I’ll take substance over style every single time
14:53 07 February 2013
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Remember those two seasons in the late 90’s, early noughties when Norwich were led by Bruce Rioch, followed by Bryan Hamilton and then Nigel Worthington?
Surely you know the ones? We finished 12th in the First Division in 1999/2000 and 15th a season later?
You might better know them as the ‘Derveld and De Waard’ years – two players who have gone down in history as a barometer of how low we had fallen?
Well I’m not surprised, because they were two wholly unremarkable seasons, destined to be forgotten almost as soon as the new term came along.
However, as things currently stand, this term could have something in common with this period of the club’s history.
That is because they were the last time Norwich finished the season having scored at an average of a goal a game or less.
And 25 league games into 2012/13 Norwich are on track to do the same again.
Now I’m not suggesting we are on the cusp of such unremarkable seasons as these two. Should Norwich yet again stay up it will be a fantastic achievement and victories such as those against Manchester United and Arsenal will live long in the memory.
But our lack of goals in the for column did get me thinking as to how important a factor it is to Norwich fans?
If you are a supporter who thinks that survival is the be all and end all, it may not matter, because recent history shows that lack of goals doesn’t always equate to lack of points.
In the past five Premier League seasons, 20 clubs have scored at either equal to or fewer than a goal a game. Only six of these were relegated.
Stoke are by far and away the most prolific at being unprolific, having failed to score at more than a goal a game in three of their last four Premier League seasons.
And if their rising attendances over recent years are anything to go by, most Stoke fans aren’t complaining.
But would Norwich supporters put up with us playing the same way as Stoke week in, week out, if it meant we stayed in the Premier League?
I’m not saying they’re not untalented footballers, or that at times their style of play isn’t exciting, but let’s be honest they regularly feature last on Match of the Day for a reason.
Norwich fans have always liked to think of their club as having a history of playing passing football.
In reality I suspect this is a bit of a misnomer brought on largely by our attractive play during the early 90s.
But that said, I wouldn’t put up with watching Stoke’s style of football week in, week out. I pay my money to be entertained, as well as with the hope Norwich will win of course, and while goals aren’t everything, clearly they contribute to this.
And in spite of the lack of goals we can’t really complain about a lack of entertainment dished up at Carrow Road this season. And that certainly wouldn’t be the case for the seasons before.
Games like those against United and Arsenal were pulsating and exhilarating because of the drama and tension, rather than the free flowing football or goalmouth action.
And while you couldn’t accuse Norwich of playing a particularly poor style of football – it is clear that manager Chris Hughton believes the key to getting points on the board is to start with a solid base.
He’s trying to get the defence sorted first, and then perhaps he’ll try to find ways for more goals to flow without impacting the goals against column.
It is when that has worked that we have beaten some of the bigger teams. But this tactic undoubtedly has an impact on the chances created and goals scored.
At this moment in time the goals for column matters little as long as the points column keeps on rising.
All that matters is survival and that Hughton is given the time he needs to build the squad he wants.
But that said, once Premier League survival is preserved, it would be nice to find a way in 2013/14 to get the points we need, as well as sticking a few more in the onion bag.
• There may have been some disappointment at the 0-0 draw with QPR but I think we’ve secured two fantastic points in the last two games. And while a win this weekend would be massive, I don’t subscribe to the belief that it’s a so-called six-pointer. I won’t even panic should our winless run extend to include Fulham, Everton, then Manchester United (though of course I hope it doesn’t). It’s the run of matches against Southampton, Sunderland, Wigan and Swansea that keep leaping out at me as being key to our immediate future.
• The lukewarm response to last week’s transfer deadline signings surprised me somewhat. In Luciano Becchio we have a player bang on form this season and with a fantastic record of 46 goals in his 108 games in the Championship with Leeds. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to see if we have unearthed a gem in Kei Kamara. I suspect that had there not been the whole publicly drawn out saga surrounding Gary Hooper, most fans would have been more than happy with what we got. Instead perhaps some felt there was something to be disappointed about.
• I make no secret of my views on the FA Cup and rampant desire for Norwich to get to a final. But I was surprised by how quickly I got over the defeat to Luton. Even though it was Norwich who suffered at the hands of so-called minnows, perhaps the disappointment was diminished by the enjoyment of a good old fashioned shock, as well as the several rags to riches stories such as the shunned goalkeeper who came back to haunt his first club and the journeyman striker who became a hero a couple of years after suffering personal tragedy.
• Departed striker Steve Morison will forever remain a Norwich City enigma. On his day he can terrorise defences, as was shown by two of his strikes home and away against Arsenal last season, amongst a handful of very important goals. But when he is bad, he is very, very bad, looking slow, clumsy and at times a bit lazy. I lost count of the number of games I’d spend trying to work out whether he suffered a problem with his attitude or from having the sort of style of play that laid him open to criticism. Too often, I’m afraid to say, it felt like his attitude.