Norwich City’s aerial prowess was never more apparent than in Newcastle’s sorry demise at Carrow Road.

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I’m not a great lover of statistics, but even I am prepared to accept City’s lead at the top of the current Premier League rankings when it comes to headed goals is good for business.

All four that sunk the Magpies had a common theme. Wes Hoolahan’s messy opener owed plenty to Andrew Crofts’ forehead meeting Andrew Surman’s initial corner.

Grant Holt and Steve Morison have many a plus point to their individual games, but you would struggle to find an alternative pair operating in the top flight who carry such aerial potency.

You’d love to have run one of those speed guns – now sadly long gone from Skysports’ coverage – on Morison’s tracer bullet for Norwich’s third just past the hour mark. Holt was shaping to volley just behind the Welsh international, but it’s doubtful the skipper’s pending connection with right boot would have matched the ferocity of Morison’s bonce.

Whether by accident or design, Paul Lambert has a weapon of destruction at his disposal that the brightest minds in the opposition ranks this season have yet to fully nullify. Aston Villa’s imposing centre backs Richard Dunne and James Collins relished the physical challenge against City’s strikers at Villa Park before the recent international break – but it’s worth recalling Morison’s far post header from Holt’s inviting cross gave Norwich hope of another late comeback.

But there appears to be a downside.The sort this country is famed for. I’m sweeping up the generalisations here, I know, but I have a finite number of column inches to play with. The more successful those in our society seemingly become, the greater the risk of envy or jealously; to paraphrase one of Manchester’s finest, Morrissey.

I can detect no other viable explanation why the Canaries’ aerial mastery at the weekend has been painted rather haughtily in some sections of the national media and amongst opposition fans as a signal Lambert’s side is direct, uncompromising, long ball, dare I type it. All those themes were evident in the aftermath of Saturday’s 4-2 win.

Suggestions so far wide of the mark as to be laughable. Lambert sent out a team containing David Fox, Wes Hoolahan and Surman; three technicians who can spot a pass and thread it long or short with the best of them.

City’s success at the weekend came from playing to their strengths. If that meant exploiting weaknesses in an injury-hit Newcastle backline, so be it. I recall Manchester United won a European Cup against Bayern Munich with a goal not dissimilar to Norwich’s first against the Magpies. David Beckham’s corner from the right. Teddy Sheringham’s towering knockdown and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer on the spot to divert from close range.

If a goal of such simplicity is good enough to win the greatest club prize in world football, it should certainly do for the Canaries and any of the detractors unsettled by Norwich’s ability to skillfully hover above terra firma.


Mario Balotelli. Part enigma, part one-man tabloid storm.

The Italian’s impact since arriving on these shores can be measured in both goals and column inches. Mario was at it again this week following his unique finish against the Canaries at the Etihad for Manchester’s City fourth where he opted for one of the less obvious parts of the anatomy to brush home from a matter of inches.

Balotelli can play. No doubt, and he served fresh notice of the immense talent within that powerful frame when he shrugged off Branislav Ivanovic before calmly rounding Petr Cech to nudge City in front in Monday’s pulsating 2-1 Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge. It was the perfect riposte to more off-the-field stories after he apparently broke a curfew on the eve of the Chelsea game; much to the reported chagrin of Roberto Mancini.

I care little about Mario’s penchant for collecting parking fines around Manchester city centre or his desire to set off fireworks inside his palatial abode. Or even his wish to sneak away for an out-of-hours curry. I do, however, tire of the surly manner Balotelli celebrates scoring goals in the sky blue shirt.

The impudent finish against Norwich was met with a moody stare and a slow walk back to the centre circle. Mario bore the look of a man who had lost a Catherine Wheel and discovered a sparkler.

He was at it again on Monday night. Some ‘Chris Eubank-style’ posturing in front of the Chelsea fans before James Milner and Sergio Aguero wisely guided him back towards the centre of the pitch.

Millions who love our national game will only ever be able to imagine what that sensation feels like – how Grant Holt must have felt when he buried that spine-tingling stoppage time penalty against Blackburn this season. Or Simeon Jackson when he scrambled home against Derby at the same Barclay End last campaign to trigger a serious risk of structural damage to the Carrow Road foundations.

Balotelli is not alone. His Manchester City team mate Adam Johnson appears to be another exponent of the understated celebration. Nor is it solely a modern-day phenomenon. Liverpool and Real Madrid wide player Steve McManaman was never averse to a shrug of the shoulders to commemorate a wonder strike.

Thankfully, I can’t recall this malaise infecting any of the Canaries’ goal celebrations this season. Long may it remain so.





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