Winning mentality has produced just rewards
Providing Sunday’s game at Crystal Palace goes ahead, the Canaries will have completed the first half of their 2010-11 Championship campaign.
Taking 36 points from their 22 league games so far is undoubtedly a terrific return for a side only recently promoted from the third tier.
And when you consider that City’s away record is actually slightly better than their home form, it emphasises even more just how well the team has performed.
On the field, the steadfast manner in which Norwich have gone about their business is testament to all concerned – from the leadership provided by boss Paul Lambert and the back-up he has been given by his coaching staff, through to the players themselves, who have ultimately gone out there and delivered. Everyone has been pulling in the same direction.
It wouldn’t be overstating things to suggest that the Canaries have surpassed even the most optimistic expectations.
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Consolidation always has to be the main objective for any side that has just been promoted, irrespective of whether they have returned to a division they previously occupied only a year earlier. And given that football has the uncanny habit of smacking you right between the eyes at the merest hint of complacency or over-confidence, that still has to be the first obstacle the Canaries need to overcome.
If, or rather when City accumulate 50 points, we can take things from there.
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But hands up, who expected City to be flying as high as they are right now at this stage of the season? Fifth in the table and just five points off top spot is absolutely incredible.
It just might be that one of the main reasons the current campaign has developed as well as it has is the fact that Lambert has made his intentions perfectly clear as to what he expects from his team on a match day.
The City boss has said many times that he always sends the Canaries out to win matches. And the proof has been there for all to see. There’s been no negativity and no cautiousness, just a sole focus on how City can best hurt the oppositions as opposed to worrying about how they might be hurt themselves. It’s been so refreshing.
And even if it does lead to the occasional blip and defeat in a match that otherwise might have ended all square if less adventurous tactics had been employed, by the same token a win one, lose one ratio every couple of matches works out better than drawing both. So why not adopt a “go for it and see where it takes us” policy?
The stats make for equally impressive reading given that Norwich have not lost back-to-back matches in the same season since the managerial changeover some 16 months ago. That’s no fewer than 74 matches in total.
I don’t know how many other sides in the country can boast that particular record, but I bet it’s not many.
There’s nothing to crow about yet. No team has ever achieved success in December, so it’s absolutely right that everyone is keeping a lid on things. Look back through the history books and you’ll discover that more or less all the top sides have always done that. When Liverpool were the dominant team in the country in the late 70s and 80s, for example, they never, ever gloated.
And even when Messrs Hansen, Lawrenson and Dalglish were handed their latest batch of medals, their manager and coaches were at pains to highlight to the players that it was history now and that their main priority should be about whether they were good enough to go out and do it all over again.
But equally, there’s also nothing wrong in giving credit where it’s due.
And as they approach the halfway stage, considering what the Canaries have done so far, we really can’t heap enough of it on them. Merry Christmas everyone.
• BOOTHROYD’S HONESTY OVER RED CARD WAS SO REFRESHING
A few observations from last Saturday.
Firstly, if there were more than 15,000 supporters inside the Ricoh Arena, as indicated by the official attendance, then I’m Santa Claus. That stadium holds 32,000 people. And we know for sure that almost 1,800 Norwich fans were present.
I reckon if you could have squeezed all the Coventry fans together they wouldn’t even have filled one side of the ground. My guess is that the official attendance of more than 15,000 was the actual number of tickets that had been sold for the game as opposed to the actual number of people that passed through the turnstiles, with many people having been in the unfortunate position of not being able to get to the ground because of the weather.
I reckon the true attendance was about 8,000 at best.
But Coventry boss Aidy Boothroyd earned respect after admitting that Aron Gunnarsson deserved his red card for the challenge. It’s almost common practice these days for managers to refuse to condemn their players regardless of how far they might have transgressed the laws of the game – I think the medical books refer to this unfortunate condition as Arsene Wenger syndrome – so it was refreshing to hear Boothroyd simply saying it as it was.
In terms of the game at Portman Road that I was listening to on the radio on my way home, though, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
A half-time break of almost 25 minutes and then a break midway through the second half of almost 20 minutes so that snow could be cleared from the pitch is pretty much taking the rise.
Do you think that referee Stuart Attwell just might have been put under a little bit of pressure from Roy Keane? I guarantee you that Attwell would have called that game off in the blink of an eye if the score had been 0-0 at the time the snow came down from the heavens by the lorry load. But because Ipswich had lost their previous six league games and were miraculously now winning this game 3-0, he basically bottled it and allowed the Ipswich ground staff to do everything they possibly could to ensure the game could finish.
• THE FATAL FLAW IN THE ARGUMENT FOR A WINTER BREAK
With most of Britain resembling a fridge freezer and dozens of games being called off, the hottest topic for debate this week has been the call for a mid-season break.
I’m a traditionalist, so whenever something like this pops up I instinctively revert to default mode and say that things should kept exactly as they are.
But then, as the argument develops, I have to admit that sometimes I can completely change my mind!
However, the opinion of Peterborough boss Gary Johnson has so far ensured that I remain – at least for the time being – firmly entrenched in the “keep things as they are” camp, because he highlighted the one fatal flaw in the mid-winter break campaign.
“Unlike other countries, we never know when the bad weather will come,” he pointed out.
“So if we have a winter break, when should we have it?”
That’s good enough for me to stay on the side of tradition.