No shirkers at City
PUBLISHED: 11:39 16 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:46 02 July 2010
Certain things that managers say stick in players' minds. They don't necessarily have to lay down the law in black and white for you, but if you've got anything about you and are prepared to listen, it's not difficult to know what they expect.
Certain things that managers say stick in players' minds.
They don't necessarily have to lay down the law in black and white for you, but if you've got anything about you and are prepared to listen, it's not difficult to know what they expect. Everton manager Howard Kendall would demand honesty from his players.
I only remember him actually saying as much on one occasion, but it was enough for the message to hit home.
“If you make a mistake,” he said matter-of-factly, “hold your hands up and acknowledge it to your team-mates.”
And 99 per cent of the time, everyone did. It created a strong bond in the squad, because while it was essential that you would dig each other out from time to time if ever standards dropped below what was expected, by the same token you knew that everyone would accept responsibility rather than try to pass the buck.
It's a priceless commodity in football. And I saw it among the Canaries last Saturday during the times when they became frustrated because they had been sloppy with their play, or whenever the referee had infuriated them with some of his dreadful decisions. And I saw it when things weren't going according to plan at Orient in midweek.
Everyone accepted his own share of responsibility. No one tried to cheat when mistakes were made or frustration had or was about to take hold, because in such cases the easiest thing in the world is to apportion blame anywhere but at yourself.
I've seen it many times on a football pitch. Everyone knew there were certain players who would throw their arms in the air, play to the crowd and try to shield themselves from criticism by blaming someone else, even when they were primarily to blame.
But no one in a yellow shirt did that in these last two matches. The City players continued to stick with each other. Just as they have done all season in all fairness. It's not the sole reason why the team is where it is in the league at present, but it's certainly one of them.
t FANS HAVE ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL ROLE TO PLAY AT THIS TIME
The City fans have been brilliant this season, absolutely brilliant - just as they have been for a good number of years now.
Full houses at home every game and hugely passionate and noisy away followings makes Norwich the envy of many a team. And the supporters still have a massive role to play in these final few games. It goes without saying that they will stick by the team come what may, but if, and it's a big 'if,' it takes a little longer than might have been expected in order to secure promotion, we must avoid panicking at all costs.
True, at Orient on Tuesday night City were as ineffective as they have been for a long time, but if there was any nervousness amongst the faithful afterwards it just might have been because we have basically been spoilt this season and have pleasingly not had to deal with defeat on a regular basis. It can't always be goal-laden easy victories in the manner it was earlier on in the campaign, and we can't expect City not to have any off-days. Form fluctuates. But as I said to someone afterwards, just take a look at the league table if you're feeling excessively nervous.
A seven-point cushion on the third place team with just four games of the season remaining is something you can usually only dream about. It's just that with City having enjoyed an even healthier points advantage in recent weeks, seven points doesn't seem quite so comfortable now.
But, of course, the team are still in a fantastic position. If Millwall lose at Huddersfield tonight, then City can effectively achieve promotion with a win at Charlton tomorrow afternoon.
But even if City lose at The Valley tomorrow and Millwall, Leeds and Swindon all win this weekend, the Canaries will still be in pole position. And they'll still have two very winnable home games in their remaining three fixtures as insurance. We simply mustn't forget that.
t MR FRIEND WAS ON HIS OWN OVER HAND BALL
When Gary Doherty attempted to volley the ball back across the face of goal last Saturday, only for Aaron Wilbraham to catch it, then sign his autograph on it and finally throw it behind the goal line to safety, I just wonder what was going on in the mind of referee Mr Kevin Friend?
Had his attention been diverted by something in one of the front rows of the River End?
Did the bright sunshine reflect from the windows of one of the hospitality boxes directly into his eyes?
Or did he suffer from a momentary bout of glaucoma?
Because he simply can't have seen what everyone else saw.
MK Dons Chairman Pete Winkelman said afterwards that he couldn't believe that it wasn't a penalty. Their manager Paul Ince said that it was definitely a spot-kick; 24,000 City fans all screamed in unison that it was a penalty. Even the fourth official said that it was a stonewall penalty for heaven's sake, and they always, but always offer up an excuse of sorts at contentious incidents like that in order to try to defend their colleagues' decisions. Not this time though, because even fourth officials can't defend the indefensible!
Basically, everyone inside the stadium knew that it was a penalty. All except the one person whose opinion mattered most.
They say that decisions like that even themselves out in the long term, don't they?
Well, if that is indeed true, given some of the horrendous decisions they have been subjected to from the men in black over the last nine months, at least we can look forward to the Canaries enjoying an absolute a shed-load of refereeing decisions going their way very soon!