Alex Pritchard on his star Norwich City turn in the middle, his former club Brentford and getting a headache from returning leader Jonny Howson
PUBLISHED: 21:02 04 December 2016 | UPDATED: 21:02 04 December 2016
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The smiles said it all as Norwich City ran riot over Brentford – and Alex Pritchard was happy to run the show.
Given a central role from the start for the first time, Alex Neil’s big summer signing made a major repayment towards his £8m fee by ending City’s five-game losing streak and finally lifting the mood around Carrow Road.
“It’s a big relief,” beamed the 23-year-old. “It’s nice to see smiles on people’s faces. It’s about time, and hopefully we can keep that going.
“It was crucial just for the fans, to come here and see a good performance and goals, and keep a clean sheet even. It was perfect.
“We owed it to everyone. We had to put in a performance. We had to get a result. Any sort of a win would have been perfect for us, but it was magical and 5-0, it was a great performance.”
That also went for Pritchard’s man of the match efforts as his late goal and exquisite assist for Robbie Brady highlighted a great afternoon’s work – and the promise of more to come.
“The assist and the goal was good,” added Pritchard. “I’ve been craving a league goal and I’m thankful it came here. The pressing and the way we moved the ball in the final third, it was fluid and it was great play, we created a lot of chances today.”
It looked pretty clear cut from the stands and the press box – and the ringing in Pritchard’s ears said it was exactly the same out on the Carrow Road pitch.
“It was massive to have him back, massive,” said the City forward, fresh from a mouth-watering performance in his favoured central role that could yet prove a defining moment in the Canaries’ Championship season.
“He’s just a leader. You saw it today. He was shouting out orders. He gave me a headache on the pitch. He just kept talking but that’s what we need and that’s good. It was good to have him back.”
That man, of course, is Jonny Howson – and his influence was felt all over Saturday’s emphatic victory over a compliant Brentford.
However, Pritchard was keen to protect the team-mates that suffered five successive Championship losses before the weekend.
“We’ve got some great players here, and if you take Jonny out of the equation, we’ve still got some great players here,” said Pritchard. “So it’s nothing to do with simply him being missing, I think. But just to have him back, it was a bit of a boost. I’m not going to lie. It was good to have him back and good to get a win.
“It was the same with Ivo (Pinto). Exactly the same. It was great to have him back going down the wing and stuff like that – although he went down a bit easy with that cramp I think. But it is good to have them both back. It’s a big boost.”
Last week it was City haunted by a former hero at Derby. This time, struggling Brentford found former favourite Pritchard twisting the knife – and the Bees look a long way short of the side that were dicing with City for Premier League promotion two seasons ago.
“They’re a great set of fans and I love them down there, but it’s a game and I’m not going to just miss a chance,” smiled Pritchard.
“I’ve been waiting for this goal for a while and I got it here, so I’m not going to celebrate. But there wasn’t anything extra in it. Not at all. It’s just another team at the end of the day. It is what it is. Brentford are a great team. It’s just we were too good for them, but they will be all right.
“It was up to the guy at the top and he wanted a change there. Mark Warburton is a great manager, I did really well under him, and I thank him for everything he did for me.”
As for Norwich, the key for Pritchard came after the interval – when for once, City made life a lot more straightforward for themselves.
“There wasn’t much difference to other games,” he added. “We were just hungrier and showed more desire in the second half.
“We’ve been good in the first half for a lot of games, but I think the second half was key here and especially being 2-0 up.
“We’ve been up in the first half before like against Leeds, and the second half hasn’t been there. But today, it was.”