Norwich City boss Chris Hughton got it absolutely spot on
PUBLISHED: 17:17 01 March 2013 | UPDATED: 17:17 01 March 2013
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Well, I do hope none of you left Carrow Road seven minutes before the end of the game on Saturday. If you did then it serves you right as what a finale you missed out on. I can’t believe people leave a game before the final whistle, especially when it’s as close as it was on Saturday.
It wasn’t a classic by any means, and in all fairness Norwich didn’t really look like breaking Everton’s defence down, so even the most die-hard Norwich supporters probably weren’t expecting the finish we had to the game.
Managers live and die by the players they sign and the substitutions they make, and boy did Chris Hughton get these right on Saturday.
Having gone a goal down just before the break to a Leon Osman header (how one of the smallest players on the pitch found himself completely unmarked in the six- yard box is another question) the lads really needed to dig deep and find the character we all know they have.
To be fair, it was another game of very few chances for the Canaries, so Chris had to be proactive and that’s exactly what he was. After 58 minutes he decided to take off Becchio – who had put in a good shift – and bring on the energetic Kei Kamara. What a master stroke it was.
Kamara was a breath of fresh air. He knows he’s been given a fantastic opportunity at the age of 28, when he probably thought he would never get a sniff of a chance at playing in the Premier League. But he’s been given an opportunity and he’s going to give it everything he’s got while it lasts.
He seems such a humble man who’s been through a lot in life, and a lot of people could learn from him. He plays from his heart: he’s infectious, hard-working, unpredictable at times, and sometimes he’ll do something and it will come off and won’t quite know how he did it.
The fans have taken to him straightaway and it’s easy to see why. When you come on as a sub, the final instruction you get from the gaffer is “Go and have an impact on the game”. That is just what Kei did, and what an impact he had. He’s on loan until the end of the season, and if he doesn’t score another goal for the club I think we will all remember the one he scored against Everton. It was a fantastic header.
The height he got from his leap, the way he hung in the air and the power he got on the ball was remarkable. I’m not exaggerating, but for me it was every bit as good as Cristiano Ronaldo’s header against Manchester United a couple of weeks ago.
When the ball flew past Tim Howard the whole of Carrow Road exploded with noise, but there was still more to come. We were in the last seconds of the game when Russell Martin hung a ball up at Everton’s back post where Kamara and Bassong were battling for the ball. I’m not too sure who managed to nod the ball down, but you always knew who was going to be on the end of it to score the winning goal, winning perhaps the biggest three points of the club’s season.
It’s been a tough few weeks for Holty. He’s had a couple of niggling injuries which haven’t helped him and he’s found it hard going of late, but that goal on Saturday was typical of Grant sniffing a goal out and taking his chance when it came his way. That was his fifth goal against Merseyside opponents, and the first time he’s been on the winning side.
• I DON’T BEAR ANY GRUDGES OVER THAT PENALTY, LEON, HONEST!
So Swansea City won the Capital One Cup with a very professional performance on Sunday.
It was very comfortable in the end for the Swans, but the biggest talking point to come from the 90 minutes was probably ‘Who should have taken the penalty?’
It was a bit embarrassing to be honest when Nathan Dyer and Jonathan De Guzman argued about who was going to take the spot-kick. I can understand Dyer wanting to take it.
He’d already scored a brace and wanted the opportunity to try and become the first player to score a hat-trick in the League Cup final. However, De Guzman had won the penalty and clearly wanted the chance to score himself.
The problem was Swansea haven’t been awarded a penalty all season, so no one knew who was on spot-kicks with Scott Sinclair twiddling his thumbs in Manchester.
The Dutchman is only on loan at Swansea for the season, so for me with the game over with and the Swans 3-0 up he should have perhaps given the ball to Dyer.
It nearly happened to me once when we played Derby away in 2004. We were three up and were awarded a penalty. I had only been on the pitch about 15 minutes but really wanted to take the penalty as I was desperate to get 100 goals for the club. Unfortunately, for me Leon McKenzie got to the ball first, and even though Hucks and Holty were telling him to pass it to me, he didn’t.
However, he scored from the penalty which was the most important thing. I was the club’s penalty-taker that season, and needless to say I wasn’t happy as Leon had only just joined the club. But I didn’t make a fuss. I never said a word to him about it and in fact shook his hand after he’d tucked it away, but inside I was disappointed.
I wrote this in my book “All I Want for Christmas”, which Leon read. We’ve spoken and laughed about it since.
He didn’t realise I was so close to the 100-goal barrier for the club and didn’t think when he grabbed the ball that the team might already have a selected penalty-taker. But, as I said it’s all water under the bridge now, and I’d have probably missed anyway!