Football in early August - it's just not cricket!

Memo to anyone who wants to invite me to a cricket match in early August next year, or to any comely wenches, sugar mummies, or prospective employers who may be reading this.

BY HAMILTON NEMO

Memo to anyone who wants to invite me to a cricket match in early August next year, or to any comely wenches, sugar mummies, or prospective employers who may be reading this. I am available on the opening day of the football season in 2011.

Last year I was at Carrow Road for the Norwich vs Colchester debacle in the first game of the 2009-10 campaign. This year I was full of optimism for the opening game of the season against Watford. An August fixture, when I would be bathed in sunshine in the midst of the cricket season. An easy home banker when the champions would certainly dismember one of the favourites for relegation at Fortress Carrow Road....

But back to reality with a bump. I had a torrid time battling the rush hour traffic as I drove up from London for the match. It rained. I had no time for a pre-match drink, and there were no team sheets available in the Gunn Club. I discovered that the cost of refreshments inside the ground had rocketed so much that they are now out of my price range. As I took my seat I consoled myself with the thought that although ravaged by hunger and thirst, I would see the Canaries record a big win and go top of the table...


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Reality check number two. In the first half the Hornets played much better than the Canaries and fully deserved their two goal lead, even if the Watford fans' chant of “we want seven” was irksome to say the least. Watford seemed sharper than us and always found that extra yard of pace when it mattered. Their passing was good and they took their chances well, although our defence was largely at fault for both goals.

Tiny Taylor marshalled the Watford defence with authority. Norwich played like a team of strangers, as you might expect with six new players on show. The City defence was especially shaky. We played better in the second half and scored two good goals, but in truth never looked like winning. Cue all the clich� headlines such as “Hornets sting Canaries”. The first day of the season was never supposed to turn out like that! City still have not won on the opening day of the season since 1982, when I was still in nappies. I have therefore already made my New Year's Resolution for 2011 and decided I will definitely give the first game of next season a miss.

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Reflecting after the game, my mind went back to last year, when an unexpected home defeat on the first Saturday of the season was followed by a mid week win in a Carling Cup match in which we scored four goals...and one Scottish manager was swiftly relieved of his duties and replaced by another with an unintelligible Scottish brogue. Malky Mackay received a rapturous reception from the Norwich support both before and after the game, despite being told off by the referee for straying outside his technical area and talking non-stop to the fourth official. Deja vu, as the French say. Football is a ruthless business, and a manager is only as good as his last game. Surely history is not about to repeat itself?

I suspect not. Nor do I believe that Martin O'Neill will be returning for a fourth bite at the Norwich cherry. But some would argue that there have been too many changes of personnel in our squad and that it will take a while yet for the newcomers to gel into a cohesive unit. Of the new players, l thought that Crofts played well and was the pick of the bunch. Jackson tried hard, and showed some nice touches, but is very small, and needs the ball playing to him on the ground. Fox and Surman showed promise but never really imposed themselves on the game. Ward did not seem match fit, and Ruddy seemed to be like the curate's egg, good in parts.

He made a couple of good saves, but might have done better with at least two of the goals. I think judgement should be reserved on these latter two players until we have had a chance to see more of them in action. It would be invidious to suggest that had Forster and the Doc been our team the result might have been different...so I will not suggest it. And anyway Forster and the Doc are no longer with us, so the question is otiose.

Wes Hoolahan deservedly won the man of the match award. He tried hard throughout the game, but too often tried to dribble past every player in the Watford team when perhaps an earlier pass to a team mate might have been more productive. He has also had a severe scalped skinhead haircut, which makes him look about 12 years old. Remind me to ask him the name of his barber, so I can avoid going there.

Norwich seemed to play better when Holty came on as sub. He seemed to have put on weight during his summer hols, and having played in few of the pre-season friendlies was perhaps not as match fit as one might expect, but he showed that he at least was not afraid to challenge Taylor, and he frequently found space in the Watford area, proving that he can be as elusive on the Carrow Road pitch as in a Shropshire court.

So all things considered the first day of the season was a bit of a let down, especially as Middlesbrough lost their first game against the unmentionables. I consoled myself with the thought that City lost the first game of last season too and went on to win the League.

On Tuesday we had a home Carling Cup game against Gillingham. There were two enforced changes in our line up for that game. Crofts was on international duty with Wales, and Jackson was omitted due to a gentleman's agreement made at the time of his transfer. Holt played from the start, as did Korey Smith and Lappin. Johnson came on as a sub. The return of the old guard had the desired effect. City played with more cohesion. Gillingham took a shock early lead, but Super Chrissy Martin and Grant Holt each scored 2 goals. Both our star strikers are firing on all cylinders again. Normal service has been resumed at Fortress Carrow Road. City are on the way to Wembley.

The defeat to Watford has hopefully woken us up to the fact that last season's glories will not guarantee us a divine right to success this season. Now we need some league points on the board. Iron beware. Holty is back to his best. Scunthorpe here we come...

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