A team in need of passion

PUBLISHED: 12:56 11 February 2006 | UPDATED: 09:12 14 September 2010

Today's game at Hull City was a big game. Tuesday night's home clash with Brighton is ever bigger, but that can wait for 48 hours. For now let's concentrate on what Norwich City team emerged into the chill February air this afternoon and how that may well speak volumes as to where this season - and by large implication - Nigel Worthington's whole managerial career Canary-wise is going.

Today's game at Hull City was a big game. Tuesday night's home clash with Brighton is ever bigger, but that can wait for 48 hours.

For now let's concentrate on what Norwich City team emerged into the chill February air this afternoon and how that may well speak volumes as to where this season - and by large implication - Nigel Worthington's whole managerial career Canary-wise is going.

Because among the many things to emerge from last Sunday's game is the impression that Norwich City Football Club remain in desperate need of a team.

Hard as it is to brush over the lack of derby 'passion' among the players, the fact remains that - alas - in part that is simply a reflection of the modern player beast. That because players tend to be such transient beasts - particularly those of single status - they have no time to 'get' what an East Anglian derby is all about.

Why Ipswich showed that much greater 'passion' is because for all those boys who have emerged through Bryan Klug's Academy youth system, they've been born and bred on Ipswich-Norwich derbies - they've been playing them since they were nine-years-old.

Zesh Rehman, Rob Earnshaw and Jonatan Johansson have been in the building for less than a week, so how can anyone expect them to 'get' what a derby is all about?

And for those who then argue that the Canaries should be giving the likes of Rossi Jarvis, Michael Spillane and Andrew Cave-Brown a go on the simple basis that they have been through the teenage derby game mill, here's something to ponder. If you're Ipswich Town boss Joe Royle, going forward on a longer-term basis and raising your sights beyond last Sunday's disaster, would you prefer to have Rehman, Earnshaw or Johansson in your squad than Owen Garvan, Scott Barron and Danny Haynes?

Good little players they all may well be - and it is an interesting point to note that Dean Bowditch's stellar career now involves a loan spell at Wycombe Wanderers - but at the end of the day, they are only playing for Town through boardroom accident rather than the manager's design.

Likewise, as the Canary Academy comes under the spotlight from certain quarters, it is still pertinent to note that while 1996 might seem like a distant memory, the fact of the matter remains that as Norwich City's finances went down the pan and their youth scouting network and Potters Bar training centre with it - not to mention the geographical, 90-minute travelling time ruling that came as part of the whole FA Youth Academy set-up - then those kids that City should have been recruiting at the age of nine, ten or 11 would be 19, 20 or 21 by now.

The age, funnily enough, of the likes of Ben Watson and Gary Borrowdale at Crystal Palace. Equally, if Ryan Jarvis could ever replicate his England Youth form for the Canary first team and enjoyed any sort of run of games in which his knee didn't hurt, then the world might look a slightly brighter place.

In the meantime, you just have to hope that the likes of Republic of Ireland Under-17 skipper Michael Spillane and England Under-18 keeper Joe Lewis are the kind of real deals everyone expects.

Yes, of course, those kids - just like their Ipswich counterparts - would know exactly what was at stake come derby day, but would they know how to get out of Bramall Lane with points and limbs intact? Or how to shrug off the 'warm' welcome everyone receives on a dank Tuesday night at Ninian Park?

Some might. Even now, you half suspect from what everyone is saying that Spillane has a bit of 'the right stuff' about him. The fact that he is skipper of this Republic of Ireland Under-17 outfit and was playing a year ahead of his age last summer for them would appear to confirm that fact.

But, in general - and as Alan Hansen would no doubt confirm - you don't win anything with kids. Would Joe Royle swap Garvan for Safri? Er, yes.

Look back now at the whole timing of that derby game and it was truly and utterly the wrong game at the wrong time. It caught the Canaries completely with their proverbial trousers down as City looked to find a team from three new arrivals and, in Safri, a player whose whole body language on the day suggested he was still stuck somewhere between Cairo and Cassablanca.

The fact that Safri might not have known whether he was coming or going was, on the day, the story of the whole team.

What today's trip to Hull and the next two home games have got to start suggesting is that Norwich know where they are going; they know a team shape, a pattern of play and the individuals that they want to play within that pattern of play.

In short, they need to drill 10, outfield holes into a whole new piece of wood and stick 10, nice round pegs into those 10, nice new holes.

Given the arrivals and - for once - a less-than-lengthy injury list, that is now possible. So, you go out there and turn so much theory into hard practice and convince all those long-suffering supporters that it really was worth their while going to Hull and back.

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