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Perfect time for a victory to lead Norwich City to calmer waters

PUBLISHED: 06:01 11 September 2015 | UPDATED: 13:30 14 September 2015

Bradley Johnson of Norwich in action during the Barclays Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267
22/08/2015

Bradley Johnson of Norwich in action during the Barclays Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 22/08/2015

©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222

This international break always comes too soon doesn’t it?

Wales' Gareth Bale looks dejected during the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying match at the Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday September 6, 2015. See PA story SOCCER Wales. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire Wales' Gareth Bale looks dejected during the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying match at the Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday September 6, 2015. See PA story SOCCER Wales. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire

After four Premier League games and just as you get back into the swing of the football season, it comes shuddering to a halt.

It’s made worse by the fact that, for a multitude of reasons, a lot of the pleasure (but not the pain) has gone out of watching England play, especially when one game is San Marino and the other a dull dead rubber.

At least we’ve been able to enjoy seeing some of Norwich City’s stars in action as well as the brave, battling displays of home nation sides Wales and Northern Ireland, both teams and their fans showing the sort of spirit and togetherness a side at any level should try to emulate. I never would have believed 15, 20 years ago as a then England diehard that two decades on I’d prefer to watch those two over my home country.

The break was made worse of course by not only Norwich’s defeat to Southampton, but the twists and turns in the days before and after as transfer deadline day passed with more drama than City fans have become accustomed to. I was definitely amongst those whose initial reaction to the departure of Bradley Johnson, was one of major surprise and disappointment.

Fab Four

Credit to clubs for transfer stance

I don’t normally use this column to praise Norwich’s rivals but credit needs to go to both Everton and West Brom for maintaining their respective ‘not for sale’ stance when the bigger boys came calling for their star players in the transfer window. It may only be a temporary reprieve but it was important for the game they showed that players and the top sides can’t always have their own way.

Farewell to the away day blues?

City themselves have regularly suffered from the collywobbles at Carrow Road in recent years and at times they appear to play with more freedom away from home. And it would seem Norwich are potentially not the only ones afflicted in such a way. Of the 40 games in the Premier League so far this season, 17 have been won by the away side. Is the increased pressure from fans, ever more expectant of success, taking its toll?

Who will it be for the City bench?

We know Alex Neil is a man who likes two strikers on the bench and I’m guessing one of those on Saturday will be Dieumerci Mbokani, with Cameron Jerome given another start. But will the other be Gary Hooper or Lewis Grabban? I wouldn’t rule out seeing the walk-out striker in a Norwich shirt again, providing he’s swallowed his rather large piece of humble pie. Much stranger things have happened in this sport.

Former Canary is still flying high

Did you know a former Norwich City player made the most successful passes in the opening week of this Premier League season? That man was Andrew Surman with 99 completed in just 90 minutes against Liverpool. From what I’ve seen and read about him so far he’s a key player for our opponents Bournemouth.

Personally, I always felt he deserved more of a chance with the Canaries.

A week on, that opinion has shifted a little and I’ll admit now my heart was ruling my head in that early judgment.

We all love a rags to riches story and Johnson’s rise from boo-boy for some to hero for all was as close to a Roy of the Rovers tale that we’ve seen for a while. It’s no surprise many of us were saddened to see that end.

On reflection, that much money for a player unlikely to feature in the starting XI when both Martin Olsson and Robbie Brady are fit was not such a bad deal.

He will be missed, though, and it’s a shame we might never know if his 15 goals last season was a one-off or a sign of a player ready for a second tilt at top-flight football.

The mood of fans was already low on the back of Lewis Grabban’s sulk and the poor performance against the Saints. For the first time in his City reign it felt like Alex Neil’s ship may have hit choppy waters.

When you are not privy to the goings-on behind the scenes – and in this era of sensationalist tabloid coverage – it’s easy to conjure up an image of crisis at Carrow Road and Colney at the hint of things going a bit wrong. Perhaps, given his unblemished record so far, we should all have a bit more faith in Neil’s ability to find those calmer waters once more.

The reality is that once the players’ own shock of Johnson’s exit passed, life probably carried on pretty much as normal at the club. And if he’s handled it the right way, apologised and shown new commitment to the cause, Grabban could already be back in the mix for all we know.

What fans really needed after all that drama was to watch Norwich win a game of football and brush aside those growing concerns. At last that can happen and Saturday’s game against Bournemouth is shaping up to be a big one.

With a tougher schedule on the horizon, this was already a match where anything but three points would feel like a missed opportunity. In the context of the recent few weeks, as well as growing concerns over City’s defensive options, the last thing we need is defeat to cap it all off.

I’ve been watching the Canaries for long enough to know this is the sort of match where there’s likely to be an air of tension at Carrow Road prior to kick-off. One in which patience doesn’t last long and mistakes lead to a few more howls of derision from the fans than is normal. But what Neil and his players need from us now, of course, is the complete opposite.

We need to be united both on and off the pitch. Actually, forget United, let’s be like Wales.

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