David Hannant: Why I’m totally fine with promotion not being in the bag yet
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Hands up, who thought promotion would be in the bag by now? Me too.
Obviously, I didn’t think at the beginning of the campaign that promotion would be sealed with three games remaining, but with all that has happened already and the sheer momentum, I believed it would be in the bag by now.
A hat-trick of draws wasn’t in my script, I must confess, from three games which – on paper – should have been winnable.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect us to win all three and there is no shame in any of the results. Wigan, for me, was the weakest performance on our part but we saw on Friday the fight the Latics are putting in with their terrific win against Leeds.
However, the six points dropped in three games seem to have been more than enough to get at least some bums squeaking.
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The absence of Emi Buendia has obviously been a major factor. And that’s not in any way meant to discredit Todd Cantwell and Mo Leitner, who deputised for the enigmatic Argentine.
The thing I’ve come to realise about Emi is it is not solely what he does himself, it’s what he allows others to do.
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Onel Hernandez hasn’t looked the same player without Emi, for example. Buendia’s movement, his vision and even his presence alone affords Hernandez so much more space to work with.
Without Emi for defenders to worry about, the Cuban has found himself a much more marked man so hasn’t made quite the same impact in the past three ties.
On a few occasions, Marco Stipermann has found himself taking one or two touches too many, trying to do slightly too much – again this can perhaps be put down to Buendia’s absence.
Again, this is no discredit to anybody who has deputised, but this is just down to how very, very special Buendia is.
Cantwell is a terrific talent and a local lad, but he is a little way behind City’s number 17 in his development, so was never going to have the same impact.
As for Leitner, while he is also a special talent, he is at his most effective playing deeper where he can dictate the play.
In Buendia, I think we may have found the only irreplaceable player in the set-up.
So many times this season we have lost a player for a spell and dreaded the impact their absence would have. Mo, Grant Hanley, Mario Vrancic, the list goes on.
However, in these cases somebody has stepped up and made the role their own. Emi though, has been truly missed.
Nonetheless, in these three testing Emi-less games, we have emerged without defeat and remain in touching distance of the Premier League.
Which brings me on to the main point of this column – it’s better late than never. In fact, it may even be better late than early.
One of the things that has made this season so memorable, is the things that have happened late on.
Vrancic’s last-gasp free-kick – which was better than David Beckham’s famous one against Greece - was yet another example of the delirium late drama can bring. It’s fantastically fun.
So, in a season that has brought so many late twists and turns, frankly, it would have just been rude if we’d have sealed the deal with more than moments to spare.
When Daniel Farke arrived, he said his main priority was to be entertaining – that, he said, is the primary role of football.
So how entertaining would these final games really have been if promotion was in the bag?
Moreover, I want this Norwich City side to be champions.
How many times in the past have we seen teams clinch promotion with time to spare, then party a bit too hard before being pipped to the title? I may be wrong, but it feels like lots.
It’s also far more enjoyable for the neutral for there to still be the faint whiff of a title race. So if anything, City not sealing the deal can go down as a charitable act.
And then let’s not forget that both Leeds and Sheffield United have Ipswich to play. How truly hilarious would it be if an Ipswich result was what clinched Norwich’s promotion?
I think as a club we are also carefully examining the big picture as far as becoming champions goes.
Unless Leeds and Sheffield both fluff up on Easter Monday, it is looking likely the crowning moment will be at Carrow Road – where it should be. After all, I know where I would rather it be – NR1, not ST4.
It has been a season in which so often City have waited until the perfect moment to strike, so why wouldn’t we wait for the perfect moment to win the title as well?
So, to sum up, clearly if City wanted promotion to be done and dusted by now, it would be, they’re just waiting to make it as memorable as possible!