As a relatively new member of the MFW community I felt a piece to introduce myself was in order at some point. I could bore you with the details of my life leading up to my first piece for the site, but that’s not what we’re here for.
I decided the best way to introduce myself was to tell you about the matches that have made my career as a Norwich City supporter to date, starting with the double promotions of 2010 and 2011, leading all the way up to now. With such a great task at hand I enlisted the help of six fans to tell the stories with me. Today I was joined by David Freezer, Chief Norwich City reporter for the Eastern Daily Press, Norwich Evening News and The PinkUn, as well as PinkUn Podcast host, to go over City’s era-defining 3-1 win at Leeds United’s Elland Road in February 2019.
The first thing I remember when I think back to this match is that it felt absolutely huge, and it was. A rivalry between Norwich City and Leeds United had been brewing since the Paul Lambert era, when the clubs battled for the title in a League One they were both clearly far too big for. City later became known for nabbing Leeds’ best players, both clubs experiencing frustration with Championship mediocracy in the mid to late 2010s.
With the clubs occupying the two automatic promotion places and heading into an evening game on live TV, this felt like the climax to that rivalry, as well as a huge step towards promotion for the winners.
“It was the late game, sold out, 37,000” recalls Dave. “The atmosphere was just brilliant; the Leeds fans were amazing. They desperately wanted to win that night and it brought the most out of the players and an intensity to the game. This was the two best teams in the division going hammer and tongs. That first goal summed it up”.
I realised when watching the game back that Mario Vrancic’s fifth minute opener was crucial for Norwich, helping quieten a rowdy Elland Road. Even the experienced and usually reliable Tim Krul seemed intimidated, chipping the ball out for a Leeds throw-in the first time he was in possession. Vrancic made a robust tackle typical of the first half to find Hernandez, who was tripped on the edge of the box. The Bosnian converted his customary worldie of a free-kick, with the help of a deflection from the United wall.
This deflection was the first of three City goals which had an element of luck (a shot was deflected perfectly into Pukki’s path for the second, the ‘keeper should have saved Vrancic’s second), luck Dave believes they earned. “I think when you look back at it you realise there was a bit of luck, but they earned that luck. Leeds had a goal disallowed and hit the bar and it just felt like one of those nights where at the end you say, ‘well it was just Norwich’s night’”.
It’s at this point in the piece that I usually focus on the individual performances of one or two Norwich players, a difficult selection that was made harder when I consulted Dave’s selection of nominees for The PinkUn’s audience-voted man of the match. He had selected every single starter from Farke’s team.
“It was one of those where from 1-11 everyone stood up to be counted” he told me. “It was a real team performance, but I think Tom Trybull’s the one that most people remember. He could well have ended up with a red card that night because he was just ramming into tackles left right and centre, but he kept nailing them. I think most people agree that was his best game in a Norwich shirt. If he played like that every game he’d be playing at the top level.”
It is true that the lack of consistency shown by Trybull was a serious source of frustration for the Yellow Army, and that the burst of momentum this performance sparked was the first and last time he consistently impressed as a Canary, before a difficult Premier League season saw him so sadly secluded from the first team setup at Colney.
It’s a similar story for Marco Stiepermann, a player whose negative transformation I also discussed when dissecting his excellent performance against Manchester City in 2019. He was also sublime in the victory over Leeds, playing at his duel-winning, attacking best.
“Confidence is a massive part of football and his was sky-high” remembers Dave. “Once he’d found that position, found his groove and became that ‘enabler’ for Pukki, he became such a focal point for Norwich”.
The game provided not only a win for the team David and his colleagues were covering, but a small claim to fame thanks to a certain global delivery service. “We ended up going on the Amazon Prime documentary on Leeds. For some reason, halfway through the game they cut to us typing away so that was a minor bit of fame for us”.
A peculiar reflection I made when watching the match back was that it was exactly the sort of battle Leeds thrive on, and exactly the opposite of what Norwich want. It was surprisingly vertical, and the Canaries enjoyed just 37 percent of the possession in the match. Bielsa’s Leeds are designed to pass forward and into space and the hectic nature of the clash suggests that would be easy.
The difference was the excellent dynamism of Vrancic and Trybull on the night, both performing the best they ever have in a Norwich shirt. Ex-canary Patrick Bamford did his best to spoil the party with a late consolation, but City ran out comfortable winners anyway.
They returned to the top of the Championship table and never looked back.
The final part in Samuel’s sextet of #NCFC joy will be live tomorrow morning at 9am.
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