Chris Goreham: East Anglia derby could set agenda for the rest of the season
PUBLISHED: 11:37 28 August 2018
If Norwich City's defeat at the hands of Leeds United was meant as a reality check it really wasn't required.
The most striking thing about the Carrow Road atmosphere on Saturday was that the usual spontaneous anger that greets a home defeat seemed to be replaced by a weary resignation.
Even before the game supporters were telling us on BBC Radio Norfolk that they feared a heavy defeat after seeing Leeds United’s flying start to the season. Those worries turned out to be well founded.
The Leeds dominance was such that they didn’t even allow Norwich to have the best Hernandez on the pitch. The result felt beyond doubt even before their Spanish winger Pablo Hernandez had curled in the third goal.
The realism in the River End and around the rest of the ground is understandable. It doesn’t come because supporters relish being negative or enjoy fearing the worst about their favourite team.
Many fans have gone out of their way in an attempt to lift the noise levels this season and most understand that expectations must move in line with the transfer activity of a summer that saw millions of pounds brought into the Carrow Road coffers for James Maddison and Josh Murphy out of financial necessity.
MORE: Six things Michael Bailey learned from Leeds defeat
If supporters are getting restless it is because the sales of Maddison and Murphy actually haven’t had a particularly adverse effect on City’s results.
Defeat on Saturday means that Norwich have won just four of their previous 21 Championship matches stretching back into last season and before those key players were sold. You don’t need to be a mathematical genius to realise that sort of form stretched out over a 46 game league season would equal big trouble.
It’s a run that can be best put into context by how well Norwich City started 2018.
Between January 1 and February 2 they won four league games out of five, took Chelsea to extra time in the FA Cup and pulled off away victories at Bristol City and Brentford.
It looked like Daniel Farke was really getting to grips with Championship football and starting to repay the faith shown in him by supporters who understood what a difficult job he was taking on in a new country and in charge of a club that was slashing its budget and selling some of its best players.
The Canaries weren’t bad in February either, Timm Klose’s memorable stoppage time equaliser against Ipswich was sandwiched between two other draws. MORE: Krul gets Farke’s backing
A 1-1 at Derby which featured possibly the best half of football of Farke’s reign to date and a 2-2 at champions elect Wolves after coming from 2-0 down.
There was reason for cautious optimism but the way last season petered out with three wins in the final 13 matches seems to have caused a hangover which the long hot summer has failed to lift.
It all leaves Sunday’s East Anglian Derby feeling rather more significant than a match in August really should.
The winners will claim something more valuable than simply local bragging rights, the word ‘springboard’ and the phrase ‘kick start our season’ are bound to be used this week by everyone connected with two clubs who can at least find some common ground in a lack of league form.
Norwich City supporters may know already that a promotion challenge is likely to be beyond their team this season but they won’t be judging Farke on whether he can take City into the top six or finish above Leeds United.
What they want to see is progress, a sign that lessons are being learned and that silly mistakes from a squad that should have enough experience not to make them will not keep undermining any yellow and green shoots of recovery.
With a two-week break after Sunday’s derby the mood around both clubs for the season ahead will be set by what happens at Portman Road.
In the pink
Life covering Norwich City is never dull and that’s been illustrated again in a week that has seen the Canaries make national headlines for having painted the away dressing room at Carrow Road pink.
Enough has been said about that already but I couldn’t help but smile when I read an online comment from a supporter who was furious that the paint job would make the club ‘a laughing stock’.
There seemed to be no sense of irony that our piqued poster had decided the best place to vent his spleen was on the message board of, you’ve guessed it, The Pink Un website.
You see, pink and Norwich City have always gone hand in glove, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. John Ruddy even donned a pink goalkeeping jersey for several games a few seasons ago.
The best Norwich City story of the week surrounded a different goalkeeper and one that could only dream of the sort of success that Ruddy enjoyed.
The delight taken by a man called Tom Greenaway when he happened across what looked to be a jersey once worn by Michael Theoklitos in a Melbourne charity shop was clear when he joined us on BBC Radio Norfolk last week.
It looks unlikely that the shirt he bought for five Australian dollars was the actual one that the unfortunate Aussie wore in his one appearance for the Canaries against Colchester United because anyone who has that game etched in their memory will recall that Theoklitos was wearing short sleeves and the one in the shop was an unmodified long sleeve number.
The presence of a City training shirt in the same charity shop and several items from some of the other clubs Theoklitos played for and enjoyed happier times suggests that these can only have emanated from the man himself.
It’s quite sad to think of a careers worth of shirts being bundled into a bin bag and dropped off at a charity shop.
I wonder what Ruddy did with his bright pink shirt? I hear pink is very in this season.