Iwan Roberts: Norwich City’s appointment of Chris Hughton looks like a masterstroke
I think the ghost of Paul Lambert was finally laid to rest at Carrow Road on Saturday night with the tremendous result against Manchester United.
Even though over the past month, results and performances have been much better than those in the opening weeks of the new season, Chris Hughton hadn’t won over all the doubters. Surely now, after his tactical master class against Sir Alex Ferguson’s men last weekend, even the most fickle of supporters will hold their hands up and finally admit the club got the decision spot on when they appointed Chris.
It now looks as if all the players have bought into what Chris Hughton is trying to achieve at the football club, maybe something that some of them weren’t too sure about when he took the helm at Carrow Road.
I’m sure there were a few players who were hugely disappointed when Lambert left, and I think that showed in some of the performances at the beginning. But slowly Chris has put his methods and ideas across, and the players now look to have grasped the way he wants them to go out and play.
I don’t think the Canaries will go out and hammer teams by four or five goals, but what they will do is be very organised, disciplined, and will work tremendously hard for one another, as we’ve seen over the last few weeks. They make themselves very hard to beat, and in my opinion there’s nothing wrong with setting your team up this way. You only have to look at how Chelsea won last season’s Champions League to realise that it can be very successful.
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I didn’t fully agree with Sir Alex Ferguson’s post-match comments when he asserted that Norwich had “defended for their lives” on Saturday night. True, the lads defended well as a team but I can’t remember John Ruddy being particularly busy.
The save from S�bastian Bassong’s goalbound header right at the death was really the only top-class save he was forced to make, in the process ensuring he kept a fourth clean sheet in his last five Premier League games. It’s now 334 minutes since he last conceded a goal, a wonderful effort by both John and the team.
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The goal scored on Saturday was absolute quality from the start of the build-up to the fantastic finish, and it would have delighted both the creator and the scorer of the goal. Javier Garrido, who used to ply his trade in the blue half of Manchester, supplied a quality first-time cross into the United penalty box, but believe me Anthony Pilkington, who was released by the Red Devils’ academy after just 12 months, still had plenty to do.
Any centre-forward worth his salt would have been delighted to have scored from that angle, and his glancing header was inch-perfect to beat the helpless Anders Lindegaard.
Pilkington has had a quiet season up until now, but one thing for sure is that he will be full of confidence after scoring the only goal of the game last weekend.
It would have been a bit more comfortable towards the end had Jonny Howson tucked his chance away, but it wasn’t a costly miss in the end and I’m sure had he been on the field for a little while longer before his chance he would have slotted it home.
I used to hate one-on-ones with the goalkeeper as I felt I had far too much time to think about what I was going to do. I much preferred it when things just fell to me and instinct would take over. I was much better when I had less time to think about the opportunity.
I was pleased to see Simon Lappin join Cardiff on a six-week loan on Wednesday. I’m certain he will enjoy his brief spell there with big Malky Mackay. It’s a very good club with fantastic facilities and a passionate fan base. He’s been at the club now for six years, and although he’s never really cemented a regular first team place he’s been a very valuable member of the squad.
I’ve met Simon on a few occasions at different functions in and around the city and he’s always been a pleasure to talk to. I’m sure he’s a manager’s dream as he doesn’t seen the type of person to moan or mope around the place when he’s not in the team, but when he’s in it you always know he’s going to give you 100 per cent.
I’m sure he’ll play at left-back at Barnsley tomorrow as Cardiff’s first choice in that position, Andrew Taylor, pulled his hamstring last Saturday, giving Lappin the opportunity to immediately impress the new gaffer.
• IN-FORM CANARIES CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE
It’s a trip to Merseyside tomorrow for Norwich to face Everton.
David Moyes’ men have had a good start to the season, even though they were the first team to taste defeat against Reading last time out. Everton are yet to lose at Goodison Park this season, but with the form the Canaries are in, and also the fact Everton’s Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini is suspended, it could be advantage Norwich City.
• DI MATTEO UNFORTUNATE TO BE A VICTIM OF THE MODERN ERA
Roberto Di Matteo was the first Premier League manager to be sacked this season after Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat away to Juventus, a result that leaves the team on the brink of Champions League elimination.
I for one was very surprised when news spread of his dismissal, but when you consider Roman Abramovich’s track record when it comes to sacking managers, this result was inevitable.
The fact that a manager can be sacked six months after winning a side’s first Champions League trophy and an FA Cup is quite astonishing, but sadly reflects the state of affairs for managers in this modern era of football, especially those who find themselves in the hot seat at Stamford Bridge. I would say that Chelsea need stability in the role, but when you consider they won two major trophies with an interim manager last season, maybe the regular chopping and changing is effective in keeping everyone on their toes.
Nonetheless, Di Matteo can count himself extremely hard done by, and I’m sure it won’t be long before his next job.