Tuesday, October 2, 2012
There’s no doubt that Saturday was a chastening afternoon at Carrow Road. Seeing an apparently misfiring Liverpool cruise to such a straight forward win has set some understandable alarm bells ringing amongst the Carrow Road faithful.
The stoicism of the always loyal Norwich fan base is bound to be tested further. A trip to the league leaders and European champions is hardly a mouth-watering one at a time like this and yet Chelsea away is exactly what Chris Hughton will be preparing his side for this week.
Hughton’s first job yesterday morning was probably to pop to one of the city’s sport shops and buy a couple of new footballs.
The Canaries are running out of them after Luis Suarez left Carrow Road with one for the second time in the space of six months.
With Norwich already in the bottom three, a run of games which features Chelsea and then Arsenal before an uncomfortable Villa Park reunion with Paul Lambert is one which suggests that even remaining in touch with 17th place over the next few weeks would be regarded as something of an achievement.
While it is disappointing to see Norwich in the relegation zone, is it really that much of a surprise?
It was interesting to hear Mick McCarthy, a welcome addition to the Match of the Day sofa on Saturday, talk from bitter experience about the difficulty of keeping a team in the Premier League for any more than one season.
The notion of this often talked about ‘Second Season Syndrome’ which suggests teams who do well in their first year up might struggle after that is a lazy one.
The harsh facts are that with so much cash being splashed around by a select few in the division it stands to reason that the rest will be competing simply to keep their heads above water.
McCarthy’s Wolves were not victims of ‘SSS’ but did get relegated at the end of season number three. Look at Wigan, that club has been in the top flight now for eight seasons and yet it does not get easier for them.
Each year is a real old scrap just to stay up. I dare say that eventually the Latics’ number will be up, we may just need it to be this season.
This is the reality of life in the Premier League for a team like Norwich City.
Granted, they did incredibly well to finish 12th last season but the Canaries’ current Premier League run is three wins in 19 games stretching back to February.
Those three successes were a never-to-be-forgotten victory at Spurs, a scrappy but important win against bottom club Wolves in March and a straight forward 2-0 defeat of an Aston Villa side which looked like it had given up on the final day of last season.
Anyone who sat through Norwich’s dismal defeat at Blackburn back in April, a tedious loss at Stoke in March or Suarez’s previous Carrow Road treble towards the end of last season might testify that City had begun to lose that surprise element back then.
That run must have been a key reason for Paul Lambert’s decision to get out while his stock was high. He’s a canny bloke and will have known how difficult it would be to go again. The fact is that even a perceived ‘successful’ Premier League season for a club of the Canaries’ level is likely to include more defeats than victories and the odd thrashing along the way too.
Saturday’s performance against Liverpool was not good enough, as the ever honest Chris Hughton admitted afterwards.
His record at both Newcastle and Birmingham made him the standout choice to replace Lambert in the summer and whoever had got that job would have taken on a massive challenge.
It is never nice watching your team take a pasting whether it be against Liverpool or Colchester United but, having spent just two of the previous 17 seasons in the top flight, that aim of becoming a truly established club at this level is going to take a lot more hard work.
It’s not Norwich negativity, I see it more as Premier League pragmatism.
• THREE DEBUT GOALS, ONE CITY SUCCESS STORY
Here’s a good quiz question for that next long away trip. Before Alexander Tettey’s strike against Doncaster last week, who were the three previous players to score on their Norwich City debuts? They have all been within the last four years and yet you would be doing well if you remembered as many as two of the three without thinking very, very hard.
If this was a proper puzzle I would put the answers in small writing, upside down at the bottom of the page but I don’t think my keyboard can do upside down writing. In fact how do quiz masters in newspapers and magazines do that?
There’s a real joy in seeing a player mark his first appearance for a new club in such style. It does not always herald great things but that little bit of hope when you can turn to the stranger sitting next to you and say “I think we’ve got a good ‘un here” is what football fans live for.
When French striker Marc Libbra volleyed in a goal in spectacular fashion within 20 seconds of coming on as a sub for the first time at Carrow Road in August 2001 against Manchester City we thought we had found our answer to Eric Cantona. Special T-shirts were even swiftly put on sale in the Club Shop celebrating such an instant impact. Subsequent performances revealed him to be more of an Eric Idle and those t-shirts are only ever worn by City fans when decorating.
Tettey’s goal against Doncaster may not have been immortalised in t-shirt form but he really caught the eye in that Capital One cup tie. Every Tettey touch in the Doncaster half after the goal was heralded by chants of “shooooot” from sections of the City support.
The Norwegian international may just have carved out a reputation for himself already.
Of the three previous goal scoring debutants for Norwich, only one has gone on to be a real success at Carrow Road. If you do not want to know the answer to my teaser look away now.
Andrew Crofts scored on the opening day of the 2010-11 season as Norwich lost 3-2 to Watford at Carrow Road in a game which hardly looked like it was going to be the first step towards Premier League promotion but was.
Left-back Michael Rose hammered in a fine strike against Hartlepool in January 2010. He was on loan from Stockport at the time and went onto play just 11 more games for Norwich as they won League 1. Rose has since turned out for Swindon and Colchester United. The other Norwich goal in that 2-1 win over Hartlepool came from striker Cody McDonald, the very man who had netted a fairy tale goal against Cardiff City 10 months earlier on his first appearance as a professional footballer.
Plucked from non-league Dartford by Bryan Gunn while working as a scaffolder on the London underground McDonald made 25 league appearances for City and is now back in League One with Coventry City. He got the winner for ex-Canary Mark Robins’ new team at Oldham on Saturday.