Winning at Wigan reminded Norwich City fans of what we really want to see
PUBLISHED: 06:30 10 December 2014
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There is some dispute about who first coined the phrase ‘The Beautiful Game’ but whoever it was didn’t understand football at all.
Journalist deserved his own Rocket
What goes on in the press box usually stays in the press box but I saw something so shocking at the DW Stadium on Saturday that I’m going to have to break cover and risk the wrath of my fellow fortunate pass holders.
There’s no point pretending that Norwich’s win at Wigan on Saturday was a classic, far from it, but I was alarmed at just how much it struggled to hold the attention of one of the reporters sitting two rows in front of me. I have no idea who this fella was but he had all the gear to suggest he was supposed to be covering the game for a national newspaper.
A laptop, a heavy overcoat that looked like it had seen off several Wigan winters and a cheesed off expression on his face that suggested he would rather have been anywhere else in the world. None of those things are really worthy of note, hardened hacks tend to develop a certain look as winter takes hold but what really troubled me about this particular individual was that he didn’t seem to be watching the game at all.
Sat behind him I could easily see what was on his computer screen. There was no league table, blow by blow match report or even scores from elsewhere in the country. He was watching the snooker!
Rocket Ronnie O’Sullivan may be quite a spectacle when he’s in full flight but if you’re finding the afternoon session at the York Barbican more gripping than the blood and thunder of Championship football then you are probably covering the wrong sport. As I didn’t have the guts to confront my snooker loopy press box colleague about his viewings habits, it is unfair to criticise.
It may be that he wasn’t suffering from entertainment envy at all. Saturday was the coldest I have been at a game so far this season. It didn’t particularly worry me, we are lucky to have got into December without so far freezing in sub-zero stadiums and it is bound to get a lot colder once they open the transfer window and let all the heat out.
Perhaps, as the pre-match cuppa was reduced to its dregs, it wasn’t so much the snooker that was holding his attention as much as the thought of a lovely centrally heated sporting venue.
It’s very trendy to be mesmerised by Messi, rave about Ronaldo or beam about Bale but most of the time football is not really anything like that.
More often than not games turn out to be just like Wigan v Norwich on Saturday. Now that’s what I call football.
The most enjoyable moments from Norwich City’s 1-0 win at the DW Stadium weren’t very pretty but that doesn’t mean that they were not tremendous fun.
Josh Murphy’s accidental sliding tackle which left the linesman in a heap, Kyle Lafferty’s free-kick which finished up further away from the goal than where it started thanks to an invisible banana skin on the pitch and the increasingly visible breath of Malky Mackay as the Wigan manager got angrier and the temperature got colder were just three elements to an enduring contest.
It’s the truth that most fans and pundits dare not speak. Publicly we’re all supposed to long for neat, tippy-tappy, slick passing football but in reality all that matters to your average supporter is that their team wins.
Norwich City fans started the season pleading for attractive, attacking football.
A concept called ‘The Norwich Way’ was created by the powers that be at Carrow Road which was designed to ease the indigestion caused by two years of stodgy Chris Hughton fare.
Neil Adams did his best to create a team to live up to that billing. After a promising start his swashbuckling stars developed a nasty habit of forgetting to lock the back door each time they embarked on one of their exciting adventures into the opposition’s half.
A run of one win in 10 matches and a plummet down to mid-table later, a growing section of City fans were suddenly crying out for Tony Pulis, pictured, to be offered the manager’s job.
I don’t think a club shop baseball cap was the look that was meant to go with ‘The Norwich Way’ but in seven years at Stoke and a few months at Crystal Palace, Pulis proved himself to be a highly effective, if slightly unattractive, operator.
He has become the football fan’s guilty pleasure.
There are occasions when the stars align and the odd game can be won with a festival of champagne football but years of watching Norwich City in the Championship should have made it clear that for every 5-1 demolition of Ipswich Town there are dozens of slogs decided by the odd goal and having a set of players prepared to put substance over style.
Calling Saturday’s starting line-up ‘The Wingless Wonders’ would be getting carried away but the decision to sacrifice the speed, trickery and flair of Nathan Redmond and include three players who define ‘no-nonsense’ to an extent that they were probably born with their sleeves rolled up, Alexander Tettey, Gary O’Neil and Bradley Johnson, underlines the importance of getting to grips with the daily grind of the second tier.
There is nothing more precious than three sparkling league points but they are mined from the dirt after hours of ferocious digging more often than picked from a burgeoning tree in a nice sunny orchard.
Clinging to the fantastical nature of ‘The Norwich Way’ is no bad thing but there’s no point pretending that results don’t matter as much as playing lovely, free-flowing, football.
It’s like being at a dinner party and feeling under pressure to talk intelligently about the latest production of Hamlet at The Globe when really all you’ve been glued to is ‘I’m A Celebrity….’