Never-say-die Norwich City have traits money cannot buy
As I slowly man-hugged the air out of the stranger next to me following Norwich’s last-gasp goal on Tuesday I couldn’t help think that it all felt strangely familiar.
A cold Tuesday night in February. The Canaries flying high but recent performances slightly below par.
Norwich failing to hit their normal standards and a goal down. The crowd getting agitated.
Then suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, two late goals change the course of the game, and as far as some people are concerned the whole season, marking the point they knew we were going up.
And you know what, we had been here before, in fact a little under a year ago when Southend were just one of many teams to suffer from what has become known as The Paul Lambert Late Late Show.
In fact Tuesday night’s victory against Millwall and the 2-1 win of February 23 are so similar the goals occurred at almost the same times – 78 and 94 minutes then and 77 and 94 now.
Prior to that 2010 win against Southend the team had gone through a tough few weeks – a 2-1 defeat to Millwall (of all teams) and a 2-0 home loss to Southampton had meant just three points out of nine and left some fans feeling jittery.
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But that win marked the start of a six game run in which just two points were dropped.
By the end of it we were 11 points clear at the top, promotion virtually secured.
A year on and it is fair to say some supporters, maybe the same ones, have been suffering from nerves yet again, caused by a culmination of a couple of slightly off-colour performances, a barren spell for our strikers and a failure to sign anyone on transfer deadline day.
Now I’m not saying that Tuesday night’s victory is about to kick-start the same sort of promotion-sealing run.
We are in a different league now, of a completely different standard.
But I am trying to highlight that there is no need for people to hit the panic button every time we go through a below-par period. Sometimes in football, as in life, that’s what happens.
There’s no denying Norwich weren’t at their best on Tuesday night.
All too often we relied on long balls and Millwall did their usual good job of stifling the creativity out of our team.
But as we all should know by now with this current Norwich team, even when we are playing badly there’s a good chance of being able to pick up the points.
And that’s why I am glad that when it came to Monday’s transfer window Lambert himself refused to panic.
There seemed to be among some people an expectation that because Norwich are in a position in which promotion, and all the riches that could go with it, can be secured, the only answer to make it happen was to splash the cash.
But that’s not Lambert’s way. Let’s not forget that, just as he did in the summer, the gafffer had already got most of his ducks in a row early doors by signing Leon Barnett, Marc Tierney and Henri Lansbury.
So when it came to Monday he simply targeted the key area in which he wanted to strengthen, in this case the flanks, by bringing in a young Brighton winger Elliott Bennett, and did all he could to make it happen.
But when it didn’t, the worst thing would have been for him to panic into buying someone else who wasn’t quite right.
Therefore, I was more than happy with our dealings in the transfer window.
There may still be concern about our creativity and current lack of goals but why shouldn’t we have faith in Grant Holt and Chris Martin eventually coming good or Lambert’s two other striker signings, Simeon Jackson and Aaron Wilbraham weighing in with some goals?
We all know how high Lambert’s transfer success rate is.
And if the squad does need further bolstering it wouldn’t surprise me to see the manager use the loan window, just like he did this time last year.
What Lambert has done is given his players the biggest vote of confidence yet.
He has said ‘you got us here, and I trust you to keep us here”.
And when you see them turn around games like Tuesday why should we have any reason to doubt them?
Because there are two traits this team currently has that money could not improve and that is that fantastic never-say-die attitude and complete failure to admit defeat.
• FIVE OF THE REST
1. It was quite surprising just how disappointed people were at the departure of Michael Nelson. I for one won’t miss those lovely 40-yard passes that curl succulently into the Jarrold. To be fair though he scored some important goals for the club and you could never ever doubt his effort and determination. But I always knew his time at the club in 2011 was doomed though the minute he was chosen as Mr February in the official calendar.
2. A couple of random observations from an evening spent in the company of Sky Sports News in transfer deadline day hyper-drive: Why does the transfer window always slam shut and not just close like other normal windows? What on earth was the New Year-style Big Ben countdown all about? Why do they insist on getting different people, in different locations to say the same things about transfers that haven’t even happened yet virtually ignore anything going on below the Premier League? And finally, who are these people who have nothing better to do than spend their evenings gurning behind a Sky Sports presenter as they tell us virtually nothing new for the seventh time that hour? Gotta love it though.
3. A couple of weeks ago I politely enquired about the whereabouts of our long-term missing centre back Zak Whitbread. Like many City fans I wondered if we would ever get to see the best of someone who just a few years ago was so highly-rated. I’ll gladly eat a slice of humble pie a few weeks on because to show such top form so soon after returning to fitness is nothing short of a miracle. Long may it continue.
4. Transfer deadline day also provided some real gems in terms of dead-cert transfers – according to the internet posters anyway. My favourite was the following gem on the PinkUn Cover-It Live: “My mate has just text me who has strong links with Gunn ... He’s heard Adam Le Fondre has been seen in a taxi from Gatwick heading to us ... FACT.” Well done to the poster who matter of factly pointed out that there would be absolutely no reason for a Rotherham player to get a taxi from Gatwick to get to Norwich.
5. I’m raking over old muck, granted, but watching the highlights of this week’s FA Cup provided some confirmation of why we deserved to be relegated 18 months ago. You just need to look at where the players are now. Out of the squad of 16 who played in the final defeat against Charlton, nine are currently playing in League One or below, several of whom popped up in the competition over the weekend. Just two are still at the club (not counting Cody Macdonald), four others are still in the Championship and only one plays in a higher league than City – staggeringly Blackpool midfielder, and former City loanee, David Carney. Every player finds their level in the end it would seem.