Injury excuses took focus away from classy Norwich City
13:21 16 December 2011
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If anyone was questioning whether a mauling at the hands of the champions elect would have a detrimental affect on City’s season they got an emphatic answer on Saturday.
There is no doubt that losing two centre backs in the same week was a massive blow for Newcastle, but the extent to which this has been used to explain their defeat has been overdone.
Injuries happen (certainly City have had plenty this season, with three centre backs and a striker out for long periods) but the ultimate test of a manager is to make the best of what’s available to him on any given matchday, something at which Paul Lambert excels.
Newcastle are a good side and, in Demba Ba have the most potent striker in the Premiership after Robin Van Persie, yet they were quite simply blown away by an irresistible City display which never, at any time, allowed the visitors to have a sustained period of dominance.
Quite how their goal remained intact for so long was remarkable, although Martin Atkinson’s arbitrary decision to remove the handball law from the rulebook for the afternoon clearly helped.
In fact, Atkinson, a referee whom I have always rated, had an afternoon to forget and really should have been booking an urgent appointment at Specsavers on Monday, along with his equally myopic assistants.
Given that Atkinson seemed intent on giving City nothing, it’s somewhat ironic, though hardly unexpected, that much of the post game punditry has involved obsessive analysis of the decision by the officials to award the corner which resulted in our first goal.
While replays suggest it was a poor decision Newcastle had the chance to defend the corner and simply failed to do so. In complete contrast, there was hardly a mention of the clear cut penalty that should have been awarded to us, but of course, that might have got in the way of the media peddling the myth of the Toon having everything stacked against them.
Frankly, the longer the press continue to either ignore City’s quality or damn us with faint praise the better, because Lambert and his team will be more than happy to stay under the radar, steadily building the points tally and making Carrow Road a fortress.
Ultimately we will make people eat their early season words, and the sight of a mute Alan Shearer looking like he was internalising a family bereavement while Alan Hansen analysed Newcastle’s inability to cope with Holt and Morison was something I’ll relish for some time.
I’m still waiting for Paul Merson to say something sensible about us, but to use one of my colleague’s favourite sayings; you can’t put brains into pumpkins.
However, City’s game wasn’t the only highlight of my week as we had the pleasure of staging a forum and book signing for Darren Huckerby on Wednesday evening and I would like to take this opportunity to emphasise what a class act he is.
Nothing was too much trouble for him as he kept the audience entertained for over two hours and dealt with every single request for autographs and photos.
What’s more, we had invited five young people with special needs from the Hamlet Centre, along with their carers, as our guests and the smiles on their faces as they left clutching the signed copies of his book that Darren had given to them was a joy to behold.
In my experience very few footballers justify being described as legends both on and off the field, but on Wednesday we were fortunate enough to spend time with one who does.