Norwich City can go and get the job done
- Credit: Archant 2013
I thought City Under-18s were superb last Monday night in their first leg of the FA Youth Cup final against Chelsea.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get down to Carrow Road to support Neil Adams and the lads because of work commitments.
However, I did manage to get home in time to watch the game on the telly. Well, to be honest, I kept channel hopping back and forth to watch the Aston Villa v Sunderland game as that also was a big game for Norwich City, with both Paul Lambert’s and Paolo Di Canio’s men right in the relegation mix along with the Canaries.
You can’t underestimate how well Neil and the youth boys did on Monday night. Chelsea have a tremendous record in the competition over the past few seasons and it is no surprise they’ve made the final again.
Chelsea have paid a lot of money to attract some of the best talent from all over Europe to Stamford Bridge, so for the under-18s to beat them in the first leg 1-0 was a brilliant feat, and one the whole club should be very proud of as the majority of Neil’s squad is made up from local talent from in and around Norfolk.
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The lads were very organised and solid defensively, with Chelsea finding it hard to break them down. Chelsea missed a few good chances in the first 25 minutes or so, but in the second half the two best chances to score fell to the Canaries.
Just as we all thought the game was going to end goalless, Norwich were awarded a penalty in the very last couple of minutes of injury time, the best opportunity in the 90 minutes to win the game for either side.
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Up stepped Cameron McGeehan, a young lad who was released by Chelsea at the age of 16, to fire his side ahead.
It was probably the biggest kick of his young career and there must have been massive pressure on such young shoulders, and boy didn’t he take the responsibility in his stride.
He showed a coolness and maturity that belied his young age to score from the spot to win the first leg for his team, a goal which I’m sure will live with him for many years to come.
I have to say that Norwich fans never cease to amaze me. Over 21,500 of you turned up at Carrow Road on Monday night, which is remarkable.
Clubs in the Championship would love to get those types of numbers through the gates throughout the season, but to turn up like you did on Monday to support the youth boys is fantastic, and I bet they loved playing in front of such superb support.
I know it’s only half-time in the tie with the second leg at Stamford Bridge on Monday week, but with the same work ethic, desire and organisation there’s no reason why Neil and the team can’t go to London and finish the job off to win the FA Youth Cup for the first time in 30 years.
• IT’S A WINNER TAKES ALL SITUATION
I was asked by the club this week if I was available to come on to the Carrow Road pitch before the game tomorrow as part of a pre-match activity, but sadly I had to decline their offer because I’m in Hull for their last game of the season against the champions, Cardiff City.
I’m so disappointed I can’t be there tomorrow as it has the hallmarks of being a brilliant 90 minutes. It’s not just the fact that Paul Lambert returns to Carrow Road, as he’s been here once with his Villa side already this season in the Capital One Cup. More importantly, tomorrow is a winner takes all occasion.
Aston Villa were outstanding on Monday night when they hammered Sunderland with Christian Benteke scoring his first hat-trick for the Midlands club.
They now sit just two places below Norwich with a mere point separating both clubs.
Paul’s men are in decent form, having won four of their last seven games, and having already won at Carrow Road 4-1 back in December I can’t see him coming here and being negative: it’s just not how he does things.
He’ll send his players out to attack and to win the game, and victory would assure their Premier League status for next season. So what’s Chris Hughton going to do? Will his team be set up for the draw?
He’s been criticised since the turn of the New Year for appearing to send out his team to draw games in order to see the club survive for another year of top-flight football. But will he do that tomorrow afternoon in a game once again I think the lads must win to ease the pressure on everyone?
Two things are certain. They will have to perform much better than they did last Saturday at the Britannia Stadium because for the fourth game since the start of March they failed to muster a single effort on goal, and the game tomorrow promises to be an absolute cracker and I’m gutted I’m missing out.
• WHAT A PLAYER GARETH BALE IS
I’d like to congratulate Gareth Bale on becoming only the third player to lift both the PFA and the Young PFA Player of the Year, becoming the fifth to win the PFA award for the second time and also being named as the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year. For me it was between three players – Gareth, Suarez and Robin van Persie. Any one of the three would have been a worthy winner as they’ve all had fantastic seasons for their clubs. But as a Welshman I’m delighted that Bale did. He’s been unplayable at times, scoring some wonderful goals for Spurs and Wales.
He’s the main reason that Tottenham are still in the race for a Champions League place. Without him they would have fallen away a while back. To think he’s still only 23 is quite scary, and if he keeps developing and improving as he has done over the last two seasons he could become one of the world’s greatest players.