March 15 2014 Latest news:
Friday, May 18, 2012
It’s ‘final column of the season’ time yet there’s still so much to talk about. After all, the European Championships have already taken over the coverage mantle from the domestic season.
• We have a few TV screens in the Carrow Road press box and for the first time, there was justification to stick on a different match to the one playing out in front of us. What an incredible finalé to the season. It’s just a shame Carlos Tevez and his banners, and Joey Barton and his temper, leaves you feeling that the good guys missed out on the champagne. Still, a remarkable end to a crazy season.
• Two slightly obscure details that should make you proud of Norwich City. In League One this season Sheffield Wednesday averaged crowds of 21,500. And Sheffield United didn’t manage that for their play-off semi-final. Both marks are fewer than City averaged in the third tier.
• This is my final column of the season, so a big thanks to all who have taken the time to read it and comment online and through Twitter. It may well be an interesting summer ahead – and I’m already looking forward to writing on the other side of it…
For what it’s worth, I think both John Ruddy and Grant Holt should be in any squad and stand-by list.
Making the final 23 may be pushing it for Holt, simply for the fact not enough people seem to be giving him enough credit.
At least pundit Alan Smith offered more of a reason than the incisive “nah” from Mark Lawrenson and Alan Shearer.
The ex-Arsenal man said Holt is very good at everything, but for international football you need to also be outstanding at one thing – be it pace, in the air etc. I’d argue Holt ticks the boxes marked goalscoring and leadership, but others continue to doubt it.
As for Ruddy, it’s simple. He has delivered this season and should be in Roy Hodgson’s final list of three heading to Poland and Ukraine. And don’t worry about him postponing his wedding – the man Holt labelled on Sunday as “tight” has wedding insurance. I got married myself a couple of years ago, and I didn’t even know wedding insurance existed…
But all the Euros chatter could well be over by the time this column hits some of your doorsteps, so instead it should be all about a remarkable campaign where Norwich equalled their 1993-94 Premier League finish – at the time, a 22-club division.
Let’s put that into context. City are now back at the level they were in the season they competed in the Uefa Cup. A simplistic comparison, but still valid.
This term, almost every box has been ticked. As soon as the fixtures came out, it was a case of booking 17th place and safety – hopefully before that horrible run-in. Paul Lambert’s men delivered it.
In the end Swansea finished as top promoted club – maybe that comes from making one step up in two seasons, rather than taking on three divisions in three years.
But then, doubles over those in Wales and west London shouldn’t be forgotten either.
The best performance of the campaign for me was at Spurs – an all-out effort of assured defending and chance-creating endeavour away from home, a matter of days after a gruelling draw with Everton. The performances at Manchester United, Swansea and even on Sunday were also superb.
Game of the season is an easy one, as it’s probably one of the best games I’ve ever seen City involved in. Those 90 minutes at The Emirates were incredible. Remember that Premier League away record in 2004-05?
As it happens I called the player of the season top three in my column last week – I had no inside information, honest. It also means I have no complaints over the result. Just a hope that David Fox is still here next season, and a joy in seeing a City legend in our lifetime in Mr Holt.
As I have shared elsewhere already, I have a favourite moment from the season too. It’s seemingly low key. Almost obscure.
It’s the second half at The Emirates and the Gooners are livid at their Champions League hopes seemingly evaporating.
Grant Holt wins a free-kick from Laurent Koscielny in the centre-circle. The red majority of 60,000 supporters are up in arms, spitting abuse at the City skipper who stands there, arms outstretched protesting his innocence.
It’s the same gesture we have all seen – and rather come to love – in front of 4,000 furious fans at Yeovil and 4,500 at Scunthorpe. And now happening at Arsenal.
It’s an image to sum up the greatest three years in this club’s history, one of the most incredible rises in English football and the genius of Paul Lambert.
For that reason, and for the third season, it’s been an absolute pleasure.