Victory that summed up Norwich City’s spirit
08:00 31 March 2012
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If someone were to ask me to illustrate in microcosm everything that has been great about Norwich City over the last three seasons I would unhesitatingly point to the footage of the closing minutes of Saturday’s game.
With our captain back in the dressing room and Wolves building up a head of steam, every single player in yellow and green upped their game to ensure that the points would be secure. Bodies were thrown into the path of shots, key challenges were won and hopeless causes chased, and when Mark Clattenburg eventually blew the final whistle the roar of released tension from the crowd was visceral in its intensity.
Passions were running high on and off the pitch, and we even had the unusual sight of a very public spat between John Ruddy and Elliott Ward after a misplaced pass. Although that caused a few raised eyebrows, no harm was done and I think it actually demonstrated both players’ absolute commitment to the cause.
In fact, on field tiffs are pretty common in football. I once managed a club where the two centre-backs and the sweeper, all good friends off the pitch, never stopped bitching at each other on it, resulting in some cracking arguments. However, it was just their way of motivating both themselves and each other and it worked .
With Wigan winning at Anfield and other strugglers picking up points recently (although QPR’s cause has been further damaged by the fact that Djibril Cisse currently appears to be channelling the spirit of Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris), it was important to get another three points on the board. Hopefully now we can all settle down and enjoy the remaining games without the R word being mentioned.
The question now, of course, is where do we go from here?
It was interesting to read a comment made by Tony Pulis after the Stoke game to the effect that the goal of every team outside the top six is to get to 40 points.
While that’s something of an indictment of the lack of genuine competition in the Premiership it shows the mindset of the majority of clubs, but Paul Lambert doesn’t strike me as a manager for whom survival alone is a long term option.
Season by season he has overhauled and improved the squad and consistently exceeded expectations, but this will be his biggest challenge yet. Many people have talked about “second season syndrome” and Wolves’ imminent return to the Championship after three seasons shows the danger of not being sufficiently progressive, a problem shared by Birmingham and Hull in recent years.
Wolves fans tell me that their board has developed the stadium while not backing the manager in developing the squad and are about to pay the price, having dumped Mick McCarthy only to find that none of their targets actually wanted the job.
Our manager, on the other hand, has the backing of a forward thinking board and a young squad, many of whom can be expected to develop even further.
In addition to that, the club’s financial position is strengthening; a process, which will be further, aided by another season of Premiership football, and with no major ground development imminent the transfer kitty can hopefully be maximised.
We all know that Paul Lambert is ambitious and there is no reason why those ambitions shouldn’t be realised here, in an environment where he is revered and isn’t under pressure to deliver trophies to order for an impatient owner.
He has already shown that competitive teams can be built by good judgement without mortgaging the future and that success can be had without filling the dressing room with big egos.
Who would bet against him raising the bar yet again?