West Brom feast brings happy end to all the nervous bickering
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
What a wonderful thing football is – full of drama and suspense and twists and turns.
Last time I sat down to write this fortnightly column, on the back of a tepid defeat to Stoke, we were all getting a little bit worried weren’t we?
And just a few days later the gloom descended ever closer to Carrow Road as Paul Lambert returned with his Aston Villa side to show us what we had all been missing.
So fed-up were some Canaries fans at that defeat the atmosphere walking away from the ground was the worst I’ve witnessed since the dark old days of our drop to League One.
In the short walk along the back of the City Stand I spotted two different incidents of fans face-to-face arguing with each other. There were also several angry chants of ‘Hughton Out’.
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When I had the temerity to suggest to the other half that certain people appear to have short memories of how far we have come in a short space of time, I myself was subjected to a bit of verbal aggro from yet another disgruntled fan.
But we supporters do have short memories, because I bet those same fans are feeling a whole lot different now. In fact it’s staggering just how much brighter everything can seem after another 90 minutes of Premier League football.
- 1 MATCHDAY RECAP: Huge goals for Hugill as City create daylight at the top
- 2 Farke maps out his risk averse strategy on Pukki and Krul
- 3 Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from the Canaries' 2-0 Championship cruise against Bristol City
- 4 The Greek view on Norwich City new boy Dimitris Giannoulis
- 5 Cherries lose more ground on Canaries in promotion race
- 6 PRESSER LIVE: Norwich City v Bristol City - Pukki still out, Krul set to return
- 7 STARTING XIs: Krul returns for Canaries against Bristol City
- 8 Hot Hugill caps a season's best display for City boss
- 9 Farke is not looking over his shoulder at City
- 10 Norwich City v Bristol City - all you need to know
Suddenly a top 10 finish is a possibility (though not a likely one granted), we can all relax about the prospect of Ricky van Wolfswinkel dumping us at the aisle and we’ve even secured an FA Youth Cup trophy to boot.
To add to the joy let’s not forget the prospect of the debt being cleared, as well as a massive cash bonanza dropping on this club over the summer.
Go back to that opening day at Fulham and surely any Norwich City fan given access to a crystal ball would have been happy with the outcome mapped out?
Ultimately it’s been a successful season – but at times it hasn’t really felt like it.
Rarely have I known a season of so many contrasting fortunes.
There was a poor start to the season, then a run of 10 games without defeat. But that was followed by just two wins in 19.
In the cup competitions, quarter-final and fourth round exits don’t seem too bad – but when you look at who we went out to it was a massive missed opportunity for some success in this area.
The league table further reflects the many current contradictions of the club. On the one hand Norwich were very hard to beat, losing just 14 games, fewer than everyone currently below, as well as West Ham and West Brom.
But there weren’t enough victories. Only Everton tasted more draws and Reading and QPR fewer wins.
Ten clean sheets shows the massive improvements made to the defence, but eight games saw them ship three or more goals. An average of just over one goal a game is simply not enough.
Even now we’re seemingly well placed in 12th, but results on Sunday could see us drop as low as 17th.
I’ve always said, however, the only priority in Hughton’s first season in charge was to avoid relegation – and he deserves massive credit for doing just that.
But the hard work starts here for he and his backroom team – because I suspect the patience of fans (and the board) will run out pretty quickly should his second season follow the same path.
A poor end to the season has ensured a bit of extra pressure on the team for a good start in 2013/14.
Take eight games to register that first win, continue to struggle to create chances and goals and I fear the disgruntlement won’t take long to return. What I’m sure the majority of fans don’t want to happen is we spend millions on strikers of the calibre of Van Wolfswinkel, inset, only to play like the main intention is to secure a clean sheet and hope at some point a chance comes along to sneak a 1-0 win.
But I’m pretty confident Hughton has the know how and experience to know that this is a club where supporters have traditionally craved an attacking and attractive style of play – and continue to do so.
Just the type of football, in fact, served up from 3pm on Sunday.
And look where that got us.
• CITY’S UNDER-18S DID US PROUD
So proud of the under 18s for their victory against Chelsea? A performance of verve, skill and pace. People will be wondering whether Hughton will name one or more of them in the squad for Saturday. It’s a tough one and I’d be tempted to leave it for now, let them enjoy this success and leave the carrot of a possible first-team place dangling next season as an incentive to spur them on further.
• MARTIN’S STORY A LESSON FOR YOUTHS
It seems apt Monday’s victory came a few days after the departure of Chris Martin. In many ways his is a cautionary tale to those teens. Martin burst on to the scene, but for a host of reasons never really built on that early promise. He had a couple of good seasons in League One and the Championship, but his Norwich career feels like one of unfulfilled potential. He’ll always be remembered however for that great headed goal against Leeds in the 1-0 League One victory.
• CLAP BANGERS THE SECRET TO SUCCESS?
When we at Archant decided to run the Yell Army campaign we never imagined the use of clap bangers would incite such divided opinions. Some fans were so livid they saw them as an insult to their support. Proof is in the pudding however, as the atmosphere was undoubtedly improved for these three games – especially in those ends not exactly known for their noise creation. And you can’t argue with two wins out of three and an FA Youth Cup Final to boot.
• KEI: HE’S GONE BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN
I was saddened to see Kei Kamara go, but I guess it was the right decision. There’s certainly been no real backlash from the majority of fans. I’d like to add my own thanks to him for brightening up a relatively dull period in Norwich City’s history. His rags to riches story, willingness to engage with fans and obvious joy at getting the opportunity to play in the Premier League were refreshing and inspiring to witness.