I have rotten memories of Coventry (a). Long story, but in the 1970s I had an uncle who lived in Warwick and was a Cov season ticket-holder, so Dad and I would stay over and go to the games. Five times we made the trip; five times we watched the Canaries stink Highfield Road out.
We never just lost. We bombed. Every time.
So it’s a fixture of which I’m very wary. Subsequent wins, at either Highfield Road or the Ricoh/CBS Arena, have been achieved without my presence. So, just as well I didn’t make the trip yesterday.
Even prior to yesterday’s game, with the rest of Y’Army buzzing and/or cock-a-hoop, I had a horrible, niggling feeling that Mark Robins’ men would burst our pleasant little bubble.
I saw my dad yesterday morning – it was his 88th birthday – and told him of my fears and why. He told me, in his own inimitable way, that I was talking nonsense (he didn’t use ‘nonsense’) and that what happened nearly half a century ago would have no bearing on what was soon to unfold.
He did also say he’d take a draw.
How wrong we both were.
Prior to the arrival of David Wagner, not once had we scored four in a game this season. Not once under Dean Smith did we score four goals full stop. And now we’ve done it twice on consecutive Saturdays. Both away.
While Wagner has now set the bar ridiculously high and there’s no way this run can continue at this level, the transformation in a group of players who looked jaded and directionless has been astounding.
This is how Smith wanted them to play but it felt like he was a million miles away from getting them to do so. It’s taken Wagner two-and-a-bit weeks.
Who knows where this will end.
Realistically the best we can hope for is a place in the playoffs – such was the damage done by not waving goodbye to Smith during the World Cup break – and the phrase ‘lottery of the playoffs’ is a phrase for a reason, but that’s for next week and beyond. In the here and now, supporting Norwich is fun again.
The sight and sound of mutual respect between players, coaching team, and supporters at the end of the game for the second week running was confirmation of that.
The pride is back. Pride in wearing the shirt on the pitch. Pride in wearing it in the stands. And pride again in calling yourself a Norwich City supporter. Hell, there’s even the hint of a swagger.
For 14 months it was joyless. Now we can smile again.
There was even a sense of relief upon hearing Wagner call out the players for that harum-scarum first half that, had it seeped into the second, could have seen the game finish 6-6 or something ridiculous.
For the second week running… all the big calls were the right calls.
And the flowing football is back. The second goal, had it not been for Onel’s scruffy finish, could quite easily have been mistaken for one of a 2018-19 vintage with a move involving Aarons, Leitner, Vrancic, Pukki and finished by Stiepermann.
There is still work to be done of course – this lot were a total shambles three weeks ago let’s not forget – and that lack of control in the first half when, at 3-0, they decided to turn it into a slug-fest has to be addressed.
So too some of that ponderous defending and loose passing in dangerous areas. But I detect a sense that they now believe they can outscore opponents regardless of any disasters that may be occurring in our defensive third.
They won’t of course – Burnley may beg to differ for starters – but as mindsets go, there are worse ones to have when you’re gearing yourself up for a promotion charge.
But yesterday wasn’t just about winning 4-2. In fact, in some ways that was the least significant part of the afternoon.
It was also about remembering a fearless little girl who lost her courageous battle with a brain tumour just over one week ago, and who was our Fan of the Season.
That Amber Sheehy’s parents were there to witness that moving applause in the eighth minute from both sets of fans and were comforted at the end by Tim Krul and Josh Sargent was a reminder of what’s important and also of the power of football.
And the sight of the players being pictured in front of the away fans and holding aloft an ‘Amber’s Army’ shirt was a fitting end to an afternoon that, we hope, will bring some comfort to Amber’s parents.
Rest in peace, little lady. That one was for you.
A fine appraisal Gary and I concur with your sentiments regarding the little girl. I must admit to having a tear in my eye at the end of the game when several players embraced her parents.
Wagner coined the phrase “Wild West football” to describe the first half. From absolute ecstasy and disbelief to the familiar feeling of agony as Clint Eastwood transformed into Deputy Dog in the space of a few minutes.
I said to my boy at half time that the interval and how Wagner utilises it would tell us a lot about his abilities. The control and steel, all while carving out several eminently scoreable chances was indeed telling.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, there are still issues but the first bricks are in place and the flying start will buy wagner a bit of time and some leeway when things inevitably don’t go our way,
A thoroughly enjoyable Saturdays football – 2 weeks running! Curse Birmingham and curse the FA Cup for denying us a Saturday 3pm to look forward to next weekend, something Smith never gave us,
Jim Davies says
Wagner was asked in his post match interview, what he had said at half-time. Interestingly, he didn’t say he’d given them a rocket, or told them what they’d done wrong, he said “we showed them what they could do better.” That looks like positive management to me. No criticism, but this is how you can improve, and boy, did they respond to that. Shame Pukki couldn’t add the fifth when he was clean through.
Alex Bain says
The Coventry supporters played their part in celebrating a life sadly cut so short well done to them.
An exciting game and Hernandez says they are back to playing the way they like a little dig I think.
I would ask the players why they couldn’t do it for Smith or was he burdening them with to many status about the opposition whereas Wagner says let them worry about us.
Defence is still the weak spot and it looks weaker with Krul being really off form, distribution is poor no command of his area and communication seems lacking between him and those in front of him.
We still have a tendency to pass across the area and yesterday a speed merchant could have capillised a couple of times.
Onwards and upwards
Derek P says
Astounding is absolutely the right word for the transformation. To compare this to the car crash that was Boxing Day is quite incredible and shows up Smith and Shakespeare for the failures they were.
How, in 13 months, could they not work out how to play Teemu and Josh together through the middle together or release Sara to play as majestically as he did yesterday is shameful!
Anyway, that’s in the past now, let’s look forward to a 2nd half of the season to saviour.
Also, yesterday was a reminder of why I love this Club. Other clubs may do similar things but the tribute to Amber was something else. let’s do it for her.
Tim N says
It could be a blessing having two weeks now the Birmingham game has been moved. Gives Wagner more time to work with the guys.
Totally agree, starting with drilling into them that you’re only supposed to pass the ball to players in Norwich shirts … 🤣
Dave Huckfield says
I agree and I am also happy about that first half performance … Wagner has now seen a weakness to address before the Burnley visit. He has 2 weeks to drill and coach the players. Better that he witnessed it yesterday rather than take on Burnley with complacency after 2 away wins.
Cyprus canary says
The most telling part for me was to hear Wagner comment about the first half and then to see the transformation in the second half. One negative aspect is putting Krul back in goal Angus should be number one now. Krul could have cost us dear yesterday’.
I always found it difficult to understand what Smith was trying to say. However he managed to impress upon our hierarchy that he was the man for the job which has always puzzled me.
Two weeks of Wagner and the team already looks far fitter which is the biggest indictment of the previous regime.
We now look a team capable of playing flowing, skilful football beyond our wildest hopes a month ago. Thank heavens we have found an intelligent manager capable of communicating with the players.
Everything is now looking to be on the up playing wise and we finally have a team we can get behind. Well done David Wagner.
The eighth minute applause for Amber from all parts of the ground wonderfully demonstrated that football still has a heart.
Pure entertainment, start to finish. Thoroughly enjoyable.
A massive result, and good to know that NCFC still goes beyond football.
Two Championship games into Wagner’s reign, and the goal ratio is 8 – 2, not bad.
No match next week so the coaching team gets a bit longer to work with the squad, and the squad gets the time to repair any knocks and bumps they’ve picked up.
I thought Teemu Pukki’s pass to set up Josh Sargent was absolutely top notch, would’ve been great if he’d rounded the afternoon off with a goal, but there will be plenty more times the way the guys are playing now.
I wonder if there could be a fresh chance for Tzolis and Rashica ?
McCallum looked assured and Lungi is back, his versatility will be a huge bonus.
I thought Coventry were decent so it was a fine win.
Onel’s outstanding energy and desire just a wonderful thing, don’t you just love him.
The day belonged to Amber’s family how they cope without her I don’t know but the support from so many yesterday may be of some comfort to them all.
Just so happy to have our club back coinciding with normal service being resumed at Portman Road.
Coventry. yeah, the team that had 4 games to play when the rest of the league had basically finished.
Relegation loomed . They didn’t go down we did. F. Coventry.
Jim Davies says
You can’t blame Coventry for that relegation, you should blame Everton. They had won the league, gone off on a celebration holiday, and fielded a weakened team who couldn’t have cared less about the result. One good thing that came out of it, it will never happen again. They introduced the rule that all games had to finish on the same day after that.
Tim Ball says
Amazing transformation Gary.
I didn’t think Coventry were bad at all so a really brilliant 3 points. And their centre forward was a right handful.
Onel and Keiran look rejuvenated.
Teemu worked his socks off.
I was worried we may tire towards the end, getting used to the new training methods, but no we actually improved after the break.
Unlike many on here I am gutted Birmingham (H) is off.
We Are on a roll, would have loved to have seen it continue.
My heart goes out to little Amber’s family.
The Coventry fans were top class in joining in the applause for Amber in huge numbers💗
I’m gutted Tim. For the first time in what seems a lifetime my appetite for spending. Cold Saturday afternoon at Carrow Road is insatiable,
Ever since we went down in 2020 the talk was of ensuring we added solidity to the attacking football Daniel Farke brought to our club. Skipp and Gibson helped provide in the Covid season where we won the league. Thereafter, it was evidently decided that a new set up and approach was needed to survive in 2021/2. We know how that ended, but it was no doubt part of Smith’s brief when he took over and remained in place until his sacking. With Wagner, all breaks are off and it’s back to 2018/19 – suggesting the question of solidity has been temporarily parked in order to get our team up and running again.
Great to see, though the problem will reoccur IF we go up. So two things interest me: can Wagner find the balance between goals galore and solid defending; and have the recent weeks also been about Webber revising his brief for the head coach in allowing the breaks to come off.