Youth may help to inspire beleaguered Norwich City players
- Credit: Archant 2013
At some point in time every member of this week’s victorious Under-18 side has probably been given the same, or similar, advice.
Perhaps as they clean the boots of one of the senior members of the squad, if that is even a task they have to do any more, they’ll be told to watch that player closely, listen and learn.
To make the most of the chance to see what drives them on, pushes them to the top of their game and use that to aid their own progress.
But at the moment I think a bit of role reversal might be in order.
I’m not suggesting the first-team squad is made to clean the boots of their youth team counterparts (though thinking about it that may have a positive impact).
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But that those first-team players who, to their credit, took time out to watch Monday night’s 1-0 win against Chelsea, may have been able to pick up something for use in their own endeavours between now and the end of the season.
Having been among the 22,000 gathered at Monday’s Carrow Road match, as well as watched the previous round, there has been so much that has impressed me about Neil Adams’ kids.
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Defensively they are very strong. Some of the blocks and tackles made on Monday night would not have looked out of place in the senior squad.
Composed in midfield, with pace and strength in abundance going forward – this is a team with a fantastic balance of attributes.
Granted, every trick didn’t come off, occasionally passes went astray or players held on to the ball too long – but a lot of these problems can be ironed out with experience.
But it wasn’t the quality of play that impressed me most anyway, but the overall attitude during the previous games and this one.
With Chelsea’s rich pedigree in the FA Youth Cup (they’ve won two out of the last three), demolition of Liverpool in the previous round, as well as players who actually know what it’s like to pull on the first-team shirt, it would have been easy for Norwich youth to have been overawed by the occasion. To have gone out looking for damage limitation from the off.
Quite simply, they didn’t and what stood out most about the team’s attitude in general, was the belief they showed.
Belief that they deserved to be playing in this occasion, in front of so many people.
Hopefully the goal right at the death will help maintain that as they go into the second leg a week on Monday.
And belief is what our first-team seems to have lacked for large parts of this season – belief that they can come away from games with all three points.
Take the 2-1 victory against Reading. At 2-0 up suddenly we started to struggle, Reading came back into the game and had the overhead kick right at the end been a few inches to the right we’d be looking at an even more worrying table than we currently are.
A team with belief, however, one that really backed itself to get the job done, would not have stopped at 2-0 at home against the worst side in the league. They would have made it three and perhaps even four.
Meanwhile, at Stoke on Saturday, I’d question whether they really went out with the belief that three points were there for the taking. Was it damage limitation from the off? Did they think ‘If we can contain them we’ll drop two points instead of three, gain one instead of none’?
I know Stoke are a decent side, especially at home, but sadly there have been a few too many performances like that this season.
What I can’t fathom out is why this is a side that can play sides like Arsenal home and away, Manchester United at home and Tottenham at home and really look like they have the confidence to take three points.
But then when it comes to Wigan and Stoke away, we seem so consumed by something (is it fear of failure?) that we can’t even manage a single shot on goal.
What we don’t know is why and who’s at fault – manager and coaching staff or players. Maybe a bit of both.
It could be Chris Hughton et al spend hours before the game pumping their players up, making them feel big and strong, but when they cross the white line they freeze.
So often in sport fear and nerves can overcome talent.
If that’s the case Hughton will probably know the players he needs to move on in the summer.
Summer still seems a long way off, however. For now Norwich City need to make sure the fans witness three ‘Manchester United at home’ performances, rather than a ‘Stoke away’.
• Idea for a game show. Take one wannabe Premier League footballer from abroad, play him for 10 or so games and the let the fans vote on whether he stays at the club for the next season. It’ll never catch on, of course, but wouldn’t this be a novel way to determine the future of Kei Kamara? We could even put those Reading clappers to use again – show yellow for Kamara to stay, green to go. My own vote would be yellow, of that there’s no doubt. The football romantic in me means Kamara’s back story alone is almost enough to make me want Norwich to keep him. You can’t beat a good rags to riches tale. But there is no sentiment in football and I know Chris Hughton will base the decision purely on ability – and I think there’s been enough of that on show to take the risk – at least on a one or two-year contract. Many players don’t just arrive in the Premier League fully formed and up to speed and Kamara has shown enough to suggest he could get even better, given time. But which way would a vote go? I took to Twitter to ask people’s their views and the result was very close. A late surge of Kamara support meant 30 wanted him to stay, 24 to go. Over to you, Mr Hughton.
• Last season my player of the year vote went to David Fox, so after the disappointing follow-up term he’s had I’m tempted not to bother voting this year. It’s not like we are overrun with candidates, after all. There have been some fantastic individual performances but few have done it over the whole season. Should I vote, however, the X will be going on the name Robert Snodgrass, whose all-round play has been fantastic for most games. Passing, crosses, dribbling, free-kicks, scoring and even tackling – he’s the most complete player we have at this moment in time.
• The club’s pre-match build up for the Reading game was nothing short of a master stroke, ensuring it really felt like ‘an occasion’ rather than simply a game between two sides struggling to score and struggling to entertain. Saturday shouldn’t really need the same artificial atmosphere creation. If fans can’t get up for this game, we probably deserve to be supporting a Championship team.