Great – but in the cold light of day there is residual anger
PUBLISHED: 07:42 10 April 2017 | UPDATED: 08:58 10 April 2017
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Unbridled joy should have been the overriding emotion as the half-time whistle blew on Saturday.
Sheer delight at watching your team score six goals in a half where Norwich didn’t just outplay the opposition but blew them away.
It was a 45-minute showing that finally put a smile on supporters’ faces after back-to-back away defeats. But I’m sure I wasn’t the only City fan inside Carrow Road whose excitement was mixed with anger.
Anger that such a scintillating display was produced when Norwich’s season is effectively over. Anger that this team playing with such fervour and bite had crumbled so pathetically at Huddersfield fewer than 72 hours before. Anger that instead of celebrating the impact this scoreline could have on our promotion hopes we were left chuckling at the ridiculousness of the latest instalment in a dramatic season of failure at the club.
The fact that Stuart Webber, the man who will be deciding who stays and who goes in the summer, had walked through the doors at Colney 48 hours previous and was watching from the stands may have just been a very timely coincidence.
But it again poses the obvious question of how a group of players who can be so devastatingly impressive at home have managed to look so incredibly fragile outside of the comfort of Carrow Road. Those roles were reversed as Reading’s defensive frailties mirrored many of our own on the road.
That horrendous away record meant that prior to Saturday, Norwich had won 31 points from their previous 28 games since beating Rotherham to go top of the league on October 15. To put that into context, it’s the exact same number as Blackburn, who are third from bottom, managed. Relegation form from the pre-season promotion favourites. Is there any wonder why there has been so much apathy in the stands?
Unaware of the goal-fest they would be missing out on, there were seven empty seats on my row of 14 on Saturday. When the sun is shining (and let’s face it, even when it hasn’t been) one can think of many far more enjoyable ways of spending an afternoon than watching Norwich City. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of the last few rotten months.
Just as so many performances away from home have been collectively abysmal, this result wasn’t a case of one or two players pulling their socks up to impress the new boss. To a man, each player played with renewed purpose. No matter how frustrating this campaign has been and how meaningless the next five results will no doubt be, Saturday was proof if we needed it that Webber’s arrival has dawned a new era at the club.
Nelson Oliveira’s commanding performance in that lone striker’s role should leave him in little doubt that the Portuguese is number one choice next season. As good as Cameron Jerome’s goal record is, the link-up play and intuition Oliveira showed with Wes Hoolahan and Alex Pritchard made City far more of a threat.
Pritchard highlighted just why Alex Neil forked out £8m for his services, too. His man-of-the-match performance may have come against what was an appalling Reading defence on the day, but he possesses enough quality on the ball to scare the Championship’s elite and will hopefully be here to shine under a new manager.
Apart from anything else, Webber’s impressive first interview seemed to show he is acutely aware of the club’s misgivings in terms of communication to supporters this season. A promising sign that there should be no repeat of the discord between the Board and fans during the all-important summer months. You get the feeling a 7-1 win won’t pull the wool over his eyes in terms of the task at hand either.