Terri Westgate: Let's hear it for Zimbo Appreciation Society
I am often cited as a beacon of positivity amongst my Norwich City supporting friends and, less complimentarily, by some as a happy clapper.
Yet with the recent run of defeats and the Canaries sinking to the bottom of the table, even I was struggling to stay optimistic. I remained firmly behind the team of course and at the drop of the hat would provide a rallying call to show my support and belt out On The Ball City!
But did I still believe we would be able to salvage this season and rise above the dreaded dotted line of relegation?
The despondency I felt leaving Carrow Road after the Watford defeat slowly began to dissipate, and the distraction of an international break created some distance and time to heal. What we really needed though was some hope to lift us all. The Pukki Party and Finland's success was a welcome tonic, however the photos that came out of Colney last Thursday provided a real boost - Christoph Zimmerman was back.
I am a long term admirer of our imposing central defender. I'm by no means the first to recognise his potential, Daniel Farke certainly was way ahead of me on that. However I did vote for him as player of the season in his first year at the club, before he became the Championship winning captain we all adored - when of course I voted for him again (sorry Teemu). My one claim is that I was the first to coin the term Zimbo Appreciation Society and hashtag it all over Twitter.
So I have confessed my bias. But there was a real buzz amongst the fans when those pictures of Christoph appeared. Then in his pre-match presser Farke was suggesting that Zimmerman could even start against Everton. This was way ahead of schedule, and some were worried he was being rushed back too soon out of necessity. After all, what difference could one player make?
But Zimbo isn't just a player. He is the heart of the team and a leader in the truest sense. He has the determination not just to do his very best on the pitch, but to do all he can to make sure everyone else performs to their highest possible standard. He organises the defence, gives instructions and encouragement, bellows praise and remains completely focused for all 90 plus minutes of the game.
He is the rock, the foundation stone of the squad. He's also rather good at defending and can pass the ball rather nicely too.
I suspect it wasn't just the Norwich fans who were given a lift by seeing his name back on the team sheet. Reunited with Ben Godfrey in the centre of defence, it meant there was less to ask from Tim Krul behind and from Alex Tettey and Tom Trybull in front. This gave Max Aarons and Sam Byram the assurance to get forward, allowed Kenny McLean time to create, and the Todd Cantwell and Pukki one-two to blossom once more.
The Norwich team we knew and loved from last season re-emerged, and the Farkeball that had given us wins against Man City and Newcastle was back in full flow. Todd and Dennis Srbeny rightly should get praise for their goals, and Byram for effortlessly slotting in and replacing the injured and ever reliable Jamal Lewis. Everyone played with the confidence that had been draining away when the defeats and injuries were piling up.
It's just one match, just three points. Yet it lifts us off the bottom of the table, and more importantly gives us all that much needed hope. In retrospect "appreciation society" seems a little understated, but it suits our humble hero. Confidence is ephemeral thing. Once lost it is difficult to regain, and often you see teams disappearing down a relegation spiral when results start to go against them. There was a chance that Norwich could start heading in that direction, but the descent has been stopped in its tracks.
By an unyielding granite of a roadblock in the shape of Christoph Zimmerman.