What a year to be a fan of Norwich City – but what next?
09:30 02 January 2016
Inevitably the advent of a new year encourages a retrospective analysis of the old one, so how good a year was 2015 for Norwich City?
Cast your minds back 12 months and you will find City becalmed some way off the automatic promotion places in the Championship. A thumping Boxing Day victory against a shocking Millwall side has been followed by a desperately weak defeat at Reading and Neil Adams’ short tenure as manager is about to come to an end.
Speculation is rife about which well-known name will be brought in to replace him, but none of us has even heard of a young man at Hamilton Academical who will soon be turning what has so far been a frustrating season on its head.
Fast forward five months and Alex Neil is leading his reinvigorated squad to a Wembley triumph that none of us who were there will ever forget as the Canaries bounce back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Whilst it was ultimately via the play-offs City had produced a remarkable run of form, particularly away from home, that had seen them miss out on automatic promotion by a whisker.
Life in the Premier has inevitably been tougher. Mistakes in the higher league tend to be punished much more ruthlessly than in the Championship, particularly by the bigger teams, and City’s propensity for individual errors has certainly cost some points.
However, it all comes down to expectations. Realistically, looking at the limited strengthening in the summer, anything other than a relegation dogfight was unrealistic. I think we all accept that City are sometimes far from convincing defensively and that being so performances like those at Newcastle, Southampton and Watford were always likely to happen.
On the other hand, City look much more capable of scoring goals than in their last Premier League season, particularly on the break, and that has led to some highpoints against Sunderland, Swansea, Bournemouth and, of course, the cherry on the cake at Old Trafford.
Unfortunately, wins such as that last one always ramp up the expectation level, as we saw with some of the reactions to the defeat at Tottenham.
There are good reasons why the two clubs are in their respective positions, and the reality is that for clubs like City to beat the very top sides they generally have to rely on their opponents being below their best: Spurs weren’t.
While City were disappointing at White Hart Lane I was personally much more upset about the defeat at Newcastle where they underperformed badly against a side who were bottom of the league at that point.
The Villa game on Monday was inevitably nervy, but the job was done and that’s all that matters at this point. City were far from their best, but the visitors looked like a side that have no discernible self belief.
To be honest, if someone had offered me six points a fortnight ago from the games against United, Spurs and Villa I would have snatched their arm off, and those two wins mean that City go into the turn on 20 points from 19 games, which is a pretty decent result as long as the required strengthening takes place in January – and the early signs are that it will.
With a new, high-profile chairman in place and other board appointments mooted, there is clearly an air of change sweeping through the club off the field as well and there should be cause for considerable optimism going into 2016.
So, how good a year was 2015 for City?
I would say just about as good as we could reasonably have expected.
Now let’s see the club build on the foundations that have been laid.
Happy New Year!