Lambert has proved in the past that he’s a fast learner
A quick quiz question to start off my column. What is the significance of the number 2277?
Don’t worry, I won’t always be as obscure in my ponderings on the fortunes of our beloved Canaries.
If you got the answer straight away you are either a genius or really, really sad – or perhaps a really, really sad genius.
If you are a normal fan and didn’t get it then let me enlighten you.
On Sunday it will be 2277 days since Norwich City last played a Premier League match at Carrow Road. And yes it does seem that long doesn’t it?
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A Dean Ashton penalty secured a 1-0 victory over 10-men Birmingham on May 7, 2005, and gave us all real hope that we would survive in the world’s top domestic league.
And then just eight days later was that horror show at Craven Cottage.
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I still have nightmares about that whole day (well, after 3.10pm when the first goal went in) and hearing fellow supporters on the Club Canary coach on the way back up to Norfolk after the game singing: “Nigel Worthington, he had 11 men, he marched them up to the Premier League and he marched them down again.”
As we eagerly anticipate our first home match in the top flight under Paul Lambert, I’m really confident that the Grand Young Duke of Norwich (formerly of Glasgow) will be the man who has marched the Canaries up from League One to the Championship to the Premier League and he will keep them marching proudly in the Promised Land.
I was playing cricket on Saturday so sadly was not one of the Yellow and Green Army which woke up the sleepy DW Stadium on the opening day of the campaign (I would guess that the proportion of away fans to home fans won’t be bettered anywhere in the Premier League this season?).
But I have watched the highlights and read the fans’ and pundits’ verdicts and would say I am 80-90 per cent happy with the opening day’s return.
Before Saturday I had told everyone I would be satisfied with a point.
When I went out to bat for Dereham Cricket Club second XI at about 3.30pm, we were losing 1-0.
We used to fear it when we went behind. Comebacks were pretty rare.
If I say that Wes Hoolahan got as many goals on Saturday as I got runs, you will see I’m no Alistair Cook.
However, the fact that I was at the crease for as short a time as I was, shows that my disappointment at a poor batting display was compensated by hearing that City had quickly got back in the game by the time I trudged back to the pavilion.
Obviously a point on the board is a good start to the season from an away trip to an established Premier League side. Seeing Wes have such an impact when cynics had said he wouldn’t be able to flourish at the top level is another real positive.
I was also delighted to see how well Steve Morison performed and he proved he is not just a target man with his work to set up the leveller.
His commitment and spirit was mirrored by all his team-mates – and that encapsulates why I feel we can stay at the top of the footballing hill.
Another positive is our result compared with our two fellow promoted sides, who are licking their wounds after 4-0 beatings.
Swansea will feel less worried as they went down to the team I feel are most likely to challenge Manchester United for the title.
But QPR fans will be very concerned that they got hammered at home by Bolton – who came bottom of last year’s Premier League “away league” and only won twice and scored just 18 goals on their travels.
This Sunday will be a real test for the Canaries.
I doubt Lambert (unlike Mr Villas-Boas) won’t have much to say about Stoke’s tough approach – and his only thought will be about out-muscling them.
We have to hope that the Potteries outfit have a draining Europa League trip to Switzerland tonight and that the tie is well balanced so their thoughts are on next week’s return match.
The reason I couldn’t give a 100 per cent rating for last Saturday was obviously due to the fact we only got a draw and not a win – and also some concerns about the vulnerabilities at the back.
Lambert was quick to recognise that the approach had perhaps been a bit open – and you bet your life he will have learned a lot very quickly from those 90 minutes at Wigan.
• FOLLOWING THE CANARIES HAS BEEN A WAY OF LIFE
As the new kid on the column block I ought to introduce myself and give a bit of my Canaries’ supporting background.
I’m now 41 and have been mad on City since I could first say Phil Boyer.
My first game was against Leeds in the mid 70s and when I went to watch the players (including Martin Peters and Justin Fashanu) training at Trowse my mum told manager John Bond: “Ian eats , sleeps and breathes Norwich City.” Bondy – in typical style – patted me on the head and said: “Good boy.”
One of my history teachers told my mum and dad at a parents’ evening: “If Ian spent as much time thinking about the history of Britain as he does about the history of Norwich City he would be a good student.”
Over the years I’ve had season tickets in the Barclay and South Stand/Jarrold and am now at the top of the River End. I’ve been thinking about my favourite ever game – and there are so many. But I’ve plumped for beating the Tractor Boys in the 1985 Milk Cup semi-final. It was my first game in the Barclay and it was fantastic and I didn’t care a jot that I got pushed to the ground during the surge when Brucey headed home THAT goal.
I’ve also been pondering my favourite ever City player. As I have tried my hand as a striker, defender and goalkeeper in a very undignified soccer career, I feel I can pick one for each position. Up front my man is Iwan Roberts (who would want to mark him?), at the back it is Duncan Forbes (who would want to be marked by him?) and in between the sticks is Kevin Keelan (673 games – what a man).
On The Ball City.
• Hero of the week: Several contenders including goalscorer Wes Hoolahan, man of the match Steve Morison, Ritchie De Laet, who recovered from his first half error to perform the brilliant late double block or the 4500-strong Yellow and Green Army at the DW Stadium. De Laet gets my vote – I think back to Steve Bruce’s debut for Norwich and believe the defender will be a brilliant addition.
• Villain of the week: I started the season determined not to have a chip on my shoulder about the attitude of the national media, including the Match of the Day team, towards Norwich. These guys are doing a job, I have been telling myself. But the volume of frustration from fellow City fans has persuaded me to give the award to Alan Hansen. Did he really have to be so vociferous in saying he thought Wigan should have had two penalties – rather than agreeing with the rest of us that the one they did get was as soft as a Mr Whippy on Cromer Pier?
• Highlight of the week: It has to be looking at the league table on Saturday night and seeing us in a Champions League spot. (Yes I know we are now sixth – and I guess we’ll settle for that come the end of the season!) Another highlight came in the very unlikely surroundings of the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds during a day trip on Monday. While looking around the aviary, spotted a cage with Border Canaries on show. Fantastic to see the yellow and green on display in Suffolk. We Are Premier League!
• Funniest moment of the week: It was hearing about a fan who had waited years to see a Premier League goal and then missed it as he went for a pee when Wes scored (please contact me if you are that supporter – and forgive me for laughing at your expense).
• Prediction of the week: This slot will be more about an offbeat look ahead to the coming few days rather than a guess on the score for the big match. So it is that scores of fans will still head to the exits well before the final whistle – whatever the score.