David Hannant: Every season has defining moments - this one has had several
PUBLISHED: 17:30 06 February 2019 | UPDATED: 20:24 06 February 2019
In all my years as a Norwich City fan I've come to realise each and every season has one, truly defining moment; the one moment that sets the tone for the rest of the season and tells you how it is going to pan out.
Particularly in seasons that have ended in either promotion or relegation, there’s always that one game, that one result, that one stroke of luck or misfortune.
For example, Leon McKenzie’s debut double to take City top of the league at Portman Road back in 2003-04 stands out as one – although arguably the Darren Huckerby ‘will he, won’t he?’ finally becoming ‘he will’ also stacks up.
Or Paul Lambert exacting sweet, sweet revenge for the very defeat he inflicted on the Canaries during the League One season. That was the moment I knew we were bouncing straight back up.
And how about Simeon Jackson completing his hat-trick at the very death against Derby the following season – though I’m still unconvinced he knew anything about it. But those types of moment.
On the flip side, you could look at the thumping away win against Newcastle in Alex Neil’s Premier League campaign as another – a case of once bitten that changed City’s entire approach to the season. Similarly, that campaign could also be defined by that game at home to Liverpool – you know the one.
Last season was probably defined by the frustrating goalless draw with Burton. Less said the better.
It may only be February, but I can’t help but feel that this season has already had its watershed moment. In fact, I think it may well have already had more than one.
Of course, Sunday morning’s* stunning victory at Elland Road obviously stands out and no doubt will continue to do so come May.
The way Daniel Farke’s side set out against the then league leaders was nothing short of stunning.
The word composure was said countless times by match commentators and that was exactly what was there.
City pressed endlessly, were clinical in front of goal and frustrated the surveillance enthusiasts without resorting to your typical frustration tactics.
For weeks, the pessimists among us have been desperate for the occasion to finally arise when City are ‘finally found out’. The run we are on is extraordinary but still there is a lingering feeling that the bubble will eventually burst.
However, thus far, there’s still air inside the bubble and the rate it’s rising, it is probably helium.
Elland Road, though, was the most emphatic statement thus far that bursting is the last thing on the mind of this particular bubble.
But is it the one and only moment that we will look back on as being the one that most sums up this team, this season and – deep breath – this promotion?
For me, the season has already been jam-packed with moments that tell you everything you need to know about this season.
Millwall in November is a great example of it and a game I will hold near and dear for a long, long time.
The way Jordan Rhodes followed up a dramatic late equaliser by grabbing the ball, pumping his fist and urging his team-mates to go on and win it – which they actually did.
The way that winner came about – by vehemently sticking to the ethos, moving the ball quickly and carving through the Lions’ defence. That little bit of luck from Teemu Pukki to get that winner.
And then there’s Forest. Forest, Forest, Forest. The very epitome of this team’s never-say-die attitude. That too could be the defining point of the season – the coverage of which on Sky TV served as the perfect microcosm for how this team has been. No way back for the league’s great escapologists this time, eh Jeff and Bianca?
You could get even more microscopic in picking moments – the way Max Aarons was rallied around after his one and only real mistake of the season. He’s been more electric than ever since, epitomized by the goal-line clearance on Sunday.
You could even say the season could be defined by the other Leeds result – the one that made Farke re-evaluate.
Harking back to the eighth paragraph of this column, it may only be February, but already we have dozens of moments to remember this campaign by – and whatever happens it will certainly be remembered.
But with it only being February, there’s more than ample opportunity to create a few more – so let’s start on Sunday and give them lot the battering of a lifetime! OTBC
I’m writing this column while sitting in Adelaide, South Australia, so for me, it was a rather sociable 4am kick-off!
Cheeky derby maths
Last week, my column buddy Ian Clarke got his calculator out and did some good old-fashioned mathematics to predict how many points City could end the season with.
This inspired me to do some cheeky maths of my own (emphasis on the word cheeky). So ... just when will it become mathematically impossible for Ipswich to finish above Norwich? To do this, it was simply a case of working out what is left to play for by the way of points – and how many points City need to surpass Ipswich’s maximum possible tally.
Town have 16 games left – 48 points to play for with 18 currently on the board. Were they to (somehow) win the lot, they would finish on 66 points. As it stands, City sit top of the tree on 57 – so need just nine points to tie Ipswich’s maximum. So three wins will do it.
But with Town up next, a City win would bring down Town’s maximum to 63 while putting us on 60. So, win the next two games and it’s St Ippingham’s Day!
Mo way back?
I never thought I’d be writing this about a player I’ve spent the vast majority of the season purring over, but I honestly don’t see how Mo Leitner is going to win his place back.
Last time around I wrote about how well Mario Vrancic has filled his boots – and he’s just got better and better.
Just as we saw with Grant Hanley, I think the slick German may have to play the waiting game to get his starting berth back.
In the recent weeks, Vrancic has added a real extra dimension to his game – chipping in with important goals, pulling the creative strings and putting his foot in whenever needed.
Tom Trybull has also looked terrific. Ditto Emi Buendia. Onel Hernandez is just such a different player and Marco Stiepermann can’t be too far out of the running for player of the season. In fact, I’m struggling to think of a more complete midfield than the one we currently have. While I have no doubt that whenever Mo needs to be called on he’ll deliver, but I officially take back what I previously said about him walking straight back in.