Before Monday night’s 2-1 home win against Sunderland, the last time Norwich City were televised during a Monday night Premier League match was February, 2005. They were at home against Manchester City. Norwich ended up losing the game 3-2 after a 92nd minute winner from Robbie Fowler, but the score line was the second most important event that day.
Just before the Norwich players came back onto the field from their halftime cup of tea, City’s co-majority shareholder and England’s original celebrity chef, Delia Smith, came prowling out onto the field, clutched the microphone from the bewildered announcer and began one of the most memorable tirades in football history. A call to action directed at a slightly muted Carrow Road crowd. She asked for a “12th man” to help out the 11 registered players and help carry the team in their hour of need.
At that time it wasn’t clear if she was pleading for more vocal support or if she’d consumed just enough wine to genuinely believe that Norwich were one man short of the full 12 she thought we required. Either way, the 12th man never showed up, all three points departed on a bus back to Manchester and Norwich were left with only a barrage of YouTube abuse to show for a night’s hard work.
This week’s victory didn’t need a battle cry from Mrs. Norwich City (although, I firmly believe she’ll be “wreckin’ the mic” again before the end of the season) and I think that’s a testament to what Norwich City’s devout fans have been through since that cringe-worthy rant. The six year roller-coaster ride, consisting of two relegations and two promotions, has built a fan base with passion and staying power. Last night, the city faithful made it so difficult for Sunderland to feel comfortable and it showed from the very beginning.
Simon Mignolet, tending the goal for the Black Cats, had a nightmare opening ten minutes in which he was almost caught out by the onrushing Wes Hoolahan, who had pounced on to a Leon Barnett clearance, only to send his lob over the keeper and the crossbar. Mignolet continued his sloppy start when he whiffed a simple back pass behind himself for a corner in front of the Barclay end. The noise was offensive and clearly got to the Belgian international keeper.
If Norwich are to make Carrow a fortress again this season, a venue that teams hate to come and play, the fans will need to intimidate every opponent; from Simon Mignolet to Petr Cech. I raise my hat to The Barclay End regulars who have relentlessly made their presence known and kept the atmosphere pulsating.
The quality of the football at Carrow has come a long way, particularly in the last two years and the truth is, we the fans have had very little to do with it. Make no mistake about the order of events; the football came first. The City fans have not sung this high quality football into existence.
Sunderland will be concerned. This was a poor from an established Premier League team who look to be suffering from a summer exodus of quality players. We should keep in mind that Steve Bruce's side has a lot more to offer than we saw on Monday night. But this Norwich lineup played football worthy of the three points they earned. There were moments at the beginning of the second half where the one-touch football was close to what you’d hope to see at any of the best Premier League stadiums. What came first, the chicken or the egg? The answer is Paul Lambert. He's given the fans plenty to sing about.
A few weeks ago I wrote of City’s need to score goals and their need to eliminate errors in the back. We’ve since scored four goals; two at Bolton and two last night against Sunderland. As positive as the progress is, we’ve scored four goals against what I suspect are two of the leakiest defenses in the league. When you look at the strongest teams in the league, they have consistent goal scorers. Manchester City has Aguerro. Manchester United has Rooney. Arsenal has Van Persie (I’m going to forgive their start to the season). I was thrilled to see Morrison get his first Premier League goal. However, seven players scoring our seven goals this season tells a story. “Players are chipping in all over the place” is usually the company line, but we need our strikers to score goals. Our four known strikers have shared two goals between them in six games. The fact that Hoolahan has been filling in up front says a lot and Vaughan’s injury could hinder the attacking department’s goal campaign.
The really positive news is on the defensive front. Finally, a game without conceding a penalty and overall it was a very solid defensive performance. The entire team looked shaky towards the end and that will be when the character and nerve that was built during all of last season’s late wins will need to be present once again. My man of the match was not Leon Barnett, but Marc Tierney. He not only offered a solid effort defensively, but the deft chip to set up Morrison for the winning goal was of the highest caliber.
Manchester United will not fear Norwich ahead of Saturday’s clash at old Trafford, but this City squad is relishing challenges and fears no opponent. I’m certain we’ll lose, they are after all one of the strongest English teams in years, but I’m confident they will underestimate us. We’ll battle hard and give another excellent account of ourselves and who knows, perhaps without Rooney or Hernandez and on the back of their first dropped points, we’ll nick something.
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