Team is better than one Worthy inherited

PUBLISHED: 15:14 04 February 2006 | UPDATED: 09:11 14 September 2010

RICK WAGHORN

I've read it a couple of times recently. The suggestion that this particular Norwich City team is no better than the one Nigel Worthington inherited in 2000-2001.

I've read it a couple of times recently. The suggestion that this particular Norwich City team is no better than the one Nigel Worthington inherited in 2000-2001.

You've taken us right back to square one...” is one of the more familiar accusations made against the manager. And, on certain performances, people have a point.

For sheer, hapless, none-of-us-give-a-flying-er, fig about this, I would still argue that the first 20 minutes of Bryan Hamilton's last game in charge away at Portsmouth would take some beating, but I guess you could argue that Wolves and QPR came pretty close.

Reading wasn't great; in certain spells, it was God awful. But having said that, City still had two or three decent chances to grab a goal. Free headers, an open goal, three yards out - for example.

But are the Canaries right back where they started, six distant years ago in that glorious era of Paul Dalglish and Brian McGovern, Raymond de Waard and Fernando Derveld?

I mean we can argue all day long about whether the 'club' in its broadest, bricks and mortar sense is going backwards in terms of the new Jarrold Stand, the season ticket fan base and so on, but if we limit the debate to the strength of the likely City squad on the eve of derby battle and then one that disappeared in the midst of such farce at Fratton Park where do we get to?

For the record that day, the starting line up was: Marshall, Sutch, Derveld, Fleming, Mackay, Llewellyn, Mulryne, Russell, Forbes, Roberts, Notman.

A 2000-2001 version Iwan, in fairness, would probably start tomorrow; Fleming does. But of the nine other players on view that sorry afternoon, how many would you put into the team to face Town?

Andy Marshall or now fully-fledged England international Robert Green?

Malky? OK. At which point it looks as if you are either going to have to drop Republic of Ireland international and likely City player of the season Gary Doherty or else decide that England Under-20 international Zesh Rehman can stop on the bench.

If Fleming, therefore goes to right-back, would you want Fleming or Sutch?

I think Adam Drury versus Derveld is one to the Class of 2006. Midfield - always a fun topic of debate.

For argument's sake, let's say Worthington switches back to 4-4-2 tomorrow and plays a four of Paul McVeigh, Youssef Safri, Dickson Etuhu and Darren Huckerby.

Right the choice is one of those or Chris Llewellyn, Phil Mulryne - presumably to sit and play ahead of Safri - Darel Russell or Adrian Forbes. Russell for Etuhu? Llewellyn for Huckerby?

Up front, let's say he starts with Finnish international striker Jonatan Johansson and, mmm, maybe Rob Earnshaw.

OK, the big Iwan fans might decide he was the man for them ahead of Johansson. Now for the big one. I always liked Alex Notman; as did the rest of the boys.

But would I start him ahead of Earnshaw? Probably not.

I've neither the time nor inclination to go wandering around the substitutes' bench to debate the respective merits of De Blasiis versus Jason Jarrett or Lee Marshall versus Carl Robinson, but it would take the sternest of critics to suggest that the side of December, 2000, bears any resemblance to the side of Sunday, February 5, 2006. And that's before we even get to the subject of how much of the Dean Ashton money is left in the kitty. But - and here's the big but - had we done the same exercise with the team that started last Tuesday night then the results might have been wholly different given that there was no Safri, Johansson, Rehman and Earnshaw to throw in the mix.

So in the space of 72 hours and that 4-0 mauling, the Canaries have gone from taking one step back to taking, potentially, at least one forward.

That's what football teams are all about. Unless you've got the kind of money that Chelsea throw at them to keep that straight line going ever upward, football teams ebb and flow with the changing player tides.

Arsenal are a classic example. By the same measure that is applied in this neck of the woods, the Gunners are clearly going backwards.

For the first time in a long, long while they have a fight on their hands to qualify for a Champions League slot.

Minus Patrick Vieira and with Sol Campbell on the wane, the north London giants are on the wane as Wenger brings the next generation of Vieiras and Campbells through.

Some players he tries work; some don't. Like every other manager that walked the planet - and that includes 'The Special One' - they don't have a magic wand; they don't get it right every time.

They end up fiddling and tweaking; mixing and matching until lo and behold something clicks. As it did in the month of December round here. Yes, there have been those games where it clearly hasn't worked; there are games when it clearly has.

City get to the end of December flowing forward again and just when you thought it was safe to think 'Play offs....' off goes Safri to the African Nations, out goes Dean's toys over his move to West Ham United and there's Robert Green's agent doing his 'Come and get me...' best.

At which point, Norwich ebb again; hopefully to flow forward once more on the back of Earnie's arrival.

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