Norwich City look every inch a team poised for success
“You know what. Six-nil is six-nil.”
It might have been stating the bleedin’ obvious, but when Joe Royle made that particular statement after Oldham’s League Cup semi-final first leg drubbing of West Ham back in 1990, he was simply emphasising that no matter what particular excuses anyone offers up, when you deliver a scoreline like that then mitigating circumstances simply do not enter the equation.
In our case, there were comments in the press afterwards that the plastic pitch played a significant part in our emphatic first leg victory. And that a couple of the goals were close calls for offside.
But as Royle also wryly highlighted, even if they were offside, we’d still have enjoyed a four-goal victory. And as for the plastic, well, while it did undoubtedly help us, he correctly pointed out that he didn’t seem to recall any team moaning about it whenever they enjoyed a bit of success at Boundary Park.
So let’s get things straight right away. City’s demolition of Scunthorpe last Saturday was due to nothing other than the Canaries producing as good a performance as you’re likely to see at this level. Period.
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True, there have been other teams that have posed the Canaries a few more problems this season than the Iron did at Carrow Road last week. And the visitors did have their work cut out considering that they were forced to play with 10 men for more than an hour.
But to temper City’s victory in any way by making reference to extenuating circumstances would not only be insulting, but also completely inaccurate.
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In my opinion, I don’t think any team in the division would have been able to cope with Norwich last Saturday. And as for the sending-off, I reckon that Scunthorpe could have played with 15 men and it wouldn’t have changed much.
No, City were simply brilliant last week, and they produced a virtually faultless display.
It really doesn’t get much better than that. There were players in yellow shirts in every department of the team that were playing at the top of their game, and although it’s a well-worn clich�, it really did look like a case of men against boys.
Norwich looked every inch a team that is heading for success.
Of course there are still seven games to play and 21 points are up for grabs. There is still plenty of work to be done and anything can happen. Nothing has been achieved yet.
But the one thing we can be absolutely sure of, is that if City can deliver the same levels of energy, determination and commitment that they served up last Saturday, and if they can reproduce anything like the same standards of fluent, incisive and wholly destructive style of attacking football they unleashed on a hapless Scunthorpe outfit, then no one will be able to stop them achieving their dreams.
• HOOLAHAN INJURY A REAL SICKENER
After a result and performance like the one we witnessed at Carrow Road last Saturday, you’d think that everyone with any affinity for the club whatever would have been walking around with the broadest of smiles this week.
Well, I’m sure that we all would have … if only Wes Hoolahan hadn’t got injured, that is.
When the mercurial Irishman walked off the pitch clutching the back of his thigh, meaning an inevitable hamstring injury, my heart sank.
Not Wes. Not our principal playmaker. Not the one player who makes you feel that something is about to happen every time he receives the ball. Not now. Not with just seven games left. But unfortunately so.
Now, as many people pointed out afterwards, given the outstanding debut performance of Dani Pacheco (how good does he look, by the way?) and Henri Lansbury’s brilliant display when he came on as a substitute (it seemed like he put someone through on goal or delivered a goalscoring chance every time he touched the ball), there is more than adequate cover in that particular department of the team.
But there is only one Wes Hoolahan, isn’t there? He is unique.
And as such, the sooner he recovers from his injury and is back in contention for a place in the team, the better. Let’s hope it’s very soon.
• THREE-YEAR DEAL IS JUST REWARD FOR CITY SKIPPER
It goes without saying that the announcement on Wednesday afternoon that Grant Holt had committed his future to the Canaries by signing a new three-year deal was absolutely superb news.
The Norwich captain has been little short of sensational since his arrival at Carrow Road just under two years ago, and his scoring record speaks for itself.
Thirty goals last year and 21 to date during the current campaign is a first-class return, and proof that Holt is the complete centre-forward.
I’ve said many times that he would be more than worth his place in the side even if he wasn’t scoring goals, as his workrate combined with the uncanny ability he has to unsettle opposition defences and not allow them a moment’s peace is priceless in itself.
But to have consistently hit the back of the net as well as providing such a menacing presence to the forward line has not only been a magnificent achievement, but also testament to the man himself and the way in which he has gone about his business for the Canaries every single time he has crossed the white line.
I actually think he has improved in terms of his technical ability in front of goal, because although he has obviously never had a problem sticking the ball in the net, he is now scoring the type of goals that require more than just the knack of being in the right place at the right time and ensuring that you make good contact with the ball.
When an opportunity arrives, he usually selects the best option in order to increase his chances of converting it into a goal. And that is one of the hallmarks of all the best strikers
He’ll more than likely have the feeling that he’ll bury every single decent chance that comes his way right now. And what’s more, you wouldn’t bet against him doing so.