Why City are sitting pretty at No 1
Neil AdamsThe Canaries have stormed to the top of the table with such distinction this season that we must all remind ourselves to guard against our levels of expectation undermining the team's achievements.Neil Adams
The Canaries have stormed to the top of the table with such distinction this season that we must all remind ourselves to guard against our levels of expectation undermining the team's achievements.
Take last Saturday against a very spirited and incredibly hard-working Hartlepool side for example.
City won the game 2-1. And in doing so they set a new club record for consecutive home wins.
Granted, it wasn't one of Norwich's best displays of the season by any means and some of the players did - understandably - look a touch tired and off their usual pace.
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Nevertheless, another three points was added to the total and that is all that matters. Not only at this stage of the season mind, but at any stage of the season.
Play well and lose, or play below maximum standards and win?
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It's a no-brainer.
So for anyone who left the stadium last Saturday slightly bemoaning the fact that City didn't produce another rip-roaring display and smash a hatful of goals past the opposition in the manner we have pleasingly witnessed on so many other occasions this season, perhaps a quick casting of the mind back to the type of mood and general demeanour that pervaded the assembled masses following plenty of matches last season might have been in order.
Because many supporters would have been seen doing cartwheels along Carrow Road as they made their way home if City had managed to win a game at times last term, let alone win one in emphatic fashion.
Leeds, Charlton and Colchester have all showed signs of nerves and dropped valuable points in recent weeks as the pressure hots up at the top of the table.
City haven't though. Not one bit. Home or away, they've simply ground out victory after victory. Relentlessly.
Regardless of whether they've been hugely impressive, mediocre or even slightly off-colour on the day.
It's worth putting that into perspective.
Because it is the sole reason why the Canaries are perched perfectly at the top of the tree right now after all.
t WE'VE STILL GOT THE 'BIG-HITTERS' ON BOARD
Thankfully the transfer window passed by without any major activity at Carrow Road as far as outgoings were concerned.
Which means that it's as good as guaranteed that City boss Paul Lambert will now have all his 'big-hitters' at his disposal between now and the end of the season, and a squad of players that at the moment has promotion firmly in its grasp.
I've often been asked how I view the capabilities of current side compared with that of last season. Although it's hypothetical given that several of the players who are currently performing so well in the team this term were also part of last season's nightmare campaign, and it is third tier opposition that City now face every week this term, I don't think there'd be many of us who would bet against the current side not beating last year's team if such a fixture was possible?
And, whilst guarding against getting too far ahead of myself, even accounting for the likelihood of the squad being strengthened should City achieve promotion back to the Championship, one look at the composition of the substitutes bench these days compared to that of last season - when the manager would often be struggling to fill it with experienced enough players - would suggest that the present team would certainly have the edge. They often say that the true strength of a squad can be found by looking at the substitutes bench.
Well, with players like Oli Johnson, Cody McDonald, Stephen Hughes, Matt Gill, Tom Adeyemi, Zack Whitbread and Anthony McNamee all having to bide their time on the sidelines recently, and not to mention inured players like Jens Berthel Askou and Mickey Spillane soon to be available for selection again and increasing the competition for places, in answer to another often asked question, I reckon the current side would more than hold its own in the Championship even now.
t What about Michael Rose's scorcher last week?
Not a bad way to start off at a new club, eh? He also looks very confident in possession of the ball, relishes a strong tackle, gets forward well, possesses a massive throw-in and -by all accounts- is a dead-ball specialist too. Looks like yet another excellent signing.
t WE CAN'T EXPECT THE LINESMEN TO GET IT RIGHT EVERY TIME
You might think I've completely lost the plot given that the next few paragraphs are about to sympathise with the task a linesman faces these days - (I refuse to call them referees assistants. They're linesmen).
But hold on. Hear me out.
Firstly, let me say that the standard of refereeing and 'lining' that we've been subjected to this season has undoubtedly left a lot to be desired in general.
In some of City's recent matches they have certainly made a right pig's ear of things at times. But we are in the third division after all. And so I suppose we have to accept that the Football League and FA will assign us with officials of relative standards!
However, there are occasions in matches when it is literally impossible for them to make accurate calls.
For instance, a linesman has to make a decision on whether an attacking player is offside based on any one or more of the following criteria. Is the player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played forward? Is he interfering with play? Has he touched the ball? Has he impeded an opponent? Is he 'actively' involved?… And many more.
He has to be looking at the player who is about to play the forward pass - who could be deep inside his own half - and then quickly turn his head and look along the defensive line -which could be deep inside the other half of the pitch.
That will take only a fraction of a second. But as everyone knows, a fraction of a second can make the difference between someone being in an offside position or not.
And then they must quickly calculate all the other aspects as well.
It's almost as if today's linesmen need brains with the computing power of one of NASA's space shuttles to decipher all those factors in an instant. Don't get me wrong, I'm no big fan of our friends with the whistles and flags - especially as virtually all of the yellow cards I received in my career were for mouthing off at them!
But we can't expect them to get it right every single time.