Worthington’s four words that made us all sit up and listen
Nigel Worthington wasn’t one for shouting from the rooftops, nor would you associate him with creating any false dawns.
But on Thursday, March 25, 2004, the then Norwich City manager uttered four words that made us all sit up and listen.
“We will get promoted,” said Worthington.
Football managers don’t generally tend to say such things, even when they are doing well enough to justify it.
City were flying high in what was then the First Division – a position they occupied courtesy of that 2-0 December win at Portman Road, in case you’d forgotten.
“I think I am a positive person and I feel the time is right to be ultra-positive,” said Worthington, by way of explanation for his declaration. “I’ve never ducked a challenge in my life and the next challenge in my life is to get this football club promoted.
“There’s been three and a half years of hard graft by myself, the staff and the players who have been here in that time and now there is no hiding place.
“It’s time to put our heads above the parapet and go for it.”
Worthington’s words came a few days after City had been beaten 1-0 at Crystal Palace and with a home game against Stoke City to come the following weekend.
Worthington was always much better to talk to after a defeat rather than a win, for reasons I never fully understood. When City won he could get a little short with you, but after a defeat he seemed more relaxed. Like I say, I never understood why.
But what Worthington didn’t do was deal in hyperbole. He certainly didn’t resort to trying to get eye-catching headlines. That wasn’t his gig at all, so when he said “we will get promoted” he most definitely not only believed it, but he knew it.
City’s defeat at Selhurst Park hadn’t knocked them off the top, but they were ahead of West Brom by goal difference only, with Sheffield United eight points further back.
“I’m not too concerned at all. There wasn’t a great deal of quality in the game,” Worthington said after the Palace game.
I thought at the time that Worthington’s words of optimism could have had a damaging effect. Far from it. They won eight of their next nine games, the blemish a defeat at Sunderland in the penultimate game of the season – but West Brom’s defeat at Stoke meant the title was City’s, promotion having been secured on Wednesday, April 21, without even kicking a ball after Sunderland lost 3-0 to Crystal Palace. (Curious that five teams dominate this story...).
Worthington had been right all along.
Fast forward and I don’t think Daniel Farke has made the same pronouncement – although he has come mighty close. I don’t believe in the act of tempting fate or luck, good or bad, so from my point of view, City will be promoted. Not the most shocking, daring off-the-wall tip in the world, I know, but I say it because there are still so many nervous City fans around and I just want to settle their nerves.
This Norwich side is magnificent: Farke’s assertion that all 11 could make up the Championship team of the season isn’t that wide of the mark. Angel Rangel, the QPR player, says they are the most complete team – and I like that. There is so much to like about so many facets of the team. A goalkeeper who rules with an iron fist, a back four that no one, but no one, would have predicted at the start of the season; a midfield that can rule a game even with Moritz Leitner watching from the sidelines; an attack that is sublime.
Whether City will seal promotion without kicking a ball themselves doesn’t matter. Whether they will win the title thanks to a rival losing doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that they finish first or second – which they will – because the play-offs would be the worst-case scenario.
As Worthington, the champagne still drying, said at Sunderland that night when asked about the play-offs: “I’m glad not to be there. Been there, seen it, done it, lost out.”
Come on feel the noise
I often wonder what footballers can hear during a match.
You see managers on the touchline shouting above the din of a packed house... and a player on the far side of the pitch looks up in acknowledgement of an instruction received and understood.
So you guess that when fans shout out from the stands, they, too, are heard by players.
I’ve heard footballers say they ignore the moans and groans, but they are, equally, quick to say encouragement spurs them on. I guess it’s a defence mechanism. Anyway, a highlight of this season has most definitely been City players making a point about the increased volume from supporters in full song and how it helps their game. Daniel Farke has spoken about it many times and great efforts have been made to crank up the volume at Carrow Road. If the players and the main man say it helps them, then you do it. It’s a simple equation after all. That’s why I love our One City Strong initiative – encouraging everyone to push City over the promotion lien and into the Premier League. There are foam hands in goody bags outside the stadium today, there will be a fans’ mosaic before Wednesday’s game against Reading. But it’s about a lot more - just pulling everyone together for the big push. It’s all on edp24.co.uk – along with loads more.