Feeling at home with the Premier League big boys
Was there anyone else out there who felt a twinge of apprehension about the relative merits of Norwich City returning to the Premier League?
Amid all of last season’s celebrations I’ll admit that, deep in the back of my mind, there was some fear that the top tier of English football wasn’t the place to be after all.
Firstly there were concerns about what we were leaving behind, as the Championship rightly has a reputation for being one of the best leagues in the world.
It is often so open that any of at least a dozen teams could be regarded as having a chance of winning it, the games come thick and fast and seem to thrill more often than not and you can even enjoy most of the matches at 3pm on a Saturday.
And then there was worry about the league in which we were about to enter. There’s no denying the Premier League offers some of the best football, from some of the best footballers, on this planet.
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But it isn’t without its problems.
It’s a league in which only the rich few have a realistic chance of silverware.
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Too many of its highly-paid players have let the money go straight to their heads and behave like they are the most important people in the world.
All too often those involved in the running of the game have forgotten that it is the fans who make it all possible.
And there are simply too many teams within it who seem to aimlessly drift along with no hope of winning anything and little apparent purpose.
I feared Norwich City fans could eventually become bored by it all, switching off and turning away – as has happened at clubs such as Bolton, Aston Villa and Wigan.
But in the last few weeks many of those lingering fears have started to drift away, with Saturday evening’s draw at Anfield marking the moment it all made sense.
Here was our club going toe-to-toe with some of the biggest names in the world of football, in one of its most awe-inspiring arenas.
And not only playing against them, but matching them in so many areas.
The feeling that comes with seeing John Ruddy make world class save after save, Leon Barnett repel wave upon wave of attack, Wes Hoolahan outclass world-renowned midfielders and Grant Holt brush aside two Liverpool defenders and one of the best goalkeepers in the world to score the goal, simply cannot be recreated in the Championship.
Stood amid the dozens of fellow Canaries at one of our city’s finest watering holes you could sense the pride that such a performance instills. And that’s not just pride in the football club, but the city as a whole.
It’s a few days on now and even upon calm reflection I can’t get away from the fact that this game was up there with the greatest moments in the club’s 109-year history.
When you think about where we have come from, the rock bottom that we so recently hit, this match must be on a par with the two league cup titles, some of the best moments from 1992/93, that Jeremy Goss goal against Bayern Munich and the recent routings of our rivals from down the road.
And do you know best thing about our current performances in the Premier League?
It’s the fact that not only do we look like this is where we rightly belong, but that we are doing so much to make the Premier League more entertaining for fans of any persuasion.
• FAB FOUR
1. A win this Saturday and what a month it will have been. That would secure seven points from four games in October and 13 from the last six matches. We’d be entering November with an average of 1.5 points per game. Take that through to the end of the season and we would be looking at 57 points, a position that would have secured seventh place last season. That’s an unrealistic target, for sure, and avoiding relegation remains priority number one – but my word how far this team has come even since the nervy and stuttering opening matches against Wigan and Stoke.
2. As Grant Holt sat warming the bench during the first-half of Saturday’s game against Liverpool a Peterborough United-supporting friend asked whether his exclusion of late meant it likely he would be on his way when the transfer window reopens. I’m thinking he was already planning a call to inform a certain Mr Fry if that was to be the case. I left it to the big man himself to show why it would be folly for Norwich to let him go any time soon – even if he is to remain a super sub for a while yet.
3. Thanks to those who responded to my last column raising concerns about the increased levels of rage directed towards players by some supporters. Of particular interest was a letter from a Norwich fan who agreed with my sentiment that some of our own supporters are not innocent when it comes to going beyond what is acceptable. The situation is akin to the playground bully who no-one stands up to because they are afraid of being targeted. But if everyone registered their anger there’s little that bully could do.
4. The good people on the Evening News sportsdesk have allowed me to become an honorary full-time member for one month only as we attempt to raise hundreds of pounds for cancers that affect men. We have decided that if we can’t emulate the skills of our Norwich City heroes we may as well try and match their moustaches as we take part in Movember.