Chris Goreham: Football and Norwich City – sometimes it's hard to understand either
PUBLISHED: 12:00 18 September 2018
Norwich City don’t have a talisman now that James Maddison has gone and Grant Hanley’s ill-timed injury means the Canaries lack leadership.
Or at least that’s what we all thought at five to three on Saturday.
The more I talk about football the more I realise how ridiculous it is to try to talk about football. That’s probably not the sort of admission that someone doing my job should be making.
Teemu Pukki’s winning goal against Middlesbrough underlined his potential to become Carrow Road’s newest cult hero. Few City supporters had heard of the Finland international when he arrived out of the blue on a free transfer during the summer.
He’s certainly not the new James Maddison. Pukki doesn’t have the flair, flicks and tricks of the ex-Canary who is already turning heads in the Premier League but what he does have is a ruthless efficiency that will serve him well in the Championship.
The four goals he already has in yellow and green have all been scored at Carrow Road which is a great way to endear yourself to fans at new club. Each one has been superbly taken and while Pukki’s efforts may go unnoticed for long periods of a game he has a work ethic, attitude and build that makes him more like a modern day Robert Fleck.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
Maddison was the new Wes Hoolahan who in turn was the new hero Glenn Roeder famously described when signing him from Blackpool to replace Darren Huckerby.
One was a flying winger with pace to burn while the other relied on guile and skill over pace and yet both proved themselves to be wonderful attacking talents that will always have a place in the hearts of City fans.
It’s wrong to think that a departing player needs to be replaced by someone who is from exactly the same mould.
That brings us neatly onto the City defence and the gaping Grant Hanley shaped hole that loomed large on Saturday’s team sheet.
The perceived wisdom is that Hanley rode to City’s rescue after last season’s alarming 4-0 defeat at Millwall and helped to plug a leaky defence. There’s some truth in that but it is worth going back a year and remembering that Hanley didn’t actually start a match until October 31st last season, a full two months after he joined.
The big Scot couldn’t displace Timm Klose or Christoph Zimmermann as they paired up in central defence for a record run of five straight league clean sheets.
It’s only fair to point out that Hanley was sent on as sub in the closing stages of three of those games to help complete the shut outs but there’s evidence to suggest that City won’t be completely lost if the German duo can strike up another formidable partnership until the skipper is ready to make a welcome return.
That nearly ended prematurely on Saturday when Klose was sent off and then quickly ‘un-sent off’, to use a new term we had to quickly invent during commentary, after his red card was swiftly rescinded by the officials.
It was a memorable moment on an encouraging afternoon that underlined how football is often at its best when it’s at its most confusing and chaotic.
Nothing defied logic more than the composed performances of the two City full backs, Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons. They have a combined age of 38 and yet played as if they had 500 games each under their belt. Aarons is just 18 and this was only his fourth appearance. The last three have been against a team managed by Tony Pulis, a team managed by Neil Warnock and an East Anglian Derby. Not the sort of games you should be throwing an untried teenage full-back into, or so I thought.
But I’m not sure I really understand football anymore.
Flying high with City
Covering Norwich City has taken me into all sorts of interesting places but not many experiences have been quite as bizarre or enjoyable as interviewing Kenny McLean on a plane last week.
It happened at Norwich International Airport where we had been invited to cover the announcement of a new partnership between Norwich City and Logan Air which will see the Scottish airline fly the first team to some of their away games.
Clearly it made sense to have as many of City’s current Tartan Army as possible in place for the photo opportunities.
What I hadn’t bargained for was that getting airside would be so much like going on holiday and by that I mean the bad bits of going on holiday. We had to take our passports along, get scanned by security and even remove our belts, shoes and all. It shouldn’t have taken me by surprise as much as it did but going through all that rigmarole and then not actually flying anywhere was a blow.
Interviewing footballers away from their natural training ground environment is always more fun. They tend to open up and there is more to ask about than simply whether they agree that playing Middlesbrough will be a tough game and that anyone can beat anyone in the Championship.
Earlier in the day I had been just across the road from the airport and the other side of all the security checks at The Nest, the new headquarters of the Community Sport Foundation. Louis Thompson was representing the players there and a tour of the new facilities provided an opportunity to ask about his formative football years.
Thompson revealed that he is another less obvious German link in the City dressing room having started playing in Paderborn when his father was posted out there while serving in the army.
The more relaxed set up means we can really ask the questions that matter. I now have it from the horse’s mouth that Kenny McLean pronounces his name as ‘Mc-lane’ and not ‘Mc-lean’. Having interviewed Kenny McLean on a plane I am now hoping for further chances to speak to Norwich City players in venues that rhyme with their names.