December 11 2013 Latest news:
Monday, November 5, 2012
Winning the games that matter – it’s what did for us in 1994/95 and 2004/05, but kept us up in 2011/12.
Thirty points needed for survival in the next six-and-a-half months is a perfectly achievable target on the evidence of Saturday.
It was an afternoon when it was all about the result rather than the game (which is just as well, frankly).
The foot of the table now makes great reading, after QPR and Reading produced the perfect result yesterday – for us, that is.
Avoiding defeat at both Reading and Southampton later this month will go a long, long way to maintaining that crucial five-point gap between us and the bottom three.
Beating Stoke was something of a landmark way to open up such a big advantage in the race for survival.
Three years ago this weekend we were reduced to the status of having to play a village side in the first round of the FA Cup.
It shows the progress made over the subsequent 36 months that we were able to edge out the Premier League’s leading purveyors of “gamesmanship” after an afternoon which clearly so enraged the architect of their success.
Not that they’ve ever profited from anything like that over the years, dear me no.
Last season’s two fixtures against Stoke taught us a lot about life in the modern Premier League and it would have been a bit frustrating if we hadn’t been able to show any progress.
We certainly did show a lot more top-flight savvy when it mattered, but ask me to remember much about the game by the end of the week and I’ll be struggling, quite frankly.
But in a way that mirrors the season as a whole.
We’re actually probably due something of a quiet league campaign.
Take away one of the highest finishes in the Canaries’ history last time around, plus seasons in which there’s been a mid-term change of manager, a relegation or promotion, or coming to terms with a new division and in recent years you’re only really looking at 2002/3. How much of that season can you remember now?
That year was ultimately a failure because there were six places to aim for and the Canaries ultimately didn’t fill one. Right from the start this season has always been all about making sure we do not occupy one of the bottom three slots – and that‘s why there was so much anguish at dropped points against a struggling QPR and weakened West Ham.
Beating Arsenal and Stoke – and in doing so already keeping more clean sheets than in the whole of last season – has made up for that.
But we now have to carve out maybe another eight such victories.
And if we repeat the same sort of endeavour to go ahead and determination to keep that lead that was seen on Saturday we‘ll be able to welcome Stoke back for more of the same again next season.Well, they do say that there’s a price to pay for every pleasure…
• PRICE WAS WRONG, ACCORDING TO MY CALCULATIONS
I’m willing to bet that if senior Carrow Road officials could turn the clocks back six weeks they’d have reversed their pricing policies in the Capital One Cup.
Had they charged £25 for Tottenham and £30 for Aston Villa there probably would have been hardly any fuss made.
It’s not being wise with hindsight, but when you manage to pull in only 12,892 and 13,680 home supporters when you charge £10 you’re not going to suddenly attract anything like a full house when you treble that price. In fact, take away the visiting contingent against Tottenham and the crowd totalled just 12,992.
For the first time since being an severely-underpaid Civil Service clerical assistant in the mid-1980s, last Wednesday night was the first time that I chose not to go to a competitive home City fixture while living in Norwich.
I have to say it wasn’t just about price. If it had been guaranteed that the Canaries would make only a handful of changes then £30 would have been just about justifiable.
When you make 10 changes – and I imagine that Russell Martin would not have started against Tottenham even if he hadn’t been injured at Villa Park – you lose the right to charge first-team prices for what effectively is becoming a reserve –sorry, development squad – fixture.
For me, pricing it at more than £25 was crossing a big, big line – and I can’t be alone as the sort of supporter who has gone to Johnstone’s Paint Trophy away ties who felt that way. Instead, I spent that money taking the family out later in the week – and a much better use it was for it, too.
Can I live without having seen some late drama at Carrow Road? Well, yes I can, actually, it’s not as if there haven’t been quite a few exciting finishes here over the past three years. But the pricing arrangements for Villa show that the City hierarchy have learned a lesson here, although ironically they could have probably added a few more quid to tickets had there not been the need to make such a public gesture. The return of Paul Lambert is the only possible quarter-round pairing that could be described as a stand-out occasion to match “a proper Premier League match”, as last Wednesday night‘s game was being described by the experts during Radio Norfolk’s coverage.
(Incidentally, and this is true of the competition as a whole, it never fails to annoy me that when television or radio pundits who are often former players or high-profile commentators start looking down their nose at low attendances, no-one ever asks the question: “When was the last time you actually paid to go to a match?”)
The fact as well that it’s only the 13th time that Carrow Road will have hosted a major quarter-final – following on from the FA Cup in 1958/59, 1962/63, 1988/89, 1990/91 and 1991/92 and League Cup in 1963/64, 1971/2, 1973/74, 1974/75, 1979/80, 1983/84 and 1995/96 – it would be a surprise if the ground wasn’t pretty full on December 11.
• NO HAPPY ANNIVERSARY FOR PULIS
Well at least the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of Tony Pulis’s initial appointment at Carrow Road didn’t extend to Saturday’s hosts. It has happened before – you may remember in 2001 a presentation being made on the pitch to Dario Gradi to mark his 1,000th match as manager on a night when City were held 2-2 at home by soon-to-be-relegated Crewe.
At least Gradi always struck you as an ambivalent, realistic kind of opposition manager. Pulis’s time in the Premier League has certainly given him some Arsene Wenger-like selective viewing vision. He certainly has no “what goes around, comes around” approach, that’s for sure. Saturday’s assessment of “the goal was a disappointment. I have been in to see the referee to have a quick chat” wouldn’t be so bad in itself until you consider our last two meetings with the Potters.
So, last August you had “we were disappointed we never got a penalty in the first half” at Carrow Road when Leon Barnett was, through home eyes, ridiculously sent off.
And then this March at the Britannia Stadium, when a wrongly-awarded throw-in led to the only goal in Stoke’s 1-0 win, the mangerial assessment was: “I haven’t seen it but if that’s right we’ve had a little bit of luck. I thought that we were the team that were going forward and were trying to win the game.” Oh how that last point made me laugh on Saturday. Take away injured big-name strikers and long-throw specialists, and all Stoke were left with was a sound defence and a lot of route-one balls forward hoping to catch a makeshift Canaries back four out.
• LAMBERT LESSON
And on the subject of knock-out competitions, it’s good to see that Paul Lambert might have learned a thing or two from last season’s FA Cup defeat to Leicester – judging by his verdict following last week’s Capital One Cup victory at Swindon. “You’ve got to take the competition seriously. There were 3,500 Villa fans here and they pay a lot of money to come and watch us. It is important we try and progress and see how far we can go.”So, from that I take it he won’t be leaving his top scorer out of his matchday 18 next month - in contrast to the last cup tie he took charge of around here.