2020 has been universally cr.@p. Day after day of doom and gloom. So my god we were due a good one.
Yesterday was a great one.
Of course, there was the small matter of the free world being spared another four years of lies, corruption and tyranny from a fake-tanned narcissist who lacks class, charm, credibility, compassion, wit, warmth, wisdom, sensitivity, self-awareness, humility, honour and grace, yet that was one but one facet of the greatest Saturday of 2020.
Other smaller, some would say insignificant, events occurred (and be warned, this comes from a very childish place):
Our nearest and dearest were kicked out of the FA Cup by a goal scored by an ex-City player.
Leeds, whose supporters have revelled in our demise over the last 12 months, were given a Premier League lesson at Selhurst Park.
Sheffield United, our nemeses of the last three seasons, were given the same treatment at Stamford Bridge and remain rooted to the foot of the Premier League.
King’s Lynn, the greatest threat to City’s dominance of East Anglian football, produced arguably their finest ever result to beat Port Vale and progress through to the second round of the FA Cup.
Oh, and Norwich City beat Swansea to make it seven games unbeaten and, in doing so, went joint-second in the Championship.
Not only did all of these events occur on the same day, they were all concluded within the same hour.
Some hour eh?
I could waffle on and bore you rigid on each, but I’ll concentrate on events in NR1.
It was a win that owed much to the continued excellence of Tim Krul after the Dutchman waged a one-man war on Swansea’s Jamal Lowe; three times denying the Swansea striker as the Canary Nation held its breath.
It’s all too easy to take for granted the fact we have a goalkeeper who makes saves for fun – that’s his job after all – and especially so when he does so without the flamboyance of others, but right now Krul is winning us points at a Teemu Pukki 2018-19 rate..
Back in the day, Kevin Keelan was my first Norwich City hero. Not a big man – certainly not by 21st century goalkeeping standards – but he made up for it by being agile and athletic, and if he made a save you knew about it. Dives were of the Tom Daley variety with added twists and flips.
He was brilliant but also a showman; the antithesis of Tim Krul.
But they have one thing in common: feistiness.
Whether it be an errant team-mate, a dithering referee or an opponent whose only crime is to be an opponent, the message will always be loud, clear and unequivocal.
Krul’s effect on this team goes way beyond his goalkeeping – Bryan Gunn had similar impact too – and right now City’s number one is close to being the pick of the 92.
But enough of the Krul love-in. Another hero emerged yesterday. A new one.
Eyebrows aplenty were raised on 68 minutes when Daniel Farke made a double change that ignored the tried and trusted names of Mario Vrancic and Jordan Hugill, and instead thrust centre stage the 19-year-old pairing of Bali Mumba and Josh Martin.
Farke called it nothing more than a “hunch” but it was one that worked perfectly; even better than how it played out in the model on Eddie Riemer’s iPad.
Steve Cooper had identified Jacob Sorensen as exploitable given the Dane’s obvious tendency to both sit tight rather than push on and not use his left foot; the Swans’ second-half dominance being largely borne of André Ayew moving over to their right and winning that mini-battle.
The dynamic of this contest was changed the second Mumba was introduced. No longer was Ayew able to be the dominant force, with the ex-Sunderland youngster giving the Ghanaian the choice of either tracking him or passing him onto a defender.
Ayew, for all his obvious qualities, is never big on backtracking and Mumba made him and Swansea pay. Big time. South American football writer and City fan Adam Brandon captured it perfectly…
For those remaining 22 minutes, mainly as a result of the impetus provided by Mumba but also with Martin dovetailing nicely with Max Aarons down the right, Norwich somehow wrestled back the initiative.
From it being Krul versus Lowe, the Canaries all of a sudden looked the most likely winners, all without ever really seeing the whites of Freddie Woodman’s eyes.
But it didn’t matter. Instead Marco Stiepermann, teed up by Emi Buendia after more good work from Mumba, finally rediscovered what his left foot was for and fizzed one into the corner.
Another late show, and within a minute of Sonny Carey hitting King’s Lynn’s winner in Stoke.
It was an afternoon where all of Farke’s big calls paid off. Neither Stiepermann or Buendia could have complained if they’d been hooked in that 68th minute reshuffle – both had afternoons to forget aside from the one key moment that won the game.
While unashamedly being one of Stiepi’s biggest fans, I couldn’t help but agree with those on Twitter who were questioning why, after an afternoon of mis-controls, misplaced passes and Bambi-legs he was still on the pitch while Vrancic observed from afar.
But it was also a Carlsberg afternoon for Farke. Every big decision paid dividends. And some.
The decision to recall Christoph Zimmermann was one forced upon him by the injury to Ben Gibson but there was minimal impact on the quality of City’s defending with Swansea’s chances being created rather than being the result of defensive frailties.
For someone who’s been out for well over a month, Zimmermann was, in the circumstances, outstanding both with and without the ball (not something I excepted to be writing), helped in no small way by being partnered with an imperious Grant Hanley.
But credit to Swansea for coming to have a go. It made for a compelling game, the best one seen at Carrow Road this season by some distance, and the Swans will be there in the shake up at the end of the season for sure.
They’ll feel more than a little aggrieved they headed home with nothing, but the flip side of that is that our City found a way on an afternoon when they were tested to the limit.
And how nice is it that, for once, we’re spared the hand-wring and head-scratching that often accompanies the start of an international break.
For once we have time to dwell on and enjoy a good win. Let’s do that, as we celebrate the demise of the Tango Man.