Blackpool, Norwich City and credit when it’s due
We all know it’s only after the task is complete that you can point to what got you over the line…
Even then, it will only ever be a combination of events that bring Norwich City home. Obviously, those three points over Swansea in October would be irrelevant if they came alongside 37 defeats.
Still, the comeback victory at Queens Park Rangers that kicked off 2012 felt like a win to mark for the reviews in May: the first time since 1994 City won away in the top flight after going behind, a fact almost lost in the post-match spat.
Since then Paul Lambert’s men have maintained their perfect new year in style – something seemingly missed by those all-encompassing national pundits.
The way Burnley were swept aside was impressive. However, the weekend victory at West Brom deserved proper credence.
The quality of Norwich’s goals was fantastic – a joy to watch.
From Wes Hoolahan’s right-footed cross that Andrew Surman didn’t need to move to beautifully volley home. Or Grant Holt’s burst down the left before delivering a pinpoint left-foot cross that Steve Morison devoured. One of these days Morison is going to burst a ball mid-cross with his head: footage primed for a ‘Gary Neville’s football freaks and gaffs’ DVD next Christmas.
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In City’s FA Cup win Burnley boss Eddie Howe admitted he tried numerous formations and tactics to stop City, before eventually matching their system – and each effort was a failure.
Maybe such an admission is expected when you play against a team from the division below – but Roy Hodgson’s post-match reasoning wasn’t much different.
“We knew they were good on the break and that they suck you in, and we were ready for it – but the two goals still came from it,” said the ex-Liverpool manager.
Those words say a lot – especially alongside the clinical nature of City’s attacking play that is doing more than simply keep them afloat. Yet there remains a distinct lack of credit for Norwich’s efforts so far this season – and again after Saturday’s victory.
The visit of Chelsea on Saturday may offer a chance to remind some of City’s abilities – Swansea made the most of theirs against Arsenal at the weekend.
Most City fans probably don’t care what the national perception of the club’s season is – but others do, given the post-Match of the Day discussions on Twitter every Saturday night. Supporters have pride in their team – and they want and enjoy the recognition as much as the players. The thing is, nationally, City have been given a role this season – and until they shake off those expectations, the credit will be bottled up and hidden away.
On the basis of being in English football’s third tier just two seasons ago, Norwich were the promoted minnows in May – even to two arguably smaller clubs.
That is what earned City the Blackpool tag for 2011-12 – not for me, but in the eyes of some onlookers and pundits. And their label is seemingly backed by the Canaries’ high-flying first half of the campaign, all those entertaining games and of course, the supposedly porous defence.
Those who have seen what has happened at City in recent years know the reality is different. But for the rest, they’re happy to think history will repeat itself – until they see something else unfold.
So when that does finally play out, when Norwich maintain their current levels, when they win more than two of their final 18 matches and book a second season in the Premier League, then I hope we see the full, national credit Lambert and his players deserve.
And hopefully that also acts as a carrot for the squad, staff and fans to relish as May inches closer.