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Thursday, January 3, 2013
Still remember getting your school report half way through the year?
It’s certainly been longer for some of us than others.
Mine were fortunately never too bad and it was usually an obsession with football which teachers pulled me up on.
My old history master once told my parents that he wished I had shown as much interest in the history of Britain as I did with that of Norwich City. Harsh, I thought.
Well, as the classes of 2012/13 up and down the land get feedback on their progress at school, I thought I would turn the tables and give my verdict on City’s players during their first half of the season. (I have only included players who have featured in at least 10 games).
So, starting with the new boy at the helm, here goes....
Chris Hughton: Very good start as manager and in a business where results are everything, he can be well pleased with 25 points from 21 games. His first term included a fantastic 10-game unbeaten run and after a very leaky start, CH has ensured the backline is much tighter. Big test coming up. Grade A-
John Ruddy (13 games): He was looking as good as I have ever seen him when he suffered the really unfortunate injury. It’s hard to believe he had doubters in his early days at Carrow Road. We have to hope he gets over his lay off quicker than is predicted. Grade A-
Mark Bunn (12 games): Has had massive shoes to fill and will always be compared with Ruddy, Bunn is a good shot stopper and has pulled off a string of fine saves. But he needs to be more commanding and cut out the errors. Grade B-
Steven Whittaker (10 games, one goal): Really solid start and City have a high success rate when he plays. Unfortunate to have got injured again and will be hoping to be knocking on the first team door again very soon. Grade B+
Russell Martin (15 games, one as sub – 3 goals): City’s Mr Reliable and Adaptable and never lets the team down. Whittaker’s success has limited Martin’s appearances but will be hoping to maintain his starting place now – and the glut of goals will be helping his cause. Grade B+
Sebastien Bassong (20 games, three goals): I’ll come out with is straight away – he is my head boy and star performer so far this season. Strong, quick, a great organiser and has scored some vital goals. The debate is under way among fans about how many better centre halves have played in a City shirt over the years. Grade A
Michael Turner (15 games, one as sub – one goal): Remember how we all reacted after that mauling by Liverpool? I readily admit I was among the hoardes who had massive concerns about Turner. He looked lost and I couldn’t see any way he could be a regular. But has proved us wrong and looks at home with Bassong in the middle. Grade B+
Ryan Bennett (12 games, four as sub, no goals): Exciting prospect and could become a great at Carrow Road. With a player like Bassong alongside him, he looks assured and is playing in a really tough league. Grade B
Javier Garrido (19 games, no goals): Assured left back who has been an integral part of the backline. Does a lot of his work quietly and is popular with fans. Grade B
Robert Snodgrass (22 games, two as sub – four goals): Works tirelessly and has become the free-kick master. In a league with so many great midfielders, he has been impressive. Grade B+
Anthony Pilkington (20 games, two as sub, four goals): A bit of an up and down term and needs to develop real consistency if he is to become a great. Joint top scorer and the winning header against Man Utd was fantastic. Grade B
Wes Hoolahan (20 games, three as sub, two goals): The little master has shone through and rightly getting plaudits week in week out. The fact some of the big boys have singled him out for attention says everything. Grade A-
Johnny Howson (18 games, seven as sub – no goals): I had predicted he would be player of the season. The form of Tettey and Johnson, and the system CH plays, hasn’t helped him but he hasn’t always taken his opportunities. Grade B
Bradley Johnson (21 games, one goal): Before the season started, I didn’t think he would figure in our team unless there were injuries or suspensions. But he has been a real star in the holding midfeld role and was missed against the Hammers. Grade A-
Elliott Bennett (14 games, 10 as sub, no goals): Hasn’t reproduced the form of last season and is another one who has been unable to become a regular. Grade B
Alex Tettey (18 games, two as sub, one goal): Great partnership with Johnson and very impressive start. Strong and commanding and will improve even more. Grade A-
Grant Holt (21 games, three as sub, four goals): Say Holt’s name and you say talisman. Great leader, incredible worker and makes City tick. Has been missed in the recent defeats and he must stay fit for the rest of the season. Grade A-
Simeon Jackson (13 games, nine as sub, two goals): The lone striker system conspires against him, but always gives his all when he comes on. Grade B
Steve Morison (22 games, 15 as sub, two goals): Possibly the most talked about player this season. He divides fans’ opinion on every phone-in and chat room debate. Has featured in as many games as anyone but for me has so much less impact than Holt. Grade B-
• CUP TIE REPRESENTS CHANCE FOR CANARIES TO GET BACK ON TRACK
So how damaging has City’s pointless Christmas and new year been?
On the plus side, all the defeats have only been the odd goal and all the games are ones from which not a huge amount was expected.
Clearly the losing streak mustn’t become a slump.
The Premier League is very unforgiving and no side has a right to any points against anyone.
Saturday’s FA Cup game is hugely important to get momentum going again and the home clash with Newcastle on January 12 is massive for both teams. After that the Canaries are at Anfield (never a happy hunting ground) and at home to Spurs (who have done well here in recent years).
February only has three league games and realistically that is the time we are looking for a decent haul – away to QPR and home fixtures with Fulham and Everton.
Where we can get some reassurance after the four straight reversals is that the teams around us and below us haven’t made huge gains.
Of our rivals in our mini league whose main aim is survival, Sunderland (now on 22 points) have fared best with six points from three games ahead of last night’s trip to Liverpool.
Fulham (24), West Ham (26) and Reading (13) all secured four points from their four games, while Wigan (18), Southampton (18) and Newcastle (20 before last night’s home tie with Everton) all bagged three from the festive period.
Aston Villa (19) may have picked up one more point than us, but what a state they are in – and as for QPR they look doomed already with only 10 points and a run of defeats ahead of last night’s trip to Stamford Bridge.
• Hero of the week: A growing percentage of City’s goals this campaign are coming from the boys at the back. And Russell Martin’s late strike (albeit only a consolation) was his third in just two games and earned him my hero gong. He is one of my favourite players and typifies the reason the Canaries have seen so much success in recent years.
• Villain of the week: No prizes for guessing where the boo boy medal is heading this week. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a bit sorry for Mark Clattenburg after all the nonsense after that Chelsea match. He has, however, well and truly blotted his copy book with his performance at Upton Park. Of course refs are only human and mistakes will happen. But when two clear penalties were missed and a questionable call was made over Tettey’s injury, it is hard to take. Officials need help from technology and should get it.
• Highlight of the week: With four straight defeats, it is not that easy to find recent highlights for City fans. So I’m looking a bit beyond the obvious and highlighting where we are at the start of the new year. Anyone would have taken mid table with 25 points on the board and seven points clear of the drop zone (in effect eight with goal difference). And no-one has made massive strides on us during the losing streak.
• Funniest moment of the week: It was one of THE great games in Premier League history. Ten goals, endless excitement and a vintage display from Theo Walcott. But for me the Arsenal v Newcastle match will be remembered for something else. Yes, Arsene Wenger trying to do the zip up on that ridiculous coat was hilarious. He reminded me of a kid who was late for school and his mum was yelling him to get out of the door or have his behind slapped.
• Prediction of the week: And so the transfer window is open. My guess is we will see three new arrivals (one striker, one midfielder and someone for the back line) and two will be shipped out to pastures new. An interesting month is in store.