Patronising Burton Albion, Norwich City’s art of self-destruction, the fear of losing Wes Hoolahan and the greater fear of losing to Ipswich Town – Six Things we learned from the Canaries’ Pirelli Stadium deflation
PUBLISHED: 15:02 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 19:32 20 February 2017
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After another ‘pitch-war’ defeat for Norwich City, Michael Bailey offers six more lectures for the Canaries to digest following their Burton Albion loss.
1 – City rarely leave home without one
Formula One had Jenson Button. Fulham have goalkeeper David Button. And Norwich City? Theirs is a self-destruct button.
The entire needlessness of Timm Klose’s submission under barely robust pressure from a young Danish footballer who learned his Championship rigors from the hard-man factory that is Fulham, even now, makes the blood boil.
It could well be the moment that defines a failing promotion bid and all those issues we perceive with a team and managerial set-up supposedly containing so much quality, yet unable to adapt to represent anything reliable.
You can’t earn promotion either at home or on the road. You have to do both. Only Rotherham and Nottingham Forest have concede more goals away from home than Alex Neil’s men. What’s more, City are the only team so far this season to have lost at Burton and the Millers.
If the damage wasn’t already done before Saturday, surely it’s sealed now?
2 – It was a fitting tribute
Saturday marked 50 years to the day since what may always prove to be Norwich City’s greatest victory.
An FA Cup fourth-round tie at Old Trafford against a Manchester United side containing Best, Law, Charlton and a host of English footballing royalty, managed by Matt Busby – and Norwich City came out on top.
How best the Canaries could mark such an occasion was always going to be a moot point, given their destination for the day – but the tribute was arguably delivered in a roundabout way.
There was the best squad Alex Neil says he’s ever worked with – almost certainly the most expensive, including a flashy new £7m winger that’s still yet to hit the ground, let alone get running.
And City were done over by a club that until very recently, was seeing its playing budget dwarfed by fellow League One sides and £20,000 marked its record purchase. Gone for a Burton indeed.
3 – Why Wes is still so crucial
Maybe this should be ‘Why is Wes so crucial?’ Clearly the little Irishman is a Canaries legend and has nothing left to prove in yellow and green. Or white. Occasionally black.
But with all the signings since Wes first arrived in 2008, all the managerial changes, it’s remarkable the 34-year-old can still hold such a spell over his team-mates and his opponents.
While Alex Pritchard got little joy out of Burton for the entire first half, it took Hoolahan barely a couple of minutes after joining him for the second, to start conjuring chances. It wasn’t Hoolahan’s fault the final ball was usually poor or there was a significant lack of support in the box.
The thought of Wes’ eventual departure is usually a sad one because you don’t want to lose a player of his fantastic ability.
Yet Saturday adds into the equation that City still desperately need him, just to unlock some doors.
4 – A Kight in shining armour
Confession time – I have always liked the look of Michael Kightly.
He always seemed to shine for Wolves and now 31, the winger finds himself on loan from Burnley – primarily because it suits his home situation as well as giving him some game time, has been something of a revelation since Nigel Clough recruited him last month.
He was anonymous for much of Saturday’s game, but he popped up with arguably the best bit of quality all afternoon – and it deserved to settle the contest.
It’s a patter too, given Kightly has now scored on all three of his Albion appearances – as well as creating goals with his set-piece deliveries.
I don’t believe it’s over selling things to suggest Kightly is the kind of January signing that could earn Burton survival in their first season at Championship level. Three wins in their last five games backs up the point.
5 – It’s impossible not to patronise
Patronise: to treat with an apparent kindness, which betrays a feeling of superiority. That’s the definition and as I found out at the weekend, there was no hiding from it.
Sure, Burton and Norwich are sharing a division this season. Most likely they will do so again next term. And there really is something special about what has happened at the Brewers in recent seasons. It’s remarkable, it’s romantic, it’s refreshing and it’s brilliant.
But it’s also a fact that Burton’s newfound status has outgrown its support and its stadium. Saturday’s experience and atmosphere was more akin to City taking on a lower league FA Cup opponent.
Those sentiments are indeed patronising. But they’re also true – so how could they not be? It’s what makes their story so special.
And let’s be clear, this is separate to judging the action on the pitch – where City were up against a league rival and couldn’t cope.
6 – The derby alarm bells are ringing
Are you sitting uncomfortably? Then I’ll begin… It’s been a season of snaps – all sorts of second-tier streaks and runs for Norwich City, but one remains. Arguably, it’s the holy grail.
It’s 11 years since Ipswich Town tasted victory on enemy turf. It’s 10 years since the Tractor Boys and Girls picked up a point at Carrow Road. In that time the East Anglian derby rivals have played 10 games with City winning six, losing just two and scoring 22 goals to Town’s 10.
Maybe this is the big one: It’s 10 derbies since Ipswich scored the opening goal.
In a season that has felt like Norwich City only had it all to lose, comes the game that could typify everything.
For once, Ipswich may be better off getting out their long balls and set-pieces. They may find a City side once again unable to cope. For Norwich, they simply have it all to prove.