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Thursday, December 22, 2011
As far as I am concerned to really appreciate just how great life is as a Norwich fan at this moment in time, means going back even further than that most recent relegation year.
Because for me the years that preceded our drop into League Two were almost as grim – simply for the fact they were so mind-numbingly average.
After dropping out of the Premier League in 1995 there followed pretty much season upon season of mediocrity.
In 10 of those seasons we finished between ninth and 17th in the second tier of British football, no real hope of promotion and no real fear of going down.
The period was only briefly lit up by a couple of seasons when we finished sixth, eighth and first in the Championship, only, once promotion had been secured, to fall back down again at the first attempt.
Now I’m pretty sure it’s not just my memory failing, but how many games can you remember in the four seasons which followed our last spell in the top tier? Not many I bet. It was just so dull, so dull in fact that upon resuming my season ticket after moving back to Norwich five years ago I really had to work hard to convince the missus it was worth keeping.
That obviously became even harder upon our demise.
It’s too easy to use hindsight and say relegation was the best thing that happened to the club, but at least it allowed us to break out of this vicious cycle of mediocrity.
Because in the two and a half seasons since our last relegation, how many games not only remain in the memory, but will do so for may years to come?
Even our lowest point (you know the 7-1 defeat) was an unforgettable game.
You certainly couldn’t quibble at the value for money being served up at the minute. Note Mr McNally that’s not a reason to up next year’s prices!
Of course it’s that time of year when pretty much everyone stops to take stock and assess how their 12 months has gone.
And as far as the Canaries are concerned it couldn’t have been any better.
Looking back on this column at the same time last year things were also rosy in the Carrow Road garden.
As of December 23, 2010, City were in fifth place but just two points off the top two. But despite the fact it was our first season back in the Championship few would have been surprised. In Paul Lambert we trust of course.
I’m not so sure we could say the same 12 months on.
It’s not that we don’t continue to trust the manager, it’s just that the success of the last year has, for me, been so far beyond our wildest imaginations.
It’s simply been yet another superb year, memorable for all the right reasons. We have played 42 competitive games, of which 17 have been won, 15 drawn and just 10 lost.
That’s actually one fewer game than we lost in 2010.
We have scored 71 goals and let in 62.
That’s an average of more than three goals in every Norwich game, a figure which goes a long way to explain why it feels like entertainment is never in short supply. With it being that time of year I have decided to dish out a couple of seasonal awards. Let’s call it the David Powles’ Sports personality of 2011.
There are after all no women involved in these either.
Wishing every Norwich City fan a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
I daren’t dream of where we might be this time in 12 months.
• I have always been a glass half full kind of guy so can’t help but think it’s been another great couple of weeks for the club. Since the Manchester City defeat we have had three games, five points, seven goals for and five against. That’s top six form. As frustrating as it was to draw two games when winning, it feels like we’ve gone up another level in terms of both standard and expectation. This was highlighted by just how routine the Newcastle victory felt, and how disappointed so many were to have gotten just draws away at Everton and Wolves. The bar has been risen yet again by Lambert and his team.
• Have you noticed yet the England curse that befalls our players? It’s not that playing for them brings bad luck, simply being linked with the squad is enough to herald a downward spiral. First it was keeper John Ruddy who lost a bit of form just when there was talk of him being on Fabio Capello’s radar and then Bradley Johnson dropped out of the first eleven no sooner than the papers reported he was in an initial pre-squad squad for a game. Good then to see Ruddy back on form at the weekend and being deservedly praised for several saves. Most heartening was the speed and anticipation he showed to get off the line for two stops in particular as this has previously appeared to be one obvious weakness. Keep playing like that for the rest of the season and he might just squeeze on the Euro 2012 plane, next to Grant Holt of course who by then will be top scorer and revealed as Wayne Rooney’s replacement.
• At what stage should we stop referring to Russell Martin as a right-back filling in at centre-back? He looks so comfortable in that position now I do wonder if that’s where he will stay in the long term. Surely he now needs to issue some sort of release officially confirming what position we should regard him as being?
• I’m not sure who among the fans chooses the songs for players at Carrow Road (I think it would go too far to suggest they have a writer). However, can I suggest that whomever it may be comes up with a new choice for striker Steve Morison. The more we hear the repeated dull chants of “Morison, Morison”, the more evident it is that it simply won’t do.
• DAVID POWLES’ SPORTS PERSONALITY OF 2011
• Man of the Year
It can only be Paul Lambert. A man so loved in our fine city you wonder at what point a statue will be commissioned to replace the infamous city centre brain.
• Player of the Year
A close run thing this. It would be so easy to say Grant Holt.
Wes Hoolahan also deserves a mention. but for me it’s got to be Russell Martin, a player who I feel epitomises the spirit of this team every bit as much as our talismanic number 9.
• Moment of the Year
Surprisingly not the winner against Portsmouth which sealed promotion. Not even Russell Martin in his pants. But the late, late Simeon Jackson winner against Derby to make the score 3-2. I haven’t pogoed so much since Gene at the UEA in 1992.
• Goal of the Year
How about five of them? The five goals against Ipswich were each one of them superb. Forget what they meant and the fact Ipswich were so poor, they were all a real masterclass in how to pass and move your way to victory.
• Image of the Year
It has to be that great picture of brave Grant Holt slamming the ball in ahead of three Liverpool players, at least two of them bona fide legends. I wonder how much of a turning point in the Premier League this was for our skipper?
• Let down of the year
The hardest of all to pick because there have been so few negatives, but our 2011 cup record of played two, lost two, was probably the only slight disappointment. One to put right in 2012.