David Hannant: Preston game was a perfect taster of what the Championship is all about
PUBLISHED: 12:00 24 September 2020
A year ago I remember arguing that City’s opening day defeat to Liverpool could actually have worked in the club’s favour.
My argument at the time was, while clearly a heavy defeat, the second half performance would breed confidence, while the result itself would see the club widely underestimated, playing into our hands for the season.
With hindsight, that probably wasn’t my finest piece of analysis – far from it in fact.
Thirteen months on though and I may well be about to make the exact same mistake again.
This time though, I’m not going to make any assumptions about perceptions or attitudes of other teams – instead I’m just going to look at how the first two outings – in particular the Preston game – could set a precedent for the rest of the season.
Sadly, I wasn’t one of the lucky 1,000 that were able to take in the visit of former boss Alex Neil in person, but I did take the game in via iFollow and what struck me is that it was the perfect welcome back to the Championship.
For me, that 90 minutes had a little bit of everything that you can expect from England’s second tier – and should prove a decent Litmus test for what the league is truly like.
The game was competitive, the opposition was tough and there was plenty to talk about.
From a certain point of view, part of me would rather have seen a slightly lesser opposition for the first home campaign and a comfortable City win, given how torrid the Premier League season ended. But at the same time, a decent point against one of the sides I expect to be knocking around the playoff spots come May is also a positive.
From a mentality point of view, it pitches things at just around the right level for me looking ahead.
The winning start in Yorkshire, albeit a grafted one, got the monkey off our backs after that wretched run of defeats, but a hard fought point at home could very well be even better from a motivational point of view.
Obviously we would all rather have had a big win on the board, but we also wouldn’t ever want the lads to think they are too good for the league and will have it easy.
While we haven’t lost the game and have had to call on fortitude to pick up the point, it may also serve as a reminder that this league is competitive and there is no plain sailing here.
Another thing we can take confidence from is that Przemysław Płacheta’s late winner extended an unbeaten run that spans 16 games.
I know what you’re screaming at your paper or screen now – what about the 38 games in between? Forget about them.
That is the message I would be giving the players – yes, the Championship is competitive, but we are damn hard to beat in it.
In fact, the last side that managed to beat City in the Championship was Preston themselves, way back in February 2019 at Deep Dale.
However, it wasn’t just the level of competitiveness that stuck out to me about the Preston game, there was so much about it that told us what we can expect from the division – one of which also stood out at Huddersfield.
The whole of last season we all moaned until our faces turned blue about VAR – and rightfully so given how woefully the roll out of video technology went.
Many of us were relieved to see the back of it – even if it did mean we were also turning our back on the riches of the top flight.
However, we have already seen that one evil can be very quickly replaced with another – as we have already seen prime examples of how much worse the officiating is at this level.
Against Huddersfield we saw two stone wall penalties denied, while against Preston we saw a penalty softer than a sponge cake wrapped in a woollen blanket given against us. You can’t win.
It’s an interesting point really – the higher up the footballing ladder you get in theory the better quality of official you get – so why is it the creme de le creme of match officials are the one that get the supposed extra help?
It doesn’t really make sense to me, it’s like sending a featherweight boxer into the ring with the heavyweight champion – then allowing the champ to put a barbed wire stinger on his gloves.
Obviously I know it boils down to money and we have seen VAR doesn’t always help, but sadly shoddy officiating is part and parcel of the Championship.
And, lastly, I don’t know about you all but for me, the match was pretty entertaining – and that’s definitely something you get in spades from the Championship.
Four points out of six is a reasonable start for me – now let’s keep that unbeaten run going.
And remember folks, its a run of 16, not a run of two! OTBC
Can’t begrudge Max if he goes to Barca
If Max Aarons completes the most unlikely of transfers – to Barcelona – you really can’t begrudge the youngster.
Ever since breaking into the first team – in an East Anglian Derby no less – Max has been a real shining star.
Clearly he has very active agents, as he’s been consistently linked to big clubs, but it seems there actually is some truth in this.
It could yet prove to be wide of the mark, but if the move comes off, who can really blame the lad for jumping?.
His display against Preston speaks volumes for the type of professional he is.
News of Barca’s interest went public in the morning of the game, understandably many would have been put off their stride – but Max looked completely himself.
While it is always a shame to see great players leave, when the club is built on a model of moulding young talent it is something you just have to get used to.
I wouldn’t begrudge Max his big move and will feel proud watching him play alongside the Argentinian Hoolahan.
What a shame
After what by all accounts appeared to be a successful pilot, it is a pity to see the government pull the rug from underneath City by delaying future spectator events.
While of course you can understand things need to be done to try and quell a second wave of the virus, it seems to me that if acquiesces can be given elsewhere to allow things to continue, why not also football?
It’s hard to draw parallels between to many things – but to me if an office, a pub or a factory can have hundreds in a confined indoor space, surely the open air of a stadium can too?
It is a shame to see all the months of work that went into making Carrow Road viable presumably going to waste for several more months.
At the very least, the hard work should guarantee Norwich City a place at the very head of the queue when fans can return.
The executive team has clearly led by example with this – they should be well rewarded for their efforts if nothing else.