Could that be optimism I can sniff in the Norwich City air?
15:54 02 November 2012
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Walk from the press room, around the corner behind the Snakepit to the directors entrance at Carrow Road half an hour or so after a match and you are sure to catch a whiff of something expensive.
Players call it “product” – and so do many others, apparently – but for the average bloke in the street it’s more likely to be posh talc and a bit of underarm.
The smell hasn’t always been so sweet: at times it has been positively sour. But an odour that was in danger of drifting away was back with a vengeance on Wednesday evening.
Dare I say, it now smells like team spirit?
The sweet smell of success is in the air.
A fortnight ago fans there was a fear that we would be quoting former manager Peter Grant, who regularly dropped in the “you need an abacus to count the chances they had” line. Arsenal were in town, and City were about to be gubbed. Except they weren’t.
Chris Hughton’s men stood firm against the former Invincibles and took all three points, to record the first win of the season and, as if by magic, give the Premier League table a nice, healthy look to it – especially when you realised that, actually, City hadn’t had the terrible start to the season we thought, because three points had elevated them to a place on the coat-tails of the likes of Stoke and Liverpool.
What was needed was a little run of good results. It looks good, it feels good and, yes, it smells good.
A point at Aston Villa – it should have been all three – produced four points out of a possible six, a two-game unbeaten run.
Don’t laugh – that hasn’t been achieved by a Norwich City side since last February. The final 14 games, including one in the FA Cup, of last season produced just three wins, and there were two runs of three games in a row.
If everybody thought it was all wine and roses under the previous manager, think again – the last third of the season yielded 12 points out of a possible 39. Bolton went down with 36. City’s form was that of a relegation team.
Winning, they say, breeds success, so when Spurs came to town for the Capital One Connect Cup on Wednesday, there were at least two schools of thought about the possible outcomes. A defeat would free up time to concentrate on the more important and valuable league schedule and, frankly, you wouldn’t say defeat by Spurs, even at home, would be reason to write a snotty letter to your local MP.
If one of the counter-arguments is that victory would clutter the fixture list a little, then it doesn’t really cut much ice: a quarter-final, a semi-final and a final is the maximum City could face. Three games. And if players lose concentration on the league because of a glorious cup run, then they need to go back to school.
Victory was indeed achieved – and that’s when that smell started to become more obvious.
Fans always love a cup run, but Wednesday night’s win was one that made your nose twitch.
A goal down with seven minutes to go – but, suddenly, the game is turned on its head. First Alexander Tettey’s shot takes a deflection before going in. Then Simeon Jackson puts City ahead. Then, with the clock almost up, Mark Bunn saves a Spurs penalty.
Haven’t we been here before?
Late, late winners punctuated City’s rise from League One to the top flight. It was proof of the Duracell factor – City never stopped, they never stopped believing. They never admitted defeat. They were traits which other teams knew about and, if truth be told, I’ll bet opponents were more than a little bit scared of too.
That Jackson should be the man to score the winner just adds a little icing to the celebratory cake. No one who was there will forget his 90th-minute winner against Derby in April, 2011. The reaction was that of a team, a manager, a set of supporters who then, finally, realised what could be achieved, that what had been just a dream was suddenly a reality.
The Canadian’s goal on Wednesday won’t propel City to a Wembley date next year. It won’t be the goal that gets them anywhere but a home game against Aston Villa in the quarter-finals. But maybe it will make us realise that something can be achieved, something better than the first two months of the season provided.
The changes that happened over the summer meant a degree of patience was necessary. Some people are more patient than others, but maybe, just maybe, a corner has been turned.
And if you turn the right corner, you might just smell something.
It’s call Optimism.