Iwan Roberts: Chris Hughton’s hard work at Norwich City is starting to pay dividends
What a terrific couple of weeks it’s been for Norwich City Football Club; things are certainly looking much healthier for all concerned after the team’s recent form.
It’s now four games without defeat, reaching the last eight of the Capital One Cup in the process with a mouthwatering home tie against Aston Villa to come. There’s every chance the Canaries could, at the very least, reach the semi-finals, judging by the two sides’ recent fortunes.
Saturday’s victory against Stoke gave the lads their second win in their last three league games, and just as importantly their third clean sheet of the season.
I listened to Chris Hughton’s interview on TalkSport on Monday morning when he was on Alan Brazil and Ronnie Irani’s breakfast show. He was explaining how delighted he was with the players’ response since those heavy defeats by Liverpool and Chelsea.
He told them they’ve worked their socks off on the defensive side of the game, and not just the back four and the goalkeeper, but the whole team; and boy can’t we all tell.
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To not concede to both Arsenal, with all their attacking flair, and Tony Pulis’ Stoke side is a really impressive feat and demonstrates the improvements the lads have made. I think the manager is finally putting his stamp on the team as now Norwich City look a very hard team to beat.
Hughton also mentioned on Monday how he feels the pressure of managing to keep the club in the top flight next season, as I’m sure 70 per cent of Premier League managers do with the financial rewards next term reaching record levels.
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The money that each club receives from TV deals is about to double, which I’m sure would secure the club’s financial future for a very long time. I have to say that Chris does a good job of hiding the pressure that he’s obviously under as he’s always coolness personified on the sidelines when the games are being played.
Going back to the last round of the Cup, City’s reward for beating a very strong Spurs side is Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa at home, and what a night it promises to be.
Having just played Villa away, Norwich fans thought they would have to wait until May 4 before Lambert returned to Carrow Road, but he will now be back here in early December and I bet all you Norwich City faithful cannot wait.
I was pleased last Sunday when I read that the club would be dropping ticket prices for the Villa game. I think it’s a fantastic gesture from David McNally that you can now watch the game for �25, plus there are concessions for over-65s and kids.
It’s a great opportunity for the club to thank the supporters for the outstanding support you’ve given the club through thick and thin over the last few years – even during the relegation to League One, Carrow Road was full to the rafters.
• PERFECT TIME FOR CITY TO FACE STRUGGLING ROYALS
Tomorrow’s trip to the Madejski to face Reading gives Norwich a great opportunity to extend their unbeaten run to five games, and hopefully to secure their first taste of victory on the road this season.
It’s not been the happiest of returns to the Premier League for Brian McDermott’s men since winning promotion last season. They are still looking for their first win this season having lost four and drawn five of their opening nine league games.
They have been unlucky on a couple of occasions, conceding late goals, but that’s how ruthless this division is and I’m sure the Reading manager will want his players to learn from their mistakes sooner rather than later.
I don’t know Brian that well but I do know his right-hand man, Nigel Gibbs. He was a young professional at Watford in the mid -80s when I joined the Hornets and he’s someone that everyone at the club got on well with. He’s the only player I’ve heard of who has had two testimonials at a club, having spent 20 years at Watford – you don’t see that these days.
When I think of the few occasions I played at the Madejski, there is one moment that sticks out in my mind. How many of you Canaries fans can remember Phil Mulryne’s fantastic goal there in the dying minutes of the game in 2004?
We travelled down with only a handful of games remaining in the season. We were top of the league and knew that victory would all but guarantee us promotion. There must have been 5,000 Norwich fans behind the goal that Phil scored in, and boy didn’t they celebrate in style when the final whistle went. Let’s hope for more of the same tomorrow.