Norwich City players should still have belief in themselves
There was a fantastically open and candid interview in the programme against Arsenal last week, which is worth sharing in case you missed it.
Ever-present left back Marc Tierney was looking back on his career so far with the Canaries as well as how he has got where he is today.
He started by talking about the extra work put in during the summer to make him ready for the Premier League.
Perhaps aware that in order to survive he could not simply rely on his natural talent, he worked intensively with a private coach to take his fitness, skill and concentration to the highest level possible.
And more than a quarter of the way into the season it has certainly paid off. He’s an ever present in the league and has been one of the star turns. Norwich fans have quickly come to realise he possesses much more than just a rather odd long-throw technique.
However, the dedication shown during pre-season is nothing compared to that during his teenage years, as Tierney explained: “I wrote to 90-odd clubs just asking for a foot in the door, to give me a chance to play. To go on from there to surpassing most of the clubs that rejected you, to playing for Norwich in front of thousands and thousands of people each week, is a humbling experience.
“But also you want to really push on, and make your career the best that it can be.”
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Tierney is, of course, one of several Norwich players who have had to work their way from the bottom to the top.
But his story perfectly highlighted the characteristics which have helped him do so, and subsequently helped Norwich get back to where we belong. They will hopefully help us stay there too.
And those are determination, desire and, above all, self-belief.
You can possess all the talent in the world, but only the few will be able to survive at the top without also possessing these attributes.
And comments in recent weeks from several other City players who have endured similar long-winded journeys to the top have shown how they possess such traits. Following the Aston Villa game, striker Steve Morison described the defeat as ‘just not good enough’.
He went on to say: “It could always be worse, but it could always be better – no one is ever happy. We don’t think we’re over-performing, we think we’re under-performing if I’m perfectly honest. We could have been so much better in games.”
It’s this determination and will-to-win which helped him swat aside German international Per Mertesacker for the opening goal last week.
After the same game, winger Anthony Pilkington also said: “We’re not happy. We came here to win, we work hard every week to get a good result and today we haven’t so we are more than disappointed.” His own battle for success has seen him have to rise from non-league Atherton Collieries to the Premier League, suffering a major injury along the way.
Midfielder Bradley Johnson, meanwhile, spoke before the Arsenal game of his own rejection at the hands of our opponents.
He said: “I’d been there so long, seen all my close friends getting contracts and me not getting it broke my heart. So I stopped playing football for about a year and a half and then worked my way up.” Which is exactly what he did and now he’s playing like he’s never been away from the top.
And there are other examples. Grant Holt, John Ruddy, Andrew Crofts, David Fox and Wes Hoolahan. They have all faced rejection at some stage, but found the will and belief to battle back.
Throughout the season so far these characteristics have been a key reason for the team’s success as a whole. Even against Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, there was always a belief they could recover from a knock-back.
But during the second half of last Saturday’s game I felt that the belief was the thing that was missing.
Even though we were just one goal behind, and have so often recovered in the very last moments of the game, it didn’t feel like the players, or the fans to be fair, truly thought it would happen.
Perhaps it was simply down to the fact that we found it so hard to get the ball to do anything with it. In terms of passing this was the very best we have seen so far.
Maybe it was something more, we will probably never know.
But whatever the reason let’s hope it returns come Saturday, because there’s been nothing in this season so far to suggest the players shouldn’t wholeheartedly believe they can compete with the very best this league throws at them.
• So Paul Lambert reckons we won’t be in the market for a centre back come January. With Elliott Ward’s return looking a long way off, Zak Whitbread a regular injury concern, Dani Ayala low on experience and Ritchie Da Laet a non-starter for several weeks now (and mysteriously dropping out of the squad completely last Saturday) I’m not so sure. I do wonder if Lambert’s coyness was a tactical bum-steer so clubs don’t think we’re desperate and hike the prices up a notch when the transfer window reopens. One player currently picking up rave reviews who might be well worth a punt is Hull City’s Jack Hobbs.
• What better way to make up for a defensive howler leading to a goal than to stop at least three certain goals in the same match? That’s what centre-back Russell Martin did against Arsenal so it was pleasing that he still had Lambert’s complete backing after the defeat. One of ‘The Norfolk Cafu’s’ most positive traits in the centre has been his willingness to stride forward with the ball, which on several occasions has directly led to a goal. It’s the same willingness that has the pundits drooling over Manchester United’s Phil Jones and it would be a shame to see Martin lose it because of one error. While Martin can learn from the goal, so too can those around him who didn’t supply enough options for him to release the ball.
• A word of praise for the Carrow Road stewards in the Barclay on Saturday who refrained from their usual policy of asking you to sit down within moments of an exciting bit of play. It’s obvious the atmosphere created by fans is directly related to the amount of time spent on their bums during the match and I wonder whether this relaxing of the policy was decided upon with that in mind? If so it’s worth noting the atmosphere was better and I didn’t hear one person complain about it. So more of the same this week please.
• While this season has shone a light on just how tired Saturday night’s Match of the Day has become, one star of the small screen has emerged – though most fans would probably rather not admit it. Former Manchester United right back Gary Neville’s analysis of games on Sky has been fantastic, always interesting and always passionately delivered. Perhaps it is a trait possessed by right-backs because the BBC pundit who could instantly improve its Saturday night highlights show is former Gunner Lee Dixon.