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Thursday, November 8, 2012
Not many things are more amusing than watching somebody lose their temper. As long as you are not on the receiving end of the wrath, seeing a grown man lose control of his faculties can be hugely entertaining.
At Carrow Road on Saturday Stoke City’s manager Tony Pulis proved that he could compete for gold medals with Basil Fawlty or Victor Meldrew if throwing teddies out of prams ever became an Olympic event.
The Canaries’ winning goal was what riled him. Bradley Johnson headed in a free kick which Pulis felt should not have awarded for a foul on Robert Snodgrass. He was already angry about the decision to give it, the fact it then led to a goal turned up the heat further.
If Pulis was a character in the Beano his trademark baseball cap would have risen ten feet in the air on a big puff of steam as, eyes bulging and finger wagging, he gave anyone within earshot his best Meldrewesque “I don’t believe it”, much to the delight of those Norwich fans fortunate enough to have seats by the dugouts. Most of them have been going to Carrow Road long enough to know a full-on technical area tantrum when they see one and have become skilled in a range of carefully chosen, pithy broad Norfolk put-downs to help fan the flames. When the half-time whistle sounded shortly after Johnson’s goal there was as much chuckling from those supporters as there was applause for the Norwich performance. They saw Pulis off down the tunnel as if he was playing the part of Captain Hook on the pantomime stage.
He was in good company. Arsene Wenger and Andre Villas Boas have both cut rather frustrated figures by the side of the Carrow Road pitch over the last couple of weeks as Norwich City’s revival has gathered pace. Deserved home wins over Arsenal and Stoke in the Premier League together with a point at Aston Villa and the securing of a place in the League Cup quarter finals for the first time in 17 years have served to blow away the cobwebs spun during a rather shaky start to the season. It’s taken time, as it was always going to, but Chris Hughton’s stamp is now well and truly visible at Carrow Road as he shapes a more streetwise Norwich City.
They didn’t manage a single 1-0 win in 38 Premier League games last season, this time round they have two already.
Saturday was also the third Premier League clean sheet of the season, equalling in ten matches what it took 38 to achieve last year.
Hughton is also starting to look like a shrewd operator in the transfer market. Robert Snodrgrass, Michael Turner, Javier Garrido and Steven Whittaker all played their part on Saturday but his stand out purchases so far appear to be midfielder Alex Tettey and the addition of Sebastien Bassong to the centre of defence.
Tettey is the sort of player you get worn out just watching. After Saturday’s win Bradley Johnson remarked that his new midfield partner has so much energy that he feels like he is playing alongside the Duracel bunny.
Bassong is now as important to the side as John Ruddy, Wes Hoolahan or Grant Holt. His leadership qualities were there for all to see against Stoke as he marshalled a makeshift back four, which had lost both Turner and Garrido because of injury, to complete a priceless shut out. The Cameroon international has now played eight times for City and they have conceded seven goals with him on the pitch, four of which were scored by a rampant Chelsea. He hadn’t joined in time to play against Fulham on the opening day, got injured at Newcastle and missed the home game with Liverpool. In just under three games without him Norwich have let in 11 goals.
Having a strong defence can make a team hugely frustrating to play against. This is potentially good news for our friends who sit around the Carrow Road tunnel. If Norwich can keep up what we saw on Saturday Tony Pulis will not be the last manager we’ll see behaving like Basil Fawlty when his car breaks down.
• REMEMBER WHERE YOU HEARD IT FIRST...MOST OF THE TIME
It was impossible not to feel a little giddy as Norwich City made what felt like unchartered territory last week.
The Canaries have won the League Cup twice and made two other finals in the 1970s but that heritage has counted for very little over the past couple of decades. It is sobering to think that any Norwich fan under the age of about 23 is unlikely to have a clear memory of their team playing in a major cup quarter final but the dramatic win over Spurs has set up that very prospect.
It was with some anticipation that the BBC Radio Norfolk team huddled round the screen to watch the draw for the last eight take place about an hour after the Tottenham game. Modern technology proved to be our undoing.
Our only access to Sky’s live coverage of the draw was on one of these new fangled iPads via a wi-fi link. We had forgotten to take into account the significant delay which comes with watching television in this fashion. So as Paul McVeigh, Rob Butler and I breathlessly commentated on the balls being pulled out of the bag we thought we were breaking the news to Norfolk that Paul Lambert would be coming back to Carrow Road in the quarter finals with Aston Villa. Unbeknown to us, this had already been broadcast and we were, in reality, among the last to know.
Doing updates from a television screen is one of the hazards of radio.
For obvious reasons, the sound on the TV is always turned right down in a radio studio so I have known presenters give out ‘live’ scores from England test matches abroad unaware that they are actually watching a repeat of the previous day’s play.
Catching a replay out of the corner of your eye is also an easy trap to fall into.
Before you know it you’re talking about two quick goals at Old Trafford or Stuart Broad capturing two Australian wickets in as many balls.
It requires a quick audible shuffle of paper and the pretence that someone is feeding you misinformation to get out of that one; “I’m just hearing that it is in fact still 1-0 at Old Trafford.”
That’s not to suggest the radio is the poor relation. Far from it.
Next time Norwich City are playing a match that’s being televised tune into to BBC Radio Norfolk’s FM frequency at the same time.
You will hear a goal several seconds before you actually see it. I can’t claim mystical powers, and I don’t fully understand why, but it takes a lot longer to get that picture up to space and to your telly than it does sound alone to your wireless.
It is one of the few occasions that I genuinely get to say “remember where you heard it first”.