Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Norwich?
06:30 08 October 2014
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Carrow Road is a lovely place to watch football. From BBC Radio Norfolk’s new commentary position on the gantry high in the rafters of the Jarrold Stand, it’s impossible not to have your eye taken by the majesty of the place. The trouble is, it rather appeals to away teams too.
Is Hooper what City are missing?
He may not have kicked a ball in the Championship this season, but Gary Hooper’s role in Norwich City’s season is already developing into a fascinating one.
Cameron Jerome and Lewis Grabban have scored 13 goals between them already, which is an impressive enough return for the two strikers, but both get through a lot of their work outside the penalty area and what Norwich City were really lacking in the frustration fests against Charlton and Rotherham was a good old fashioned goal poacher; someone who doesn’t do much else but score, in the Robert Earnshaw mould. Hooper’s record suggests he is the closest Norwich City have to that at the moment and had Neil Adams been able to send for him from the substitutes’ bench against Charlton rather than the undoubtedly talented but very raw Jamar Loza, perhaps one of those chances would have been taken.
But Hooper has had a curious couple of weeks. Since making his comeback from injury in the League Cup defeat by Shrewsbury, the former Celtic man got the Twitter tongues wagging when he revealed he was at Gleneagles watching the Ryder Cup on the day City were playing at Blackpool. He was given the day off and had every right to go to the golf, but his lack of acknowledgement during his social media sojourn that Norwich were even playing didn’t sit well with some fans. A simple ‘good luck to the boys at Blackpool’ wouldn’t have used up too many characters and could easily have been tapped out in the time it took for Ian Poulter to weigh-up a putt.
Hooper also missed last week’s two home games. This time it wasn’t for the sake of a nice day out at a tourist attraction but Adams revealed the player had admitted he didn’t yet feel fit enough to make a Championship return. A great show of professional honesty, according to Adams, but some fans who want to see the £5m-plus price tag justified have been left frustrated that he’s apparently so keen to talk himself out of Adams’ plans.
I am sure we will see Hooper back in yellow and green and in the Championship soon. The prospect of a striker with the amount of goals he has scored in his career playing for a team creating as many chances as Norwich City are is a mouth-watering one. An extra attacking option with that much potential could be just what Adams needs to turn Carrow Road from frustrating to fortress.
Having had three seasons of being regarded as Premier League tiddlers, Norwich City supporters are having to come to terms with being the big fish. They were swimming against the tide in an expensively constructed pond in a swanky garden complete with moving water features and animatronic gnomes until the relegation heron plucked them from those waters in the summer and dropped them into the glorified puddle with worryingly greenish coloured water that next door keeps meaning to do something about.
The last week has been all about the ‘F’ word at Carrow Road. No, not fish – frustration. Two wins in home matches against Charlton and Rotherham would have eased the Canaries five points clear of the rest of the Championship, a healthy lead after just 11 games of the season. While Norwich have gone into the season’s second boring old international break at the top of the table, they have only their superior goal difference to thank. One point from those two home games can only be seen as a missed opportunity.
The issues that Norwich will face in turning home advantage into tangible points this season were illustrated perfectly by Rotherham’s colourful character of a manager Steve Evans in the build-up to Saturday’s game. During his pre-match interview he couldn’t resist a quip about hoping to take the opportunity to pop up to the boardroom and borrow a couple of recipes from Delia to ensure he and his assistant Paul Raynor could guarantee themselves “a decent Sunday lunch”.
Delia Smith (inset) has been Norwich City’s joint-majority shareholder since the mid-1990s, so getting on for 20 years. The novelty of having a TV chef in that position has rather worn off for those who regularly put themselves through the mill that is supporting the Canaries in a battle for promotion or against relegation, depending on what sort of a season it’s been. Sure, the odd lazy tabloid journalist or Match of the Day commentator found a cookery pun impossible to resist during City’s three-year stay in the top flight, but when an opposition manager is bringing it up with such relish that he could barely talk for laughing about his hilarious idea of asking that nice lady off the telly for a recipe, you get a sense of just how big a day out a trip to Carrow Road is for many Championship teams.
Coming to Norfolk is an opportunity to prove what they are made of. City have, undoubtedly, one of the most talented squads in the division, which means that a point is a brilliant result for an away team.
That’s what they come for and until Neil Adams figures out a sure fire way of breaking down such resolute defences, Carrow Road may be uttering the ‘F’ word a few more times before the season is out.
While Norwich City are competing at the top of the division, I’m afraid our season has been mapped out. Get ready for game after game of teams trying to do what Charlton did.
That’s the reality and, as my friends in the garden pond community always say, there’s no point carping about it.