Was this the turning point for Norwich City boss Chris Hughton?
11:26 10 September 2012
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
At last the madness that is the transfer deadline has passed and City’s squad is finalised until January. Nine new faces have arrived; four of them current internationals as well as a striker highly regarded by all of the Spurs fans I spoke to on Saturday.
Consequently, we have a significantly stronger squad both in terms of depth and experience than last season.
Had Paul Lambert still been in charge I suspect that we would be hearing universal praise for his acumen, yet still there seem to be some who haven’t fully embraced Chris Hughton.
However, week by week the unfounded gripes are being dismissed. The suggestion that he’s a defensive manager wedded to a single striker formation now looks totally laughable, although not as much as the suggestion that he won’t get the same levels of effort out of the players as his predecessor.
Saturday’s game demonstrated the perfect combination of flowing movement, imagination and sheer hard work and surely must have won over the bulk of the remaining doubters.
I’m not going to suggest that Lambert wasn’t one of the great City managers, but the world moves on. I’ve seen the likes of Ron Saunders, John Bond and Mike Walker leave and thought the world was going to end, but it never did, and in my view Hughton could turn out to be as successful as any of them.
Whilst he’s the antithesis of Lambert in terms of his easy-going interview style, anyone who doubts his polite exterior doesn’t hide a core of steel is severely mistaken. This man is a winner.
That fact was perfectly illustrated in the build-up to this match. Although Hughton’s fulsome praise for the club where he spent 27 years of his life could have been interpreted as overly deferential, once the whistle blew City showed Spurs no respect whatsoever as their players were harried all over the pitch.
For the fans it’s a long trek from Seven Sisters tube station to White Hart Lane, but for the second season running the return journey was like floating on air after a City performance which was even more impressive than last season’s.
While last year City rode their luck at times, on Saturday the midfield and back four looked totally in control, only being unpicked by one piece of individual brilliance by Moussa Dembele, while Brad Friedel was called upon to make three outstanding saves as well as being saved by the woodwork. It certainly wasn’t the performance of a team that lacks confidence or commitment.
In fact, unlike the slightly surreal atmosphere at Fulham, it was a return to the sort of away days that we enjoyed last season, not just in terms of the team effort, but also the travelling support.
I knew we’d made plenty of noise, but watching the game again on Football First I was amazed at how clearly the Yellow Army could be heard, with barely a peep from the Spurs fans until their side scored. It was a great effort and it was good to hear a chorus of “There’s only one Chris Hughton” at the end.
Last year’s third game saw a great performance at Chelsea that gave notice that the Canaries could compete with the best. This year’s may well mark the point at which City ceased to be Lambert’s team and became unequivocally Hughton’s.
Unfortunately, having established some good momentum we now have the artificial hiatus of an international weekend, and, of course, we will have more players involved than ever before.
While that’s not ideal in terms of the injury risk, it graphically demonstrates the way in which the club continues to move forward both on and off the field. This is going to be tough season, but I have the utmost faith in this squad and, particularly, this manager.