Here’s why I’m not happy with Norwich City striker Nelson Oliveira’s celebration
PUBLISHED: 11:30 08 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:58 08 August 2017
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Have we really only had one game of this season?
It’s hard to remember witnessing an opening day outpouring of emotion like the one we saw at Craven Cottage at the weekend.
A precious point away from home and getting the chance to blow away any lingering commentary cobwebs by yelling about a dramatic late equaliser all made for a satisfying start to the huge step into the unknown that is Norwich City’s season, even if we did get to see rather more of Nelson Oliveira, in every sense, than one might have anticipated when he was named on the bench for the match against Fulham.
Plenty has been said about his barnstorming, bare chested break towards Daniel Farke after finally giving City fans something to cheer about at Craven Cottage following more than 30 years of hurt.
That celebration sprint was performed with such pace that it probably meant Justin Gatlin was only the second fastest man in London on Saturday.
My main worry about Nelson’s less-than-subtle display is that he picked up the inevitable yellow card that greets the sight of a bare torso on a football pitch.
These cautions have a nasty habit of mounting up during the season and if we find he’s having to miss an East Anglian Derby for clocking up five bookings or another crunch game after Christmas for reaching 10 yellow cards then what Farke was happy to brush off in post-match interviews as a bit of Portuguese passion may not seem quite so easily excusable.
But this wasn’t the Fulham Full Monty and we need to look beyond the fact that a man took his shirt off in front of an easily excited crowd.
The true meaning of that equaliser was better demonstrated by the wild scenes in the away end at the ground.
Those celebrations from the Norwich City supporters were not those of a set of fans who had seen their side make it 1-1 on the opening day of a season but more of a group of perhaps relieved supporters who felt they were watching something potentially significant.
Look at the facts. Norwich City started that game with no fewer than seven new signings on the pitch plus James Maddison who was starting a league game for the club for the first time.
Six of those players had never started a Championship match before and four had never been involved in a league game in England and neither had the new head coach.
City found themselves 1-0 down away from home after an unfortunate own goal by their experienced captain to a well drilled side with just one debutant who had impressed on their way to the play-offs last season.
The odds seemed stacked against the Canaries from that point and the potential for the sort of collapse we’ve seen at Craven Cottage before, and at a few Championship grounds last season for that matter, was obvious, particularly to those of us who have been bruised by watching that scenario play out too many times.
This new-look Norwich City found a way to keep going and the constant fluidity of the formation suggested that plans B, C and even D have already been hatched to keep opponents guessing.
That willingness and ability to shuffle the pack during matches could be a huge advantage. Even if the equaliser hadn’t arrived, the performance would have been enough to take a little consolation but the fact that it did come, and just in the nick of time, provided just the sort of shot-in-the-arm that could do fans and a set of young-ish players a power of good as we find out together just how quickly this much changed outfit might be able to head in the right direction.
One game down, 45 to go. And the rest. It feels like this is going to be quite an eventful ride.
Of all the new signings on show at Fulham on Saturday it is Christoph Zimmermann who has been getting most plaudits.
The centre back deserved praise for an assured debut which saw him head and shoulders above everyone else on the field in a very literal sense.
There were two ways to look at Norwich City’s decision to sign a defender who had played under Daniel Farke last season.
He was someone who was only playing in the German fourth division but, thanks to the way the Bundesliga is structured, he was also good enough to be on the books of Borussia Dortmund, one of Europe’s finest clubs.
It would be silly to read too much into anyone’s performance so soon but the way he powered through pre-season, playing almost every minute of City’s eclectic programme of friendlies which took them from Cobh Ramblers to Lowestoft Town and Germany, suggested that being used to the physical demands placed on a squad by Farke has put him at an early advantage.
The Zimmermann signing has also exposed one weakness in the new recruitment structure at Carrow Road put together by sporting director Stuart Webber. During an enjoyable interview with us on BBC Radio Norfolk last week Webber conceded that the City Club Shop may not be getting many requests for the big German’s name to be printed on the back of replica shirts, especially not at the cost of £1 per letter.
It reminded me of when squad numbers were first introduced in the 1990s and how popular Ruel Fox seemed to be around Carrow Road with thrifty fans realising it was possible to have one of the star player’s names on their shirt without having to pay over the odds.
If the Fulham display is a sign of things to come from Zimmermann then he will be worth a tenner of anyone’s money.
But if you do see Norwich City getting linked with former Chelsea striker Demba Ba in the next transfer window you’ll know that those in the club’s merchandising department have been having a few words with Mr Webber.
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