Melissa Rudd: Why I'm giving in to hope rather than great expectations
PUBLISHED: 17:13 08 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:13 08 August 2018
In the 13-week period that Norwich City's fortunes did not pre-occupy supporters' minds this summer, those of us who followed every kick of England's exploits in Russia were reminded how special this game can be when hope far outweighs expectation.
For the past decade the national team had gone to major tournaments as fancied contenders and returned home early, struck down by their desperation not to fail rather than being fuelled by the fire to succeed.
This time, nobody was talking up the chances of Gareth Southgate’s young charges. For all the ironic chants of ‘Football’s Coming Home’, no-one seriously expected them to be minutes from reaching a World Cup final. The result was a glorious few weeks that saw the nation come together and celebrate each victory rather than fearing being let down on the big occasion.
When it comes to Norwich’s season, I’ve decided that’s the kind of approach I’m going to take.
That’s not to say I haven’t been excited by some of the business done this summer, but Angus Gunn, Harrison Reed and James Maddison were arguably City’s best three players last season in a team which finished 14th, and all have moved on.
Much has been written about Maddison’s contribution and filling the hole such a talent leaves will seem impossible. Add to that the departure of Josh Murphy and with Nelson Oliveira’s future looking increasingly like it lies away from Norfolk, it’s not surprising that some fans are fearing how Daniel Farke will address the issue of not scoring enough goals. Combined, those three contributed 30 of just 49 City managed in the previous campaign.
The Norwich boss is pinning a lot on Jordan Rhodes rediscovering goalscoring form in this division, and Teemu Pukki adding some bite to what was at times a toothless attack. Time will tell if they are up to the task, but existing players have to step up too.
Much like Onel Hernandez did twice at Birmingham on Saturday. What a way to kickstart the season having not found the net in 12 previous league appearances.
His performance was a reminder that as well as six new signings and Moritz Leitner’s move made permanent, Norwich could reap the benefits of last season’s recruits finding their feet in the Championship. Dennis Srbeny’s exquisite work in assisting Hernandez’s second only reinforced the notion that we haven’t seen the best of those players yet.
A point away at a club who only just avoided the drop and were hampered by a transfer embargo perhaps isn’t the flying start to 2018/19 that many fans would have dreamed of, but the nature of Hernandez’s stoppage time equaliser at least means there is a positive feeling ahead of City’s first home fixture against West Brom on Saturday.
If scoring more goals is high on Farke’s list of priorities, then improving Norwich’s form at Carrow Road has to be just as important. Managing just three wins at home until the turn of the year was a terrible return, and eight wins from 23 in total underlined why Norwich were never close to challenging for the play-offs.
It’s a statistic that needs to be improved and if doing so means playing with more attacking intent from the start in order to break down teams rather than reacting to what happens over 90 minutes, supporters would surely be in favour.
As for West Brom, Norwich’s very own Yanic Wildschut ensured they endured a sobering return to the second tier. The loanee’s 89th minute winner for relegation-tipped Bolton at The Hawthorns last weekend would have shocked Darren Moore’s side, but snatching a point late on at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night would no doubt have lifted their spirits ahead of the trip to East Anglia.
Whether you travel to away games or not, the opening home fixture of a season is always something to look forward to. The majority of those in attendance would not have seen new signings in action, and after a summer break supporters are once again desperate for their fortnightly Carrow Road fix.
We have been treated to a somewhat mixed bag over the past few seasons…this time let’s hope it is a result to savour rather than write off.