No alarms and no surprises
Remember, remember the fifth of November…however, the only positive thing I’d like to take away from Saturday is that we won’t come up against such a pacey pair as Gabby Agbonlahor and Darren Bent very often.
How much lasting significance you place on Saturday’s defeat depends on how much of a realistic chance you felt that the Canaries had of getting anything from their visit to Birmingham.
Personally I was always of the opinion that if we came away with anything other than a defeat it was a bonus, unless Villa had a collective off-day. They didn‘t.
There are must-win games this season – for me the next one is at home to QPR on November 29 – but Villa away was never going to be one of them.
Disappointing as Saturday panned out was, you have to still look at the bigger picture.
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Before the start of the season if you’d been offered being four points clear of the drop zone by the time of this international break, few would have been unhappy.
Likewise, three weeks ago if you were told that City would manage a draw at Aston Villa and a 3-2 defeat at Liverpool then, again, there would have been hardly any dissenters.
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It’s all a matter of perspective.
Aston Villa are one of only seven ever-presents in the Premier League; they paid �18m for Bent, while Agbonlahor was being touted on Saturday as an England replacement for Wayne Rooney.
Meanwhile among the visitors’ ranks – and I mean this as no insult whatsoever to a talisman striker – in Grant Holt you had a man who, three years ago, was playing for a Shrewsbury side beaten in the FA Cup first round at Blyth Spartans.
You are not exactly comparing like with like.
For now at least, what City have to offer isn’t guaranteed week-in, week-out quality, but spirit and a never-say-die attitude.
For the first half hour on Saturday they were absolutely outstanding – it was hardly against the run of play when they went ahead.
If nothing else on Saturday we can at least say that we gave it a much better go than the 3-0 defeat at Villa Park seven seasons ago. But we cannot continue to give the opposition such a helping hand with errors – you can now add Aston Villa to the likes of West Brom, Chelsea and Blackburn for difficult matches we made that bit harder through our own efforts.
If this was the Championship you could take a defeat like Saturday’s – or a three-match winless run for that matter – because you would know that soon enough some more winnable games would turn up on the fixture list. (And that if you went ahead you’d probably get something out of the game – that’s the first time we’ve lost after taking the lead since at home to Crystal Palace nearly 13 months ago.)
So, we drop two points to the second-flight equivalent of Blackburn or are undone by a defensive clanger at Villa Park – well, these things happen, don’t they?
In the Premier League though, once the relentless fixture list kicks in you see some dropped points and begin to fear that there won’t be an opportunity to make amends.
That’s why Saturday’s result and mistakes hurt.
We have to accept that there will be long periods this season when we’re not going to get anything, but for now we’re only on the back of a one-match losing streak.
If we haven’t won by the time that Christmas rolls around and/or we’re still conceding three goals every game then it’s a matter for concern.
Otherwise, you take defeats like Saturday’s on the chin and move on –especially when you consider that today marks the second anniversary of playing at Paulton Rovers.
If we lose 3-2 to the likes of Wigan, Bolton, Wolves and Fulham at home this season then that’s the time to start getting worried.
The last time we were as well beaten as Saturday – because despite Steve Morison’s late goal I always felt Villa might be capable of coming up with a fourth of their own – was at home to West Brom.
Things changed in the following game and we have to hope that a similar learning process gets under way in the coming weeks.
• HOW MANY MORE REGIONAL CLICH�S CAN WE TAKE?
We’re still to see all the reports from Villa Park, but with barely three months of the season gone there’s already a clear front-runner for the award for the most clich�d Norwich City match report of 2011/12.
The Daily Mirror effort for the Blackburn game started tentatively by merely having “Letsby Avenue” in the opening paragraph, but after that it moved into pun-tastic mode with such comments as:
“Kean’s reward… after Blackburn’s 1st Battalion Chicken Farmers stormed the parish of turkey tycoon Bernard Matthews, was poultry.”
“The good people of Norwich have not enjoyed such a great escape since their resident chat show buffoon, Alan Partridge, survived when irate farmers dropped a dead cow on him.”
“If Canaries domestic goddess Delia Smith offered Kean a lump of sugar to go with his tea and sympathy after this grand larceny, it was a back-handed condiment.”
Now the challenge will be for someone else to also manage to incorporate Stephen Fry, Sale of the Century, Norwich Union and Admiral Nelson into their report. Do this and I think that’s just about every base covered. But I can’t help but wonder who actually is interested in this kind of stuff.
The rest of the country isn’t really that bothered or interested in us, and if you carried on like this in person around here it’d be deemed as more insulting than funny behaviour.
As Partridge might almost put it himself: “Honestly, some people!”
• A GROUND FOR THE REAL FANS
Villa Park might be a bit haphazard, what with some curiously-angled stands cramming in as many seats as possible, leading to some odd views, but it does have one distinct advantage over the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool – the complete absence of the football tourist.
There was almost a blinding point of the second half at Anfield a couple of weeks ago when so many camera-phone flashlights were going off, no doubt leaving hundreds of people to be able to bore their friends afterwards: “See that red dot in the distance? That’s Stevie G.”
You didn’t get any of that in Birmingham on Saturday. There certainly weren’t people having their picture taken in front of the Holte End to show to the folks back home. Result and away ticket prices apart there was a whiff of the 1990s about the place.
It almost felt like being inside one very large ground on loan to the Championship – well, what with our defending at times, though maybe not the quality of Villa’s front line.
It certainly wasn’t like any other stadium we’ll see in the Premier League this season – what with the total lack of advertising around the stands, other than for the club sponsor, and plenty of Villa products being plugged on the LED perimeter displays rather than a wall-to-wall diet of corporate offers.
As you might have gathered by now, it’s one ground to which I actually quite look forward to going.
It’s just a pity that City have only ever won there three times.
• SCHEDULE MAKES TIMING CRUCIAL
The fixture list has done us no favours – at least in terms of the current top seven. Had we played Arsenal away on August 27 rather than Chelsea, who knows what might have happened. We might well have come away with a point from the then-wobbling Gunners. And then faced Chelsea at home on November 19, who knows, it might have been this season’s Manchester United result.
As it turned out, circumstances led to us being well beaten at Stamford Bridge, while if Arsenal continue their renaissance at Carrow Road in 12 days’ time you wouldn’t exactly rule out a third successive 4-1 defeat to Arsene Wenger’s side.