Why the letter M could hold the key to Norwich City’s season
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
This week’s Norwich City fan column is brought to you by the letter M.
Fear not, reader, this is not because I’ve been binge watching Sesame Street - though being less than a month shy of my 30th birthday I wouldn’t rule it out as something of a protest against hitting the big three-0.
Instead, the reason I’m referencing the children’s TV favourite is I’m starting to think the letter M could well be one that has great significance come the end of the season, for more reasons than one.
We start with the fact I could really see City’s two visits to teams beginning with M this season as being the two games we look back on in May as being the ones that truly defined the season.
First, let’s talk about Tuesday:
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M is for...Middlesbrough
Before Tuesday night’s Riverside triumph a poll did the rounds online, courtesy of one of our friends at the radio, Rob Butler. He asked a very simple question: would City fans take a 0-0 draw tonight?
A vast majority said yes, and I was among those: Middlesbrough being a relegated side and one who added really quality in the summer were always going to be tough opposition.
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Then of course, there’s the hoodoo of visiting the North East, the fact that in my life we have only beaten the Boro twice away from Carrow Road, one of these being at Wembley.
The Riverside was, until Tuesday, almost as much of a bad hunting ground for City as the dreaded Craven Cottage.
This, for me, is why this result is as significant as it is. I’m not a huge believer in hoodoos and jinxes.
However, some footballers can be a suspicious bunch, so not only was Tuesday’s victory a fantastic win – putting a 29-year hoodoo to bed is big statement.
M is for... Millwall
For all the gushing I have done over the Boro result, I truly don’t believe it will prove to be the most telling result of the term.
That honour belongs to a result that stands out for all of the wrong reasons – but also all of the right reasons: Millwall away.
The humiliating 4-0 mauling at The Den is the one I will look back on at the end of the season and say – putting my neck on the line – “that is the reason we were promoted”.
Yes, I’m getting that carried away, having seen the way City’s fortunes have turned around since that day.
For me, that abomination was a wake-up call for Daniel Farke, the back room and the playing staff.
It was the hammer blow to the noggin that told City’s head coach that possession, passing and attractive football alone does not get you out of this league – there needs to be steel behind it.
Since the Millwall atrocity, City have become one of the most difficult teams in the league to beat, and conceded nothing.
While the fact that in these five games, the goals have dried up, I firmly believe these will come.
Even if it had still been a defeat, imagine the position we would be in had it been a narrow one.
Ironically, humiliation at the hands of one of the league’s least fanciest sides was exactly what we needed to kick-start the season.
M is for... Maddison
Somebody slap a £100m buy-out clause in that lad’s contract and never accept a penny less.
The former Coventry star is beginning to show why he arrived with such a buzz around him, and Tuesday’s thunderbolt was the perfect demonstration of this.
But the thing about City’s number 23 that is most comforting is that he is slightly quelling one of the things I am dreading in life the most – the day Wes Hoolahan hangs up his boots.
I have no doubts that this is also something lots of my fellow fans also dread – Wes has been an absolute giant for the club in his decade here, despite standing at just 5ft 6in in height, and I’ve often worried about what we are going to do when the timeless Irishman suddenly remembers his age.
However, Maddison is beginning to tell me there is life after Wes. The club need to go the extra mile to make him feel valued, a part of the family and a key part of the project, so his head isn’t turned. We kept a player of Wes’ calibre for a decade, let’s do the same with Madders. M is for... Mario
I’m really starting to like the look of Mario Vrancic. In the early weeks it seemed he may have been struggling to adjust to English football, but now whenever I see him he looks settled, confident on the ball and a really hard worker.
He also showed in the cup he can hit a ball from a set-piece, which is something we haven’t had in the locker for a while. If he continues to grow into the Championship, he could turn into a really big player for us - here’s hoping he keeps improving.
Timm is a boss
It’s no coincidence that City have not conceded a single goal while Timm Klose has been on the pitch.
The big Swiss defender really seems to have Championship football sussed now and looks a real rock for the club.
I was really impressed with how candidly he spoke to my colleagues about his struggles last year - holding his hands up to maybe being a little complacent last campaign.
However, since he’s come back in he’s looked assured, composed and probably the best defender in the league.
He and Christoph Zimmermann look the ideal centre-back pairing - the perfect balance of style and substance. I’ve always said the best partnerships are made up of the ball player and the stopper, which is why Craig Fleming and Malky Mackay became such a formidable pairing.
In Klose and Zimmermann I see shades of that; Klose is the steady head who can play us out of trouble, while Zimmermann puts his foot in where it is needed. They look made for each other.