'A thing of beauty' - from one City legend to another

Newcastle defender Ciaran Clark fouls Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki resulting in a red card for the defender. Picture: PA

Game changer - Newcastle Ciaran Clark fouls Teemu Pukki and is shown a red card... but City didn't take full advantage - Credit: PA

As months go, November wasn’t a bad one for Norwich City.

They were bottom of the Premier League after losing at home to Leeds on October 31, quite a few points behind the team fourth from bottom and were being written off by the majority of people, even some of their own fans. 

But Dean Smith is unbeaten in his opening three games, the team have won eight points from their four games last month and now sit second from bottom - behind Burnley only on goal difference - and are just touching distance away from safety. It's fair to say it been quite an astonishing turnaround, and this mini revival has shut a few people up ... which is always a bonus. 

Norwich City's Billy Gilmour and Ben Gibson at Newcastle United

Are things beginning to look up for Norwich City? Billy Gilmour seems to think so - Credit: PA

December will go a long way to deciding where Norwich will be playing next season. The Christmas period is always a vital one in the footballing calendar, a month I loved when I played, with games coming thick and fast.

It’s the busiest month of the season, with Norwich having six league fixtures, but at least they go into it with plenty of confidence and momentum. 

Against Wolves, the lads left some points out there as they really should have won the game - they were the much better side. But Tuesday was very different as I thought they were slightly fortunate to come away with a point. They didn’t start playing with any real tempo and intensity until Teemu Pukki levelled things up on 79 minutes with his fifth Premier League goal of the season ... more about that later. 

I thought Newcastle were the better side and the more threatening, especially with the pace and the ability of Allan Saint-Maximin running with the ball. The biggest compliment I can pay Eddie Howe’s men is that you’d have thought it was Norwich that had been playing with 10 men since the ninth minute. To be fair, though, in those last 10 minutes plus added time, if there was going to be a winner it was going to be the team wearing yellow shirts. 

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From a Norwich point of view, the first half was poor. Everything was just too slow, and when you're playing against 10 men everything needs to be quicker so you can take advantage of the extra man you have. There was little imagination or creativity in their play and it wasn’t great to watch. 

We used to practice this when Bruce Rioch was manager. He’d get us to play a game against 10 men so we all knew exactly what was needed as individuals and collectively to try and win the game. He’d also get us to play with 10 against 11 so we knew our defensive duties for the team as we’d be under quite a lot of pressure and would be without the ball for long periods. But, done right, you’d always create at least two good opportunities to score. 

So it's four games unbeaten - the last time Norwich went five games unbeaten in the Premier League was back in the 2012-13 season when Chris Hughton’s men put a great run together from October 20, when they beat Arsenal, to December 15,  when they beat Wigan at Carrow Road.

That team didn’t lose in 10 games and was probably the main reason the club comfortably stayed in the league with a very respectable 11th-placed finish. Let's hope after Boxing Day we’re celebrating a similarly successful unbeaten run. Mind you, there are some tough games between now and then. 

Now, what about that Pukki strike?

It was a ridiculous volley from Teemu, one of his best goals in a Norwich shirt in my opinion. The only better volley I’ve seen with a left-foot was mine up at Gresty Road back on May 9, 2004 - my last game for the club (I’m not being serious by the way). 

Teemu couldn’t have placed it better if he'd picked that ball up and, walked into Martin Dubravka’s goal. It was a thing of beauty.

He's now one goal shy of the number of goals he’d scored in the first 13 games two seasons ago in the Premier League. He’s scored more league goals this season than the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandez, Aubameyang and England’s number nine, Harry Kane - and this while having to feed off scraps. 

I remember after Norwich beat Bournemouth 6-0 in the League Cup how some supporters were saying that he shouldn’t be starting, after Josh Sargent and Christos Tzolis had bagged a brace apiece. Apparently, he couldn’t cut it at this level.

Let's hope he stays fit. After all, goodness knows what would happen if he was to miss a few week out injured - after all, he’s scored five of Norwich’s eight Premier League goals this season.