Robin Sainty: Four reasons why City fans can be cheerful in times of adversity
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It’s difficult to accurately describe the sensation of returning to Carrow Road for the first time in 10 months.
While a tiny part of me last Saturday was apprehensive given the ongoing pandemic, any concerns were swiftly quashed by the excellent organisation that the club had put in place to keep everyone safe and were replaced by the butterflies in the stomach that are always there whenever I go to see City play, but which I had perhaps taken for granted over many years of it being an almost weekly occurrence.
Just being at a game after so long was enjoyable enough, notwithstanding the dullness of Tony Pulis’ anti-football, but the added bonus of experiencing again the sheer visceral thrill of seeing a late City winner was something I’ll cherish until I can next get back.
Those who went on Wednesday night were treated to a similar experience, although City perhaps made it harder than necessary for themselves by spending much of the second half playing within themselves and allowing Forest back into the game rather than going for the jugular.
However, that is perhaps understandable given the huge workload that a depleted squad has been required to undergo in recent weeks, and with yet another key two-game week upcoming.
It is truly remarkable that City are three points clear at the top of the Championship, despite their injury list. However, I think there are four key reasons why they have managed it.
The first is the fact that senior players have led from the front. The likes of Grant Hanley, who has been immense, Alex Tettey, Teemu Pukki and Ben Gibson have all used their vast experience to help those around them even when things have been going against them. Ironically given his age you would also have to add Max Aarons, who just seems to get better and better, into that category.
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Equally young players have responded by showing huge maturity in difficult circumstances. Josh Martin has looked very much at home despite only breaking into the first team squad at the end of last season, but for me the two outstanding youngsters have been Olly Skipp and Jacob Sorensen.
It could be argued that as an England U21 international and a man that Jose Mourinho sees as a future Spurs captain we should expect good performances from Skipp, but he has been an absolute rock in a midfield unit that has been constantly subjected to enforced changes and his boundless energy and ability to time his tackles has made him indispensable.
Sorensen arrived as a midfielder but has spent each of his 10 starts in English football at left-back, a position that he had never previously played in his life, and despite often being exposed as opponents targeted him, his calmness, awareness and strength have impressed everyone.
The third factor is something that I’ve mentioned previously; the fact that all age groups at City are encouraged to play the same way, which has made it so much easier for the likes of Martin, Aarons, Todd Cantwell and now Tyrese Omotoye to come into senior football without being overawed in any way.
However, the fourth reason is perhaps the most important; Daniel Farke himself. It would be easy for a head coach to become weighed down by the constant injuries, particularly after last season’s experience, but he has kept himself and everyone around him positive in the face of adversity.
Even more importantly, he has shown an increasing ability to make key tactical substitutions that have directly impacted results.
However, there is, as usual, no time to savour this week’s success, with a tough trip to Ewood Park on Saturday, where City can expect a similarly physical test to the one that they endured two seasons ago, so Farke will hope both that everyone came through Wednesday evening unscathed and that others will soon be ready to return.