City had Howson’s strike to thank for going in at half-time 1-0 to the good; the mixture of boos from the home fans and cheers from the travelling Yellow Army telling a story all of their own.
If supporting Norwich for over forty years has taught me one thing, it’s that scenarios such as this rarely end well. While there has been much talk of Hughton ‘losing the dressing room’ – something that will remain conjecture to all but a few – to lose the crowd is arguably even more damaging.
Certainly the boos that accompanied the withdrawal of Redmond told a story of their own; the City boss defending his decision afterwards in conversation with BBC Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham, citing that the greater threat – in his view – as coming down City’s right flank.
The seventies were the formative years of a ‘top-level’ Norwich City just as they were for a third-generation City fanatic – my dad having been indoctrinated similarly in the post-war years by his own City-mad father.
With Leroy Fer reminding us that he’s still finding his Premier League feet and Bradley Johnson re-affirming once again that passing isn’t his strong suit, the central midfield area looked exposed from minute one. All a far cry from 12 months ago when Johnson and Howson outplayed Sandro and Livermore in a straight two versus two match up.
As the game unfolded and Jeremy Goss scored what’s been described as “the greatest Norwich goal ever”, a little part of my childhood crumbled away. My father tried to comfort me and predicted that Bayern would triumph 3-1, but then Norwich scored again.
If the much vaunted ‘promise’ had shown even the slightest hint of coming to fruition you can bet your life that Hughton would have given it a chance to flourish; the fact he didn’t confirms perhaps that, at 23 years of age, said midfielder’s career has stagnated.
Of course there are many other issues that stretch far beyond the stereotypical ‘too many foreigners’ debate’, not least the permanent collision course on which the FA and the Premier League find themselves.
Alas, despite a busy day (one suspects)of enquiring phone calls by David McNally and co, there was no deal to be had and so City’s summer activity 2013 has ended on eight new signings; value in the region of £25million.
While the visitors took the honours for artistic impression, City edged it where it really mattered, with Nathan Redmond’s splendid strike from 20 yards springing a fairly subdued Carrow Road to life midway through that tense and twitchy second half.
All too often in recent the past we’ve given fringe players a chance to shine in Cup games only for them to confirm their rightful place on the periphery with tepid, unconvincing displays. For the Shakers to be swept aside in such clinical fashion was a little ‘un-Norwich like’.
Yes, City enjoyed huge chunks of possession when faced with ten opponents in the second half, but with the ball shifted so ponderously Steve Bruce’s two massed banks of four simply shifted across ensuring there were no gaping holes and forced City to play in front of them. In the midst of last season’s poor run we bemoaned the lack of quality in the side – no excuses this time round.
“Knowing that Chris was the manager of the team made it easier to decide to come here”. Increasingly, the Hughton-factor is becoming the common denominator this summer, with his charm and honesty in selling the fine city appearing to make it that little bit more appealing for prospective employees.
As well as being a doppelgänger for Grant Holt, Elmander also brings to the table similar qualities; big, strong, powerful, an ability to play ‘back to goal’ and a good first touch. Add to that 71 international caps and a goal ratio of one in three.
A point against a quality side with the top six in their sights is far from a disaster, even if a couple of ‘Canary Callers’ tried to convince us otherwise; likewise the bloke in the River End at half-time who thought Redmond was “virtually playing at left-back!” Hhmm.
As much as I’d like to throw City’s hat into the ring as potential leaders of the ‘peloton’, there are a few who currently have a stronger case. Swansea for example.
The friendly with Real Sociedad – played in front of an excellent crowd of over 14,000 – provided most of those present with their first ‘live’ glimpse of Hughton’s summer purchases and there was little to disappoint; the 1-1 scoreline almost an irrelevance.
While the level of performance and match fitness still remain the name of the game, the need to prove a good match to a side that will be mixing it with Europe’s elite will not be lost on Team Hughton as thoughts head towards the Everton game.
The positives still outnumbered the negatives on a balmy Portuguese evening that saw Hughton give a City debut to Martin Olsson, as well as a first outing of the new season for Michael Turner, both of whom could now be ready for 17 August.
A classy midfielder with a left foot that can open a tin of beans, his elegant style was one that fitted perfectly with Lambert’s desire to play the midfield diamond.