Paddy Davitt verdict: Remember the Moxey era? No, good. But City have travelled many a mile since
PUBLISHED: 19:15 06 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:48 07 January 2019
Sometimes it pays to look at what is happening at Norwich City through the eyes of outsiders.
Take Portsmouth manager Kenny Jackett. An experienced operator who has had a positive impact pretty much everywhere he has pitched up.
Certainly with Pompey, who appear well set to return to the Championship next season.
Andre Green’s 94th minute stoppage time winner settled a cup tie that tilted on its axis when Grant Hanley upended Ronan Curtis.
Daniel Farke did not share the official’s view of the pivotal incident, either regarding the deliberate nature of Hanley’s actions or the chances of Curtis actually testing Michael McGovern.
But given the Canaries’ poise with ten men for nearly 80 minutes it is entirely plausible to suggest with a full quota they would have booked a place in the fourth round, and bucked the club’s modern-day trend in the FA Cup. No matter.
City have ample compensation in a promotion scrap that carries far longer-lasting benefits than a headline or two, a pound or two more in the coffers and inevitable disappointment when the established order in the Premier League get a sight of Wembley.
This was ultimately an afternoon of frustration but Jackett offered an insight into where Norwich City football club is heading.
He peppered his post-match media briefing with glowing praise about the ‘buoyancy’ he detected in Farke’s much-changed squad.
The ‘quality’ of reinforcements who could come in, among eight home changes from the New Year’s Day league line up at Brentford.
But just as tellingly, Jackett spoke of the ‘positivity’ he had encountered swirling around Carrow Road; a sense of optimism and renewal.
More than 23,000 were attracted by sensible pricing and swelled by a large travelling contingent. Contrast that attendance with the 12,479 who elected to watch Southampton’s third round visit two years ago. Many stayed away in protest at the excessive ticket prices.
It was the ill-fated era of Jez Moxey and Alex Neil’s failing attempts to engineer another Championship comeback at the first attempt, after top flight demotion.
The mood in general was fractious, the disconnect between club and fan base obvious. Now the Canaries are getting so much right in every aspect, and those ripples are being felt inside the football bubble.
It is not just about league status and a surprise Premier League promotion push; albeit that is the most obvious illustration of good practice.
It is not just the elevation of youth, partly from financial necessity, partly to fit a cultural shift and philosophy shaped by Stuart Webber and Farke.
It is also the upbeat mood, the infectious feeling pushing supporters along. Home games are now a feast of incident, drama and entertainment.
This time 12 months ago the curve was bending south at an alarming rate and the questions outweighed the answers.
Jackett captured that essence when framing his own side’s achievement in knocking out the Canaries. But it was also evident in the reaction to this defeat from the majority of Norwich fans. There were no recriminations, no post-mortem, no toxic response to another early FA Cup exit. That is because Farke and his squad have credit in the bank.
The only loser from the tie is arguably Hanley. A season that started with the symbolic gesture of being handed the armband, to underline his vital leadership role within Farke’s group, has descended into a fitful campaign punctuated by injury and now suspension. Perhaps Hanley’s desire to impress on his first competitive start since a derby date at Ipswich back on September 2 proved his undoing.
That Portman Road league duel ended in a 1-1 draw, which did not play well among many City fans fearful it marked a continuation of a regressive trend.
But if you want to measure Norwich’s rate of progress since look at the fallout that accompanied Ipswich’s own FA Cup defeat to lower league opposition.
Paul Lambert muttered darkly about the end of the line for some of his under-performing players, after surrendering at Accrington. It may well have been reached before he arrived on a salvage mission.
When the prospect of ending a wretched derby run is the only thing to look forward to for the remainder of this season you know times are bad.
That Carrow Road date next month is one to relish.
But there will be plenty more good days, than the bad one against Pompey, to look forward to if City keep to the same course.