Chris Goreham: The ugly ducklings are a means to an end for Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There once was an ugly duckling with feathers all fluffy and brown. The opening words of a popular nursery rhyme which I realise now was designed to prepare us to be able to deal with sitting through goalless draws in later life.
Football is all about scoring goals. There’s Goal of the Month, Golden Goals and even Goals on Sunday. The best part of my job is being able to rise to the occasion of describing a goal to an expectant audience at the exact moment that it is scored.
There are some games, though, where no commentary clips are ever heard again. They don’t trouble the selectors of any of the glittering competitions to decide the greatest goal of the week, month or season. The very existence of these matches is forgotten as quickly as possible bar an obligatory mention on the classified results and, in Premier League terms, they are quickly shunted to be last on Match of the Day and never spoken of again.
Nil-nil draws are the black sheep of the football family. You can’t be too proud of them because it’s not a win, but neither is it a total let-down because the opposition haven’t managed to score against you. They have most of what it takes to make a game, but there is one vital ingredient missing.
It’s like looking forward to going to a restaurant only to find that your favourite dish is off the menu, buying tickets for a West End Show and hearing the dreaded announcement that tonight the big star’s role will be played by the understudy or finally getting round to watching the latest episode of Lewis only to discover the recording cuts off just before the canny detective announces who dunnit.
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They tend to be frustrating affairs, as demonstrated by the sound of the BBC Radio Norfolk summariser Greg Downs bashing down his microphone during the draw with Bristol City after one misplaced pass too many. He pays his licence fee so he has every right to treat our equipment as he sees fit. The microphone in question passed a post-Canary Call fitness test and should be fine to play a full part in tonight’s match at Middlesbrough.
There are always crumbs of comfort to be found when the dust settles on a goalless draw and the initial impulse to shrug off the result as a complete waste of time passes.
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Norwich City’s remarkable defensive record since the start of September is truly something to be celebrated. That what looked like a complete rabble in shipping four goals at Aston Villa and Millwall on successive Saturdays has been transformed into a miserly outfit capable of shutting out four successive Championship opponents is a notable turnaround.
They still haven’t conceded a goal with Timm Klose on the pitch this season and his blossoming partnership with Christoph Zimmermann together with the emergence of Marco Stiepermann as a marauding left back and the growth of Angus Gunn in goal should all inspire optimism that, for the first time in several years, Norwich City look like a side that can be difficult to beat.
The big hope now is that the players don’t rest on their laurels. The sheer hard work and bloody mindedness that it has taken to keep Birmingham, Burton, Bristol City and, in particular, Sheffield United at bay must not be forgotten.
If the current levels of defensive determination can be matched with a little more ruthlessness and creativity in the final third then Daniel Farke may just be able to turn his ugly duckling into a very fine swan indeed.
Cup half full?
The League Cup has been getting one of its annual shoeings in the wake of the third round, which saw clubs make a host of changes.
Jose Mourinho has been among the managers suggesting that the competition would not really be missed by the English game if it was to be put out of its midweek misery.
It’s getting harder and harder to argue for the relevance of the tournament that is not at the top of anyone’s list of priorities, but Norwich City’s win at Brentford and the fact it has set up the prospect of a midweek trip to Arsenal seems to have revived the League Cup in the minds of many Canaries supporters.
It’s surprising how quickly the novelty value of being able to go to grounds like The Emirates is restored. Having spent four of the previous seven seasons in the Premier League, City fans might be forgiven for taking trips to some of the bigger clubs in the country in their stride, but I’m sensing the Yellow Army could be swelled even beyond its usual impressive number for this one, especially given that it is set to fall during half-term week, making it easier to excuse a late night for Junior Canaries.
Before I get too righteous about the importance of the League Cup I should declare that I didn’t actually go to Brentford last week.
It’s the first Norwich City match I’ve missed for a while, unless you include a couple of the Checkatrade Trophy ties from last season which made the League Cup feel like the Champions League.
It was the BBC Radio Norfolk squad rotation system that kept me away from Griffin Park. I’ve been asked to stand-in presenting the Breakfast Show which means the excellent Phil Daley will deputise once more at The Riverside this evening.
I did listen in to the win at Brentford after digging out my first ever replica Norwich City shirt, a commemorative special to mark the 1985 Milk Cup win. I couldn’t quite squeeze into it any more, but this is no surprise given that I hadn’t quite turned three years old when City last won this battered and bruised old cup. Maybe we’re due another one 32 years on. I might even fork out for a new kit if it does happen.