now you’re there?
As you say, here we are again. Our last game here at Carrow Road was the pivotal match of last season. It was FA Cup 4th Round day, we’d both crashed out in the 3rd round, and by the finish, the game could be described as producing a robust 2-2 draw. Both our teams then went on to enjoy a good run into the end of the season, with the Leeds implosion adding to our satisfaction and promotion celebrations. It is fair to say that the lads made the most of those, with Wilder very much right in there with them. I remember watching scenes from both Norwich and United’s end of season official dinner and noticing the stark contrast. It’s fair to say we went for it.
Hhmm… that was the general consensus at the time but there was evidence of the City lads partying hard. We just didn’t shout about is as much… 😉 But we’ll give you the ‘celebration’ title as we won the real one.
Many, many people had us odds on favourite for relegation. I was more hopeful and put £5 each way on us to win the league – with odds of 1500 -1. Why wouldn’t I? They also run a handicap league (not sure I like the name) where the odds were only 15-1 but under this bet we get a 59 point head start. And as of Saturday morning, we are still top, just.
As to our play on the pitch, we’ve been loving it. Sometimes we’ve had to pinch ourselves at the way we’ve played against serious quality opposition. The league is still very tough and with only eight points separating relegation to fifth place and potential European football next season, there is still a lot to do.
Yep, as hard as it is to admit, it’s been a truly wonderful start for you – the Newcastle blip aside as you say. How’s Wilder managed to succeed where, in some ways, Farke hasn’t been able to?
I think he is a genius and has been unflinching in his belief in his players and his system. Norwich are a class side, they proved that last season. Maybe some of the difference is down to the team cohesion and spirit. That dogged determination has certainly earned us points.
We just wish we had a striker that could regularly find the back of the net. McGoldrick and McBurnie haven’t got there yet, though they’ve both been on the wrong side of some questionable VAR decisions.
(How can it take nearly four mins to decide an offside – and that wasn’t even the pass that led to the goal. A Spurs player played the ball after that before we got the ball back and scored.)
It does now look like Mousset is getting there. Our defence has been rock solid, Egan and Henderson, Baldock too are almost unbeatable.
Whilst I know we’ve only scored 17 goals we have only conceded 15. Looking at Norwich you have a goal difference of -16 but you’ve got the strikers there and when they breakthrough you’ll easily glide up the table. After Newcastle, which was a wake-up call, I’m hoping we won’t pass you on the way down. This match could be one of those six-pointers.
From watching a couple of your games, the overlapping centre-backs still make the odd appearance, which is good to see. Has Wilder made any significant changes to his tactics now you’re in the rarified air of the Prem?
I don’t think he has. He’s tweaked things, but he still has that ‘go for it’ attitude, which scared me in the beginning. But as ever, in Wilder we trust. A lot of credit should also go to our number two, Alan Knill. He is quiet and unassuming but has been a rock to Wilder and the team. He describes the way we play as exciting to watch but risky.
It seems a lot of managers worry about the sack and have a fear of losing games, but it’s true to say we go out to try and win every one, no matter the opposition. Even in this league, to still have defenders supporting our attacking moves instead of concentrating on stopping opposition attacks is indeed exciting. Whether we are in a winning, losing or drawing position, Wilder will often throw on a substitute striker with a nod to Knill telling him to ‘hang on to his seat – these last 15mins could be a bumpy ride’.
Sounds almost too good to be true. You’ve found your Nirvana.
In general, the football aside for one minute, how have you found the PL and all that goes with it?
We love and hate it. The coverage over so many media outlets is incredible. That’s been easy to take so far as we have been doing so well, but if we start to slide then it won’t be so appealing. Fewer games is something that I’m struggling to get used to. Only playing weekends with very few mid-week games up to now is a big change.
This season we have found it impossible to buy tickets for away matches. I don’t know how Norwich operate their ticket system but at Bramall Lane there is a loyalty point programme in place. The cap of 3,000 tickets maximum for away fans has meant we haven’t been to an away game using our own membership points this season. I don’t know the answer but our loyalty programme system is clearly rattling a few fans cages, especially the younger ones who haven’t been born long enough to get the points needed to get an away ticket. Rant over.
Blimey… such a thing as trouble in paradise? (we’ve had very similar membership scheme related problems – a very long story)
… but to end on a positive note, the atmosphere at the sold-out Bramall Lane with pre-match light shows and exciting football has enhanced our home match experience. And as we can’t get to away games so often, we have managed all but one home game this season.
And Wilder still gets the bus to work…
Blimey, that man definitely has a bus fetish.
I know his thoughts on VAR – he described them quite eloquently post-Newcastle I thought – and I’m getting the distinct impression you hate it even more…
They clearly haven’t got it right, so many fans, pundits and even referees are saying this. In the meantime nothing changes. It was introduced to resolve “clear and obvious” mistakes. When a VAR decision can take minutes – one of ours took 3 mins 44 seconds to decide if an earlier move was offside – how can that be “clear and obvious”.
Why don’t referees consult the screen at the side of the pitch – and if they did would they ever disagree with VAR? I thought it was still the pitch referee who had the final decision. I don’t know of any ref who has ignored VAR. On the face of it. I can understand why they don’t but even VAR refs have accepted they’ve got three decisions wrong – not our Spurs goal though, I noticed.
And whilst you are at the match you have no idea what’s going on. You can make a guess that they are checking VAR but you’re not sure. And often you have no idea why a decision was given. Listening in to radio commentary can help – but we shouldn’t have to do that.
And I know the vast majority of the fans celebrate, I can’t do it with any gusto – I’m still looking intently at the referee to see if he’s listening to the earpiece as he walks back to the centre spot.
It just seems to me that where you had one referee making decisions that could go against you, and that you could argue with after the game, you now have a team of them. It’s madness. We’ve had some crucial harsh VAR decisions and I know they say that these things even themselves out but all I can say at moment is that I am looking forward to when that happens – we’ll be flying up the league.
Nice rant … hard to disagree with any of that. You’re not the only ones to have fallen foul of VAR though. We’ve not had a great time either. Only one decision that’s gone in our favour and that in a game we lost anyway.
So, who, in particular, do we need to be fearful of on Sunday afternoon? I notice he started with McGoldrick and Mousset on the bench on Thursday. Does that mean they are nailed on starters for Sunday?
I would say so. And Mousset should be the one to fear as he is clearly on form. But McGoldrick could be only a whisker away from scoring a few himself and his play and work-rate are invaluable.
And don’t ever forget those overlapping centrebacks … They are still there.
Hhmm… I’m loathed to ask… but what have you made of our season so far?
Well, so far you’ve not done as well as I’d expected. To sum up in one word – inconsistent. A cracking victory over Man City followed by, for me, a shock heavy defeat at home to Villa. Remember, get that solid consistency back that you had last season and you’ll be out of that relegation zone.
And finally …. a score prediction for Sunday?
I think that we will have put the disappointment of Thursday behind us, so … Norwich 1 Sheffield United 2