Why Norwich City can turn Fulham low point into a high five

So who else had a smart wotsit come up to them on Sunday and say “give us a high five?” Grrrrrrr.

I have always liked the number five.

I was born in the fifth month of the year. When I played regularly I was a centre half and proudly wore the number five shirt. And there was that never to be forgotten match at Portman Road when we got promotion two seasons ago. Why else are they now called Ip5w1ch...?!

Even taking in to account our very poor record on the opening day of the season, surely not even the most gloomy of City fans saw such a hammering coming on Saturday.

I was working, so had to endure the unfolding misery at Craven Cottage courtesy of the microphones of Messrs Goreham and Eadie on Radio Norfolk.

They did their best to be positive as Norwich fans while being professional and doing their job to tell it as it was.

I don’t know about glasses being half empty – some fans seem to have pint mugs which are suffering from a long drought.

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There are signs to be fearful, even after one game.

The nature of the capitulation in West London. The lack of any real threat to the Fulham goal and a similar shyness in the opposition’s danger area during pre-season. The opening day performance of some of our rivals who we must be able to compete with this year.

Only a supporter whose unshakable optimism matches Usain Bolt’s pace will be completely untroubled by what happened in chapter one of the 38 chapter 2012-13 Premier League story.

But I believe we are so early in the campaign that we have to keep the faith – and so maintain the theme of five, here are my five reasons to be cheerful as we prepare for the huge game on Saturday.

1) We are only 90 minutes into a 3,420 minute season. If you are going to get a damn good thumping then surely it is the best game to get it in? Assuming CH’s men can get back on track on Saturday and turn in a decent performance against QPR and get some points on the board, we will all feel much happier. To use the old clich�, we’re in a marathon not a sprint. I know it will feel like we have got our ankle caught in a pot hole in the first few hundred yards but there is so much time to run off the twinge and get it right. We nearly always have a poor first day of term – and even teams who get off to a flier (relegated Bolton won 4-0 last year in the first match) can still come unstuck.

2) I’m encouraged by the new signings. At 6ft 2, Bassong should give some strength to the heart of the defence. He has a good CV with a decent spell at Newcastle under Hughton – including being named their player of the season. The Cameroon international also impressed at Spurs in a year when the team was fourth in the league, I think he could come in and really take control of the back four. Last season our goals against total was 66 – the worst outside the bottom three. A minus five goal difference already is worrying – but Bassong could help turn the tide. City have a great record of getting decent players from Tottenham over the years – Culverhouse, Bowen, Crook....the names roll off the tongue and let’s hope Seb is another one to add to the list. I also like the sound of Javier Garrido and am delighted he has been given the international clearance to play on Saturday. I know coming from Lazio doesn’t guarantee that he is going to cut the mustard in these parts, but I think he will succeed.

3) The existing players aren’t too shabby either. Yes, defences will know more about Holty – but he will score goals. Ruddy is now clearly the second best English keeper and once the defence in front of him is stabilised, he will flourish. And you may not realise but we have two of the fastest five players in the Premier League. Even in a game when we were demolished, Johnny Howson clocked a top speed of any top flight player of 23.12mph – and Russell Martin (22.74mph) was fourth.

4) I’m confident of a response this weekend. Bouncebackabiity has become a trademark at Carrow Road in recent seasons. There have been some wobbles, but like the Weebles, the team has come back up. Good players don’t become bad overnight and they have definitely got it in them to get the season on track – and to do it quickly.

5) We have the fans to give the team that vital push – and I know the players will get the vocal backing at CR on Saturday.

I hope that helps inject a bit of sunshine if you are feeling gloomy – and here’s hoping we are high fiving for all the right reasons at 5pm on Saturday.


So here goes then – my reasoning behind why I think we are in line for a cup run this season.

I won’t delve in to the detailed statistics this week and will come back to them in a future column when we have progressed a bit further.

But it doesn’t take a degree student in applied maths to know that Norwich’s success in cup competitions in recent years has been on a par with Joey Barton’s achievements in the Britain’s Most Loveable Footballer contest. In year after year we have thought the rot could be ended and a taste of glory could be round the corner. And then reality has dawned,

So what makes me think it will be different this year?

On a nostalgic level, the Capital One Cup final at Wembley is on February 24, 2013 – almost exactly 40 years to the day since the Canaries’ first appearance at the home of football.

I still haven’t been to the new-look Wembley. I know the League Cup isn’t everyone’s cuppa – but I’d love to go there and I know we would fill every seat made available.

Using a bit more head than heart, I sense Chris Hughton is a cup man.

As a player he was a member of the Tottenham side which won both the 1981 and 1982 FA Cups as well as the 1984 UEFA Cup and was runner-up in the 1982 League Cup and the 1987 FA Cup. He was in the Ireland squad in the Euros in 1988 and World Cup in 1990 – and in his managerial career so far he has a pretty respectable record in domestic and European competitions. So we shall see – but if we lose to Scunthorpe on Tuesday, I will feel a fool....

• Hero of the week: Sadly no-one on the pitch at Craven Cottage could be picked for the first hero gong of the new campaign. John Ruddy stopped the result being even more disastrous. But there is only one place this award can go this week. On the hottest day of the year, an estimated 5,000 City fans endured a range of dreadful journeys to get to and from the ground – and still backed their team at the end of the horror show.

• Villain of the week: I moaned a lot about Match of The Day last year, I felt at times we weren’t given the credit we deserved for our performances and the way the team took to being in the Premier League. Also on too many occasions, City were put on towards the end of the programme and I got through too many boxes of matches trying to stay awake. Well, I have another bone to pick with the MOTD producer from last week’s programme – and he gets my villain of the week award for not forgetting us all together.

• Highlight of the week: Not the easiest choice in a week when highlights have been as rare as cold nights. Managing to avoid being bottom of the league despite losing so heavily gave me a glimmer of satisfaction. But what has cheered me most in the past few days is the arrival of Sebastien Bassong. I know his signing has received mixed views among the Carrow Road faithful – but I like the look of him, He’s big, strong and has top flight experience – and is clearly a player who really wants to perform for CH.

• Funniest moment of the week: I love Canary Call on Radio Norfolk. Whether I’m on my way back from a game I’ve seen, or at home after one I haven’t been to, the phone-in is always good value. And the Twitter feed is also amusing. My favourite this week was: “Neil I’m foomun’. Just read on the internet ol’ Bassmong cost 5 million quid. Thas a shame tuh think you couldda got 8.33 Lee Crofts for that.”