Chris Goreham: We don't mind underdogs - as long as they have teeth

Teemu Pukki of Norwich celebrates scoring against Manchester City at Carrow Road

The way we were ... Teemu Pukki celebrates with Emi Buendia after what proved to be the winner against Manchester City in September, 2019 - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City find themselves well and truly up the bracket.

When Mason Mount rolled in the final goal of Chelsea’s romp on Saturday I had to quickly check my commentary notes. Was it a hat-trick? I’d lost count. Either way, it meant the Canaries had conceded 7 (SEVEN). Nothing spells out footballing ignominy like the addition of brackets to spell out a heavy defeat.  

Mason Mount of Chelsea celebrates scoring his sides 7th goal to complete his Hat Trick during the Pr

Mason Mount celebrates his hat-trick goal for Chelsea against Norwich - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

When a shell-shocked Daniel Farke emerged for the post-match interviews he reminded us that Norwich City’s season won’t be defined by playing the European champions. It may have been an attempt to move on swiftly from the Stamford Bridge shambles, but there’s more to occasions like Saturday.  

The chance to go to Chelsea as well as Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and the rest is precisely what did define last season. During those miserable lockdown months when supporters were not able to go to games, what kept them going? Why did they get so excited about hard-fought midweek wins at Birmingham City and Coventry? Why did Mario Vrancic’s late winner against Wycombe Wanderers at Carrow Road matter so much?  

Those were the steps towards winning the Championship. Why is getting promotion, under normal circumstances, worthy of an open top bus tour? It’s because the big prize is a place in the Premier League. When we watched Grant Hanley lift that trophy at Barnsley in May, no one was dreaming about getting a point at Turf Moor, battling to a draw with Brighton or returning to Selhurst Park. With all due disrespect to those clubs, I’m sure they’d say the same about Norwich City.  

Being in the Premier League is about seeing your team test themselves against the very best. We all hated the idea of a European Super League because the very essence of what keeps our precious pyramid alive was under threat. The dream is seeing the club you support earn the right to compete with the finest teams in the land on equal terms as far as league status is concerned.  

You don’t expect to beat any of them. On the odd occasion it does happen memories are created that will last a lifetime. See the 3-2 win over Manchester City from two years ago, Alex Tettey’s winner at Old Trafford or Elliott Bennett’s White Hart Lane wonder strike.  

What fans demand is to see Champions League clubs having to work hard to earn three points against a set of players determined to prove they belong. More often than not the big boys will win, but underdogs can be applauded off even in defeat.  

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That’s what made this 7-0 drubbing so hard to take.  

It was all just far too easy for Chelsea. In Daniel Farke’s first season in charge at Norwich City he was battling just to get above mid-table in the Championship. Yet that City side took both Arsenal and Chelsea to extra-time in epic cup ties away from home. There was a swelling of yellow and green pride, despite losing on penalties at Stamford Bridge in early 2018. City had been so stubborn they had to delay News at Ten on BBC One to stay with the tie.  

It’s not so much the fighting spirit that’s lacking as the determination to embrace such occasions. Even in defeat there is a confidence that can be taken from pushing a gigantic club close.  

The head coach was also quick to remind us again that Norwich are a ‘self-funded club’.  

It’s certainly more difficult to make a mark in the Premier League without the backing of a billionaire, but it’s not impossible. Norwich were self-funded when they finished 12th and 11th in successive seasons under Paul Lambert and Chris Hughton. They were self-funded when they unearthed gems worth millions like Emi Buendia, James Maddison or Ben Godfrey. All highly-rated Premier League players. They were self-funded when they landed Teemu Pukki on a free.  

No Norwich fan is demanding a mid-table finish this season. We’ve been here before and we understand all of the pitfalls of the Premier League. There was record investment over the summer and a deeper squad than Farke has ever had to choose from. Supporters genuinely thought they were returning to Carrow Road this season to watch a team capable of putting up a genuine fight for 16th or 17th place at the very least.  

It may still happen but it’s going to take a vast improvement. After the performance at Chelsea it would take a brave person to bet against the brackets coming out again before the end of the season. Norwich City (R) is what most are expecting to see from here. It’s up to Daniel Farke and his players to prove them wrong.  


Ever-changing moods

It’s worth taking a step back and remembering why there was a feeling of cautious optimism around Carrow Road back in August.  

Emi Buendia had gone, but there was excitement about seeing new signings like Christos Tzolis and Milot Rashica take on the Premier League. They were joining Kieran Dowell and Todd Cantwell in a squad that promised much Canary creativity.  

None of those players has been starting and City have managed two goals in nine league games. Cantwell was playing for the Under 23s on Friday night. Daniel Farke is clearly exasperated and feels he can’t select a player who scored six Premier League goals two seasons ago. There are two sides to every story, but the City head coach has rarely been wrong when it’s come to the management of younger players over the years.  

One hopes that the Dereham Deco, to quote a nickname coined by Chris Sutton, is getting the right advice from his close friends, those that get to call him TC. A Cantwell Canary comeback could be just what City need when the time is right.  

The other irksome thing at the moment is that all of those pundits who wrote Norwich City off at the start of the season are being proved right. 

So many Canary fans went into bat to defend the club’s honour against those who questioned whether they were worthy of a place in the Premier League.  

They must know how Joe Root feels when he walks out for England. Valiant efforts are being undermined by the collapses around them.  

It would be wonderful to be able to replay some of the comments from the Canary critics at the end of the season. How we long to leave them with so much egg on their faces that they look like the 1992-93 Norwich shirt. For now they just need to point at the league table and laugh, and there’s not much credible evidence to respond with.