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Westwood’s perfect 10 marked Norwich City game as one to remember

13:00 28 October 2014

Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield Wednesday's Keiren Westwood jumps over City striker Lewis Grabban during the 0-0 draw at Hillsborough. Picture: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire.

PA Wire

Norwich City’s goalless draw with Sheffield Wednesday may have felt instantly forgettable but if you were in the away end at Hillsborough you witnessed a true football rarity; A perfect 10.

Cameron Jerome couldn't find a way through the Sheffield Wednesday defence.Cameron Jerome couldn't find a way through the Sheffield Wednesday defence.

Discussion was already rife in the press room after the 0-0 draw. I shuffled down the four flights of stairs from the commentary box feeling a little bit sorry for myself that I had gone all that way and hadn’t had a single goal to describe on the radio. But it was then that I remembered how lucky I am. The huge advantage that us radio commentators have over those that write about football for the newspapers is that we are not required to issue marks out of 10 for the players. That is something I will always be grateful for.

When the final whistle blows, us commentators can sit back in our fold up plastic seats at the ground and reflect on a day’s work that is just about done before gargling on something refreshing to relax the vocal chords while fighting the temptation to ask “how was I, darling?” like some Shakespearean actor with delusions of grandeur down the line to the producer back in the studio.

I dread to think what the response would be from my colleagues at The Forum if I ever did that. Some of them can be quite blunt when faced with even the slightest hint of ego. It all helps to keep the feet of those of us behind the mic on a matchday on the ground. That and the fact we have to watch Norwich City every week.

At this point those responsible for writing the match reports you read in your papers on a Sunday and Monday morning spring into action. Pens are being chewed, brows are furrowed and comforting cups of tea are nursed as they agonise over whether to give the opposition left back six or seven out of 10 when they can barely remember anything he did in the game.

Josh Murphy of Norwich applauds the traveling support at Craven Cottage.Josh Murphy of Norwich applauds the traveling support at Craven Cottage.

It’s a cruel task because no matter how flowery, creative and well-written the match report is, many fans fix their eyes straight on the team line ups at the bottom of the page. There’s no opportunity to qualify or justify the marks but each player’s performance is boiled down to a single number between one and 10.

There are numerous examples from around the country of players chasing reporters around training ground car parks with a rolled up copy of whichever local newspaper it happens to be brandished above their heads while shouting things like “Oi, how come I only got a five when Smithy got an eight?”

So it felt like a big deal when one reporter on Saturday chirped up that he thought Sheffield Wednesday’s goalkeeper Keiren Westwood had performed well enough to earn a mark of 10 out of 10.

Westwood brilliantly denied Cameron Jerome, pictured, Bradley Johnson and Lewis Grabban during City’s latest Championship frustration but whether it was the perfect goalkeeping display is open to debate. The Republic of Ireland international was released by Sunderland in the summer. It’s surprising they felt able to let him go given that their current first choice goalkeeper, poor old Vito Mannone, conceded eight goals at Southampton last week and then haplessly helped Arsenal to two more on Saturday.

They clearly pride themselves on keeping things tight at Wednesday. No sooner had we finished our Canary Call phone-in on BBC Radio Norfolk than a man in a fluorescent jacket appeared with a bunch of keys on a big loopy metal key ring. He was plucked straight from central casting, answering the description of a stern caretaker from a 1970s sitcom. “Lights out in 10 minutes” he warned in broad Yorkshire before turning on his heels and disappearing back into the bowels of Hillsborough. I suppose he must have been after a 10 out of 10 rating from his superiors.

‘Super-sub’ Murphy has a lot to offer

Saturday’s result means that Norwich City have now failed to score a first half goal in any of their last 10 games.

It’s a run which has prompted some understandable concern from fans.

Neil Adams is now stuck with a difficult balancing act. Keeping the basic plan which has seen his side dominate possession in many games recently but also trying to unpick the riddle of his best attacking formula from the squad he has at his disposal. Injuries to Wes Hoolahan and now Vadis Odjidja coupled with Kyle Lafferty’s one-match suspension have seen the City boss shuffle the pack in recent games.

The Norwich manager gave the lively Josh Murphy his first league start in Tuesday’s game against Leeds. It was well deserved for the 19-year-old who has looked exciting and caused problems for most Championship defences when he has been used as a substitute. Murphy’s problem may be that he’s too useful as a sub. With 20 minutes to go, the last thing tiring Championship defenders want to see is a young pup, full of running being unleashed on them. So when he starts a game Norwich lose that potentially game changing weapon from the bench.

The answer to this predicament came to me in the middle of the night after the Leeds game. What Norwich need is another player who is almost exactly the same as Josh Murphy who they could put on the bench when he starts. Does anyone spring to mind?

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