April 3, 2012
Back in the middle of March, the League Managers Association asked all of the Premier League managers to answer a few simple questions; a survey, if you will. Each manager was asked to give his opinion on a number of questions including "Who is the most impressive boss?" and "which team do you most enjoy watching?" (75% of managers, accurately identified Spurs as the most enjoyable team to watch).
Bearing in mind that this was a survey of the Premier League's most erudite minds (and Mark Hughes), it was noteworthy that the top flight's newest managers, Brendan Rodgers and Paul Lambert, amassed 87% of the votes for most impressive boss; Rodgers with 47% and Lambert taking 40%.
It comes as little surprise to the Swansea and Norwich faithful. We've watched these two teams build formidable reputations as tenacious competitors and who believe that you win games by playing attractive football.
A survey like this would ordinarily churn the rumour mill and cause great concern for the fans of smaller teams with revered managers. Which bigger club is going to take our manager? However, Norwich's recent run of poor results will leave many City fans feeling calm with regards to Paul Lambert's immediate future.
Although it only took him two and a half years to be inducted into the Norwich City Hall of Fame, it's possible, just possible, that the City gaffer's almost perfect record as the Canaries' boss is showing signs of weakness and the wheels could be coming off.
March 6, 2012
When I was 16 years old, my mate, Big Aza, asked me to go along with him to play for his Sunday league team, The Unicorns. They were down a man and had "a massive cup game" against The Norwich Busmen. It's the kind of big match that every young lad dreams of.
The game kicked-off 15 minutes late because Jason, our 40-year-old rotund super striker, had been out with the lads the night before and had to remember where he'd left his car before he could drive to the remote Norfolk field where we were waiting.
At half time, as I stretched and took on plenty of water, I watched as my new team-mates prepared for the second half; some got into their Vauxhall Novas and turned the heat on to get warm, whilst others frantically lit cigarettes to help recover from the previous 45 minutes they'd had to endure without nicotine.
While it might be a stretch to compare Norwich's away game at Stoke to the Unicorn's high profile clash with the Norwich Busmen, there were some tragic similarities in the quality of football. Maybe we've just become accustomed in recent months to seeing Norwich involved in high intensity matches with somewhat attractive, flowing football. Saturday was not one of them.
At home to Manchester United a week ago, there were times that Norwich were allowed to get the ball down, pass it around and, consequently, we created chance after chance. A team like United is happy to let you have the ball at times, has the strength of character to soak up your pressure and punish you when you least expect it. The game at Stoke was a different beast.
January 22, 2012
If you look back over the chronicles of Norwich City heroes and fan's favourites, there are obvious legends that stand out; Steve Bruce, Kevin Keelan, Darren Huckerby and the undisputed "Disco" Dale Gordon are some of my picks. There are, however, a couple of names printed on The Barry Butler Memorial Trophy for player of the season that are less predictable.
During the 1990s, five of Norwich's player of the year recipients were defenders, including the unlikely 1996 winner, Spencer Prior. Of the 43 winners since Terry Allcock first won the trophy in 1967, 16 have been defenders, more than any other position.
It's a bit premature to be considering this season's player of the year award after just 22 games, but we're starting to see significant progress by the defensive unit that could result in another defender being the standout performer. It would be unexpected of a team that had to wait 22 games to keep its first clean sheet and for two and a half seasons and relied on its remarkable goal scoring ability. This weekend's home draw against Chelsea marks a step up in defensive quality.
January 5, 2012
You’re a professional footballer worth millions of pounds, playing on football’s most important stage. It’s the beginning of January and after a restful New Year you’re looking forward to the first game of 2012; a chance to make all things new.
The game kicks off and within 11 minutes, you’ve sent the home fans (all 15,000 of them) into raptures with one of the best goals of your career. A seven game streak without a win looks like it could be coming to an end. The gaffer’s smiling, the fans are singing your name and your teammates owe you a drink. All is well. All is new.
But as the crowd settles back into their seats at Loftus Road, you look up at the 1970s scoreboard, with one or two missing light bulbs to see your name in 75 watts of glowing electricity and it suddenly hits you; you’re not just any footballer. You’re Joseph Barton.
December 13, 2011
When your team is busy tearing their way up through the football leagues you come to expect one or two familiarities. You expect your team to dominate against a bottom half team, you expect them to compete and win against most top half teams and you expect them to battle bravely for at least a point against other teams pushing for promotion. For the last two years, these have been safe assumptions for Norwich fans.
The Premier League offers little reliability in the way of results. For example, drawing away at Liverpool was an unlikely warm-up to a 3-3 home tie with struggling Blackburn. Nevertheless, the consistency of Norwich’s performances this season has been reassuringly predictable in a positive way.
With the exception of the 5-1 defeat away at Manchester City last weekend, it would not be flattery to say that Norwich have competed in every league game this season and could have taken more from one or two of their closer defeats. After the severe loss in Manchester, getting back to these consistencies was imperative and was achieved emphatically at home to Newcastle on Saturday.
October 14, 2011
With eight points from six games, sat ninth in the table, Norwich will have gone into their game at Old Trafford with a sense assuredness. After all, boring mid-table mediocrity would go down as one of the club’s greatest successes in decades. Still, away to a Manchester United team who were having one of their best ever Premier League starts, taking anything from the match was a ludicrous thought for the Canaries.
As most expected, when the final whistle blew, United’s points tally increased to 19 and Norwich’s didn’t change. The score sheet will show a comfortable home win for the defending champions against the newcomers, fighting for their lives.
History will not show the look of fury on Alex Ferguson’s face as he moved from his comfortable, elevated, Formula One race driver’s seat to the touchline, whilst watching Norwich devour his defence. Fans who didn’t see the match will not be aware of the excruciating frustration painted on Paul Lambert’s face as he hopped from one foot to the other each time a seemingly simple Norwich attempt on goal was squandered.
September 27, 2011
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.
September 19, 2011
The year was 1994 and on a chilly Saturday afternoon in December, Ashley Ward scored what proved to be the only goal in a 1-0 away win for Norwich at Selhurst Park. It’s taken City almost 17 years, but on Saturday, Norwich registered their first away Premier League win since that cold December victory.
Time to celebrate? Why not? It’s the first time we’ve scored more than one goal in a match this season, two new names on the goals scorers list, a new formation (4-1-1) that seems to be effective and most importantly, three more precious points in bank of Premiership survival.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised when I read the lineup ahead of Saturday’s 2-1 away win at Bolton. Lambert made no less than six changes from the side that put in a commendable effort against West Brom. While Ritchie De Laet’s performances have been consistently strong, his omission from central defense was not entirely shocking, by any means. Lambert generously said it was to “take him out of the firing line”. I think that translates to, "I'm more concerned about another embarrassing and expensive blunder."
September 13, 2011
This Sunday, City manager Paul Lambert saw the conclusion of a quite remarkable run of league results which spans back as far as his first game in charge of Norwich on August 18th, 2009. Since that day, Norwich has never lost back-to-back league games. That’s 93 league games without consecutive defeats. This Sunday’s 1-0 home loss to West Bromwich Albion brought that run to its bitter end.
While no one expected that record to last all season, some of the incidents that led to Norwich’s painful loss to WBA will stand out in Lambert’s mind.
The Premier League is very unsympathetic to players who are young or making their top tier debut. City’s backline consists of both of those categories in various combinations and to be frank, it’s been all too evident during the opening four matches. In Ritchie De Laet and Leon Barnett, Norwich have two centre backs with enormous potential, but we’ve seen far too many costly errors that have resulted in points being dropped. We’re missing an old, assured head to take charge of the back four.
August 29, 2011
When your team comes up against an opponent of giant proportions, there are two possible mentalities available to the coach; buckle down and prepare for damage limitation or play your own game and hope to get something for your bravery. In Saturday’s game away at Stamford Bridge, Paul Lambert made it clear, we will pursue the latter.
We may have lost 3-1 to a Chelsea side that really failed to inspire the imagination, but the performance was competitive and deserving of more than the nothing we received.
Steve Morrison came on to decent effect, his final touches were just not there this week. He could have had a couple of goals and a couple of assists. At one point, a premier pass from Holt over the top put Morrison one-on-one with Hilario in the Chelsea goal. Morrison’s touch too many gave John Terry the chance to be the hero when Morrison should have been claiming the plaudits in front of the boisterous travelling City fans behind the goal.
Up until that point, we were worthy of a point and arguably the more likely to take all three points.
August 22, 2011
When John Ruddy arrived from Everton for an undisclosed fee back in 2010, many Norwich fans (myself included) were still lamenting the failed attempts to retain Newcastle United’s backup keeper, Fraser Forster. The previous season, Forster had fallen one clean sheet short of equaling Norwich’s all time record number of clean sheets in a season and was runner-up for the Fan’s player of the year award. Ruddy seemed frustrated by the shadows he had walked into.
While Ruddy had done a fine job for Norwich last season in the Championship, the promotion saw Norwich reopen the Forster pursuit, leaving Ruddy’s position as City’s number one in question.
This weekend’s 1-1 home draw against Stoke saw Ruddy put in a performance that ranks as high as any of Fraser Forster’s. And he could be on the verge of silencing the ghost of goalkeepers past.