Chris Goreham: Norwich City going about their business in a very Championship style
PUBLISHED: 06:00 02 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:42 02 October 2018
If Championship success is built on anything it is the ability to find a way to win a tight game.
Norwich City certainly seem to have perfected that art in recent weeks.
The most satisfying thing about the five straight victories that Canaries fans have been able to enjoy during a superb September is that their team has been made to work hard for all of them.
It’s worth remembering that this run started with a win over Middlesbrough the day after Daniel Farke’s grim announcement that his captain Grant Hanley was injured and all sorts of questions were raised about the spirit, character and leadership within the City squad.
Anyone predicting a run of five straight wins ahead of that Boro game would have given their neighbours at Carrow Road cause for concern.
I imagine anyone coming across as dizzy as that would have been told to sit down, given a sugary drink and fanned by a match programme.
It would have been like predicting that Europe would win the Ryder Cup by a seven-point margin or that Celtic would end the month outside the top four in the Scottish Premiership.
It would of course be lovely if Norwich had won all of these matches by playing nothing but free flowing Harlem Globetrotters style football, brushing aside their opponents with flicks and tricks and easing to 3-0 and 4-0 victories. This, however, is the Championship, a place where fancy-dans are found out, complacency is never rewarded and organisation, determination and sheer bloody mindedness are the Holy Trinity.
It’s a theory underlined by two of Norwich City’s best seasons in recent memory.
MORE: Six things we learned from Wigan victory
The Championship promotion under Paul Lambert in 2010-11 is still referred to on a weekly basis as being one of the most exciting campaigns that Canaries fans have ever been treated to. The 4-1 and 5-1 demolitions of Ipswich Town are still regularly talked about in breathless fashion by anyone who was fortunate enough to be there. That season wasn’t all about Grant Holt hat-tricks though.
Norwich won 23 league matches that year with 14 of those coming by a margin of just one goal. One of the regular features that made it such a pulsating season was the series of dramatic late goals that saw the Canaries come up with a way of winning games that seemed to be slipping away from them when Holt, Hoolahan and co. weren’t at their brilliant best.
Seven years earlier Nigel Worthington’s promotion heroes are remembered as a scintillating side lit up by the brilliance of a genuine match winner with the explosive arrival of Darren Huckerby from Manchester City.
It was another standout season which again relied on a canny knack of finding a way to win. There were 28 league victories in 2003/04 with 14 being by a one-goal margin.
While looking back at previous seasons it is worth acknowledging that Norwich enjoyed a very good run during September last year.
It’s felt different this time because 12 months ago they were hanging on for dear life to win 1-0 at places like Sheffield United and Middlesbrough but the recent weeks have been seen out much more comfortably bar perhaps a few nervous moments when QPR’s giant striker Matt Smith came off the bench to put the very big cat amongst the Canaries but even then they were canny enough to cope.
This isn’t a bold prediction that Daniel Farke’s current crop are going to follow in the illustrious footsteps of the Lambert or Worthington teams. We are just 10 games into a season that has already had its issues but after the concerns that were abound at the start of the campaign there is nothing wrong with enjoying this little flurry of positive results and celebrating the 1-0 and 2-1 wins that may not be spectacular but are as ‘Championship’ as they come.
Daniel Farke has plenty to smile about at the moment but I don’t think I have ever seen him laugh as much as he did after the win over Wigan.
Having conducted his post-match media duties the City head coach was shown the social media video that had got all Norwich City fans talking.
I had said during the commentary on BBC Radio Norfolk that Mario Vrancic must have been the coolest person inside Carrow Road when he tucked away that match winning penalty against Wigan.
It’s an assertion that I have since had to re-think after the emergence of some footage on Twitter filmed by a supporter called Oliver Bensley. While most people were biting their nails and wondering why in form strikers Teemu Pukki and Jordan Rhodes weren’t about to take the penalty, Oliver had the presence to get out his phone and film the reaction of Alex Tettey.
While most of us were focusing on what was going on around Wigan’s penalty spot, we failed to notice Tettey leaving the scene. He walked over to the dugouts and faced away from the pitch, unable to watch his team mate take the spot-kick through sheer nerves. His celebration when the crowd roars in celebration at the late penalty becoming a late winner is priceless.
I asked Farke about it after the game and he said that Tettey hadn’t been the only one.
Midfielder Marco Stiepermann couldn’t bring himself to watch it either, despite Farke’s encouragement.
It’s a good job Vrancic was unaware of his team mate’s superstitions. How much more pressure would he have felt had he known that missing the penalty would have left Norwich highly vulnerable to a quick counter attack given that at least two of their players weren’t watching?
This is nothing new. There are lots of fans, players and managers over the years for whom the tension that comes with seeing one of the members of their team line-up an important penalty has been overwhelming.
It’s not something I could ever consider doing.
Not watching the game isn’t really an option when it comes to football commentary.