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Tuesday, December 13, 2011
The visit of Newcastle United offered the opportunity for some moist eyed nostalgia. You don’t have to trawl very far back through the archives to find one of the finest ever Carrow Road goals, in fact the only black and white in the television footage from the day is the Newcastle shirts.
Youssef Safri’s long range goal when Norwich beat the Magpies during their last Premier League campaign in 2005 was mentioned several times in the build-up to Saturday’s game, and why not?
It was one of those moments that anyone who was lucky enough to be in the stadium at the time can still picture if they close their eyes and concentrate a bit. What amused me was how much better that strike seems to have become with age.
One preview I read of Saturday’s match referred back to Safri’s 40-yard effort, another recalled it as being 45 yards out. At this rate, taking into account inflation, by the time Newcastle next play at Carrow Road the sands of time will have become confused enough for people to be able to convince themselves that Safri hit that shot from just inside Morrison’s car park, across the road from the ground.
How predictable then that Norwich’s next Premier League goal against Newcastle some six-and-a-half years later turned out to be the polar opposite of a Safri spectacular. Wes Hoolahan was so close to the goal when he bundled in the opener following a scramble on Saturday that he only had to take about two paces to enjoy the moment with the front row of The Barclay.
Forget ‘Goal of the Season’ or even ‘Goal of the Month’, this wasn’t even in the top five for ‘Goal of the Match’ but guess what? It counted for just as much as Safri’s shot from a different postcode.
It was good to see Hoolahan back amongst the goals. That was the first one he has scored at Carrow Road in 2011 which is remarkable given the Canaries’ awesome achievements in the calendar year and his pivotal role in most of them. It might be worth Wes’ while to see if can treat the Newcastle coach John Carver to a Carrow Road season ticket for Christmas. Carver’s last visit to Carrow Road before Saturday was as the caretaker manager of Sheffield United in December 2010. That day his side also lost 4-2 with Hoolahan hitting a hat-trick. Those were his last three Carrow Road goals, until he poked that one in on Saturday.
There may not have been one particular moment from that match which will be talked about for as many years as Youssef Safri’s effort but the entire game will live long in the memory. It summed up Norwich’s return to the Premier League so far.
Much has been made of the lack of a clean sheet for the Canaries since their return to the top flight and while that may niggle John Ruddy and his defenders the team are reacting to it in the right way.
It would be easy to let this shortage of shut-outs become an obsession and to sit back and make keeping the opposition down to nil the priority. This, however, is not the Paul Lambert way. Putting the emphasis on the positive has got Norwich out of League One and through The Championship and some of the attacking play this season has been mouthwatering.
If Norwich can convert a promising and enjoyable start to the campaign into a second straight season of Premier League football fans will look back on this campaign as a huge success, rather than one with just the odd long range goal to glue into the internal scrapbook that is a football supporter’s memory.
• SLIPPING INTO CLICHÉ IS A REAL BANANA SKIN FOR ME
There was an interesting letter in the EDP last week about a train on the Norwich to London Liverpool Street line which made it no further than Ipswich.
Problems on that particular route may not be breaking news but what caught the eye was the fact the train announcer had told passengers they had to be ‘detrained’.
It made me think about the fluid nature of the English language and a few of the traits which have crept in undetected. My particular bugbear is when people in cafes say “Can I get a coffee?” Call me old-fashioned but what happened to “Please may I have?”
Then again, as someone who spends so much of his time immersed in football, I am hardly in a position to complain about the mangling of the Queen’s English. Football has its own language which runs parallel to the rules we were taught at school.
For example it is not sufficient to say that Norwich City are playing some of the country’s best teams this season. The unofficial dictionary of football demands we talk about taking on “The Arsenals, Chelseas and Manchester Uniteds of this world.”
Teams don’t score quickly in games, they do so ‘early doors’, confused defenders sometimes ‘go for the same ball’ which is no surprise considering there’s only one on the pitch and by getting Championship side Burnley in the draw for the third round of the FA Cup, Norwich have been handed a tie in football which annoys me more than any other: “A potential banana skin”.
How can it ‘potentially’ be a banana skin? It either is or isn’t one. If we agree that Burnley are, metaphorically at least, a banana skin then there is the potential to slip but that is as much ground as I am prepared to concede on that one.
You also only ever hear the word ‘adjudged’ used in a footballing context. Defenders are often adjudged to have handled the ball or fouled an opponent but you never hear eager drivers ‘adjudged’ to have been speeding by a policeman.
I had better keep quiet about this now, one probably wouldn’t have to spend too much time spooling through the tape of one of my commentaries to find me lapsing into cliché ridden footballese jargon. I can’t claim to have a vocabulary the size of the Stephen Frys of this world.