Unless you’re a supporter of one of the ‘big six’, in particular Man City or the late Liverpool FC, then football is less about trophies and more about moments. The special ones don’t come along too often but when they do, you remember them forever.
You know what moment I’m talking about.
In the absence of Teemu Pukki and Josh Sargent, David Wagner’s reshuffle in the striking department saw Marcelino Núñez promoted to the number 10 role – a decision that left the German purring in his post-match appraisal.
Even before his 27th-minute thunderb@stard, Núñez had whistled one past John Ruddy’s near post following a clever flick from Adam Idah, and it was clear he was enjoying a central role rather than having to try and impact the game from deeper and wider.
It still didn’t stop me from questioning his effectiveness and, as if to emphasise how little I know, just a couple of minutes before his first goal I was whinging to my son about how the Chilean tends to skirt around the edges of games.
And then he goes and rattles one in from 25 yards, Jonny Howson style.
The technique was perfect. The body shape. The connection. Everything.
It takes its place alongside other Carrow Road specials like Jonny’s:
Safri against Newcastle; Tettey against Sunderland; the often-overlooked Russell Martin thunderstrike against Brighton, and, of course, Justin’s goal of the season against the mighty Reds of Merseyside.
Esteemed company, but Núñez is now up there.
That he was able to casually stroke home Kenny McLean’s brilliant, curling cross just nine minutes later was borne of the confidence given to him by the volley.
Wagner described the Chilean’s evening as a “real 10 out of 10”, and the trick now is for him to build on this and use it as a platform from which to kick on.
The player himself will, I suspect, have been disappointed with his overall contribution so far, especially after excelling in his first few weeks in the country, but he was one of many who found themselves stifled by Smudgerball
In fairness to Dean Smith, it could also have been a case of Núñez falling victim to Vrancic syndrome where, once the initial excitement wears off, the breathless and relentless nature of the Championship takes a good season to come to terms with.
Either way, there was more than enough there last night to confirm that there’s a good player in there if used and managed correctly.
There was also the not-insignificant matter of a goal from Christos Tzolis – something many of us feared we’d never see again.
While his overall contribution was still limited, the confidence his 94th-minute strike will have given him will be immense.
Like Núñez, the Greek international is another slightly lost soul in whom Wagner has shown faith. That his head coach fought so hard to bring him back from his loan at FC Twente will, in itself, have given him a considerable lift.
The clear mutual respect between player and coach will have instilled in the former a desire to succeed and, for his part, Wagner clearly believes he has a player on his hands from whom he can get a tune.
If it clicks, everyone wins. Let’s hope last night is just the start.
There was obviously the customary defensive wobble to contend with, during which we conceded what was another humdinger of a strike, and it was a nervy, staccato second-half performance that bore little resemblance to the ebb and flow of the first.
We shouldn’t forget though that teams don’t come to Carrow Road to have their bellies tickled and play the role of the Washington Generals. John Eustace will have got stuck into them at halftime and it was no surprise that the Blues improved significantly after the break. Neither was their goal.
Having said that, aside from one bullet header that Angus dealt with comfortably, Birmingham were kept pretty much at arm’s length but that didn’t stop it coming as a huge relief when Tzolis’s clever, curling finish found the corner of Ruddy’s net.
Worth mentioning too was the contribution of Adam Idah who, I understand, took considerable flak online for, presumably, missing a couple of presentable chances. I thought he did a lot of things well, including being the first line of defence with his tireless closing down of Birmingham defenders.
While Idah’s movement may lack the subtlety of Pukki’s, he did it his own way and I’d imagine his head coach was more than happy with his evening’s work. It was just missing a goal.
So… our famine or feast existence under Wagner continues. If we score, we score a minimum of three but if we don’t we tend to stink the place out.
But there were smiles on faces again last night – a stark contrast to the Wigan game – with the biggest of all on the face of little Chilean.
More of the same please, Marcelino.