Michael Bailey: One of the great nights to be a Norwich City supporter
Focus Images 2011
So, have we all come down from the ceiling yet? Thought not.
Be it walking to Carrow Road as a child in a small yellow shirt to watch a goalless draw with Charlton, or having this brilliant job and giving five fist pumps in the sardine tin surroundings of the Portman Road press box – Thursday night was one of the greatest of nights to be a Norwich City fan.
There will be plenty of Canary supporters in Suffolk on Thursday who had to stand through that 5-0 pasting back in 1998. Or even just two seasons ago, when a 3-2 defeat all but condemned City to third tier football in front of their bitter enemies south of the Waveney.
Those days hurt. They hurt for years to come.
And then there is the flip side. The way 2003 brings a warm glow – and could well find itself joined by 2011 as, not just an historic occasion in its own right, but a glorious episode of a silver-lined City season.
Aside from the monumental performance we all witnessed with City’s 5-1 humbling of Ipswich Town on their own patch on Thursday, two noticeable points stand out.
Firstly, on a night when the pressure really was on the Canaries – playing before the rest of their automatic promotion rivals – they delivered. Since Paul Lambert arrived at the club, it has never been anything different.
The relaxed and focused way the manager and players set about their pre-match media duties on Wednesday belied how pretty much everyone else outside Colney was feeling.
They talked the talk, and then walked it. Literally.
“Everybody in the city will handle the pressure differently,” said Lambert before Thursday’s clash. “It’s just about how I handle it and how the players handle it.
“The lads know the pressure is there but the beauty about them is they are not buckling and they are not wilting in any way.”
And the beauty of Lambert is he gets what he asks his players for.
Maybe the player to best sum up that point is Simeon Jackson – arguably the other stand-out talking point from the last few weeks at Carrow Road.
No one should ignore the fact a few fingers were being pointed during the winter months at the former Gillingham man, who arrived here with a price tag and a reputation that was always going to ramp up the expectancy.
It clicked early on at Bristol City, where Jackson helped himself to an impressive brace, but not often enough to appease some.
And it probably didn’t help that a certain Cody McDonald was scoring goals for fun down in League Two at Jackson’s former hunting ground – however big the step up to the Championship is from there.
When handed the odd start – and then proceeding to miss the odd chance – things are always going to be tough for a striker.
But it is fair to say most will feel the boy has come good.
Jackson turned 24 on March 28 – and bagged what, for him, was a season-defining 18-minute hat-trick from the bench against Scunthorpe five days later.
And what price now that equaliser at Watford, when even the Canaries’ much vaunted character would have been sorely tested by back-to-back defeats for the first time in the same season under Lambert’s tutelage, at a time when backsides get squeaky?
What you need at this stage of the season is form; players coming to the fore, no matter what has gone before. A feeling you trust those around you to deliver.
Jackson is in fine form – five goals in five games – while his pace is starting to add an extra dimension to those brought by Grant Holt, Wes Hoolahan and co.
Even last season’s third tier title winners occasionally looked a little short of genuine pace.
We are heading into a different world from where City were that campaign. And that makes any amount of hurt worthwhile.
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