Yesterday was was a funny ol’ day. These are funny ol’ times.
City won 3-0, it was their fifth win on the spin, it took them to the top of the Championship – just three weeks after being bottom – and they still have some key players to come back into the team.
By almost any footballing barometer that’s a healthy position. By common footballing convention, the supporters of said team should be cock-a-hoop.
But they’re not. Far from it in some quarters.
In fact, midway through yesterday’s second-half, with City winning 2-0, a chorus of boos rumbled around the River End as a misplaced Andrew Omobamidele pass eluded Max Aarons and roled instead into the hands of a ballboy.
“Sort it out, Smith!”, boomed from the larynx of one particularly disgruntled gent (the same one who says “BOOT IT!” quite a lot).
And then, even with another goal added to City’s tally and a semi-decent end to the game, there followed an online dissection of the game that rattled on well into the evening.
One particular thread concluded that we’re a poor team in a poor league managed by a poor head coach who may still end up leading us to automatic promotion – but only because we have quality players (at this level) and in spite of, not because of, his leadership.
Now, I’m not here to argue everything in the Canary garden is rosy and everything is working perfectly because, as demonstrated by that 27-minute period in the second half, it evidently isn’t, but that level of scrutiny felt out of proportion – to me anyway.
For some to conclude that even if we do win the league it’ll have nothing to do with Dean Smith’s coaching tells me he’ll never win over the doubters. And if a three-goal win can still produce negativity, then what happens when we drop points?
Like I said, extraordinary times.
We’re so sure of ourselves in the Championship, we now scoff at comfortable home wins, complain that we didn’t score four or five, and question why we didn’t blast the opposition into oblivion by playing football from the gods.
Somehow, somewhere along the way, all sense of perspective has been lost.
Roll the clock back five seasons and we’d be ecstatic with a 3-0 win. Any 3-0 win. But now that’s not good enough. Wins at Carrow Road have to be achieved with style, swagger, swashbuckle and with a clear sense of direction.
To avoid any level of flak, Dean Smith needs to find perfection – anything less is not good enough.
Except in the maelstrom of the Championship that’s virtually impossible. Even Saint Daniel of Mönchengladbach had days when his City team didn’t play particularly well.
The only difference is that Farke was given more latitude than Smith and his football, when it clicked, was a bit more beautiful. At least that’s how we all remember it.
But, unless my eyes were deceiving me, we played some really good stuff from minutes one to 45 yesterday. Stuff that was not dissimilar to Farkeball.
Yes, we were a little lop-sided as a result of having two right-footers down our left side and so most of our attacking intent came down the right side, but it flowed nicely, the off-the-ball movement was good, the passing generally had a zip to it and there were several good individual performances.
In particular, Aaron Ramsey, who was asked to play the ’10’ role, justified his inclusion with some clever movement, good touch and inventiveness. Marcelino Nuñez, creator of the first goal for Teemu Pukki, also continued his rise to Canary greatness with a bright and breezy display in a slightly deeper role.
But there were good performances across the board. From my vantage point in the River End, it had a pleasing ebb and flow and, while Coventry had their moments, it was controlled and easy on the eye.
A 2-0 half-time lead was the least they deserved.
And then, yes, it did all go a bit flat.
Those who’ve played the game will recognise all too well that horrible feeling of having taken the foot off the gas just a bit too much and then finding it almost impossible to then squeeze the throttle to re-assert yourselves.
It’s an affliction that spreads and you end up with not one element of the team functioning as planned.
Whether by design, to preserve tiring minds and limbs, or whether subconsciously, because it was a game in which they felt comfortable, the intensity level dropped to that of a WI summer fete and it became an undeniably tough watch.
So deep was the rut, only a change in personnel was going to improve things and, sure enough, it did. The triple change that saw the arrival of Messrs Hernández, Dowell and Sara had the desired effect, and with the uplift in energy came a regained sense of control.
Jordan Hugill and Danil Sinani also joined the fray late on to positive effect, demonstrating that one of the big advantages we hold over the majority of the division is a strong bench that weakens not one iota the XI on the pitch.
So, yeah, it wasn’t perfect, and for 27 second-half minutes it was actually pretty awful, but that’s the Championship for you. Coventry, for all their limitations, were not here to roll over and let us tickle their belly. (And, by the way, their fans were absolutely magnificent).
We’ll have more days like yesterday and we’ll have days when we play well and lose. That’s how it tends to work.
But I fear this is destined to be a season of disharmony, even if we do remain near the top of the league.
As I said, funny ol’ times.