Is it a case of ‘boring, boring Norwich’ as Canaries master the art of the 1-0 victory?
06:30 28 February 2014
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“Fans adore you and chant your name and all we want is for you to succeed. So here’s my plea. For every minute of every game give it all you have for the cause.”
So wrote my column ‘brother’ Ian Clarke in a fantastic call to arms just 72 hours before Sunday’s game against Tottenham Hotspur. And while I have no evidence to suggest the players read the Norwich opinions trotted out on these pages, if they do they certainly took on board Ian’s fantastic words, swallowed them up and spat them out again.
In what we all know has been a very barren 2013/14 season for Norwich City fans, Sunday afternoon was a real highlight.
Pretty much right from the off every player, to a man, looked as up for the challenge as we’ve seen them under Chris Hughton. It started at the very top with Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer striving to put pressure on a very clunky and slow-looking Spurs defence.
While he still struggled to find shooting opportunities, this was easily as good as we’ve seen from the Dutch striker, looking for the first time capable of coping with the physical side of the game and carrying himself with a bit more of the swagger we expect for our buck.
In midfield my man of the match Robert Snodgrass (inset), Bradley Johnson and Alex Tettey, in particular, gave away nothing and gave in to no one. Suddenly, with the return of Jonny Howson, the manager has a choice to make ahead of this Sunday’s game at Aston Villa.
Meanwhile, this Sunday league football-wannabe was in raptures at the defensive performance, in particular our newest centre-back pairing, who look like they have been playing together since Joseph Yobo first kicked a ball professionally back in 2000. One moment where Sebastien Bassong beautifully chested the ball across to Yobo almost had me on my feet and celebrating as if it were a goal. (Don’t worry stewards I soon heeded your warnings and banished any thoughts of carrying out such a disgraceful act).
Pretty much every fan no doubt raised an eye-brow when the Nigerian defender, at the age of 33, became one of our January signings. But he’s been a revelation. I wonder if we’ll be seeing his name on the back of shirts for 2014/15.
So what happened to bring about such a change in fortunes? Did the break enforced by our FA Cup demise give the players the chance to recharge the batteries? Were the two weeks prior to Sunday spent reminding those players previously shorn of confidence just how good they can be? Did chief executive David McNally’s words of warning have their desired effect? We may never know. The win continues the manager’s ability to get a win just when it is needed. He has clearly mastered the art of a 1-0 victory.
You’ll remember George Graham’s Arsenal team of the late 1980s, early 1990s, famous for the fans chants of ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’. The reputation was based on six 1-0 victories in 1987/88, seven in 1989/90 and five in the subsequent two seasons. Just 27 games into this season and five of Norwich’s seven victories have been secured with the same scoreline. At that rate we can expect at least two more between now and May’s conclusion.
These victories rely on the solid foundation at the back that, barring a couple of games, Hughton has managed to find this season, but that have also led him open to criticisms of a boring style of play.
Those criticism have been fair and true, but Sunday’s entertaining game did prove that the chant ‘1-0 to the Norwich boys’ doesn’t always have to be followed by cries of ‘boring, boring Norwich’.
It was a win that shall live long in the memory – shall we do it again on Sunday?
One-nil to our chief executive
1: That David McNally interview provided a real example of how, in non-responsible hands, a story can develop a life of its own. At least a week after being first uttered, those same quotes had been turned by some into a pre-Spurs game ultimatum, with some criticising the chief for speaking out. In reality I think they had the desired effect and there was surely nothing in the comments that should have upset or surprised Chris Hughton.
More decline at Match of the Day
2: The standard of analysis on Match of the Day and its Sunday sequel MOTD2 continues to baffle. Too often we’re used to analysis on the big teams, before the smaller ones get a glib statement of little meaning such as ‘aye, they’ll be fine’ or ‘aye, they’re in trouble’. This was further emphasised on Sunday by the fair, balanced and informed debates going on in the Sky Sports studio after the final whistle. Not sure about Glenn Hoddle’s current hairdo however.
Should Bradley be our number 9?
3: An interesting letter from Rod Woods who suggests the answer to Norwich’s goal scoring struggles lays in the shape of midfielder Bradley Johnson. He writes ‘to me he has the strength, the ability with his head and feet and the Premiership know-how of someone like Grant Holt’. That he has a hard shot is not in doubt, but unfortunately those most likely to feel the impact of it are the ones in the stand clobbered by yet another wayward attempt. Definitely a non-starter, but a great talking point nevertheless, so thank you, Mr Woods.
Sit down, stand up, it’s not right
4: The issue of standing during games was raised by the club again on Sunday with the handing out of stern letters warning offenders they face possible eviction and even bans. I know the club is probably fulfilling a health and safety mandate, but I wouldn’t find it quite so frustrating to be told to sit down every few minutes if the same requests were being made elsewhere in the ground, especially to away fans.