December 6 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Well, rather like my reaction to the scoring sequence at Carrow Road, I was thoroughly hacked off by losing to Leicester on Saturday evening, had begun to come to terms with it yesterday morning… and then the sixth-round draw was made and I was back to being annoyed.
It’s not so much the tie we might have got, more just the fact of being able to take part.
I’d have been happy enough facing Birmingham, and if it had been Chelsea… well, it would have been a lot closer than our last two FA Cup visits to Stamford Bridge, that’s for sure.
But it wasn’t to be.
Saturday’s tie was a golden opportunity… totally wasted.
What was the point of turning up for the last two rounds, exactly?
Quite frankly we might just as well have repeated the ignominy of the third-round defeats to Bury, Charlton and Leyton Orient and lost in as equally a tame fashion to Burnley, thereby saving everyone the time, expense and bother of seeing the games against West Brom and Leicester. It would also have given some squad members the rest they were so obviously in need of.
On this showing we might have to wait until 2032 to reach the sixth round. I can’t believe that the City line-up at Emerald Park showed less desire to beat Gorleston and make progress in the Norfolk Senior Cup rather than a slightly more important competition.
What exactly is it that the management and players at Carrow Road don’t know about the significance about the FA Cup to the Canaries’ long-suffering fans?
I can’t agree with Paul Lambert’s post-match assessment of: “Nobody would thank me if we got to the semi-final, got knocked out and then got relegated. Nobody would pat my back then.”
It’s not about the semi-finals, or playing at Wembley, it’s about going out and giving it a go; in other words, what happens virtually every week of the league season.
If we’d have been beaten fair and square by Leicester in a feast of exciting football it would still have been a disappointment, but you could accept it as one of those things.
However, it was fairly standard fare as far as we were concerned – our annual helping of FA Cup gruel. Well, minus the plate, obviously, because we handed victory to Leicester on it.
Not since our fifth-round exit to Chelsea five years ago can Norwich say that they have been beaten by the better side in the FA Cup.
And the trouble is, when you’re at a club with such an abysmal recent record as the Canaries, that it’s not just about any failings that you’re responsible, but everyone else’s as well.
With each passing year the pressure to have a serious tilt at the FA Cup gets ever greater – it’s the legacy of having certain managers who almost appeared to treat cup runs as boils that needed lancing and wanted them out of the picture as soon as possible.
I don’t put Lambert in that class; he certainly picked a side who should have had enough about themselves to get the better of Leicester on Saturday.
But the same intent that has racked up nine league wins this season was painfully absent. It was like his players had adopted his pre-match declaration of Manchester United being the more important game in the remainder of this month. The overall attitude stank.
And that was the case even before the game got under way.
The whole ticketing arrangements left a nasty taste in the mouth, and the pricing was questionable at a time when you’re trying to sell season tickets.
And when you can’t even be bothered to produce a full match programme for a fixture that attracted a good crowd bettered only five times in the Premier League it doesn’t exactly signify much preparation for a big occasion.
I realise that in the age of the Premier League and each position being worth an extra £800,000 that the FA Cup is something you can take or leave when you’re in the elite 20.
And if this was any other club we were talking about then it really would be a case of, “Well, there’s always next year”, but recent experience suggests that another season at Norwich will merely give us the chance of seeing us lose to someone different – Bristol City, Oldham, Doncaster, who knows?
Chesterfield, Wrexham, Tranmere and Barnsley – just four of the clubs who have reached the FA Cup quarter-finals more recently than us. That hurts.
• NEED FOR REST AHEAD OF UNITED VISIT NO EXCUSE FOR CUP EXIT
And so to the game itself.
There’s already been a lot said and written about Steve Morison, and his body language certainly hinted at a man who would rather have been anywhere on Saturday other than a football match which could have ended with him being 180 minutes away from an FA Cup final.
But it wasn’t just about him. After about five minutes the display became lethargic, passes were going astray and the whole game just wreaked of a general lack of urgency on our part.
We were given a completely unexpected way back into the game, but proceeded to throw it away again – and after that time Leicester weren’t about to concede any more needless penalties.
If you want to test your squad’s attitude or see how they fare without their captain, do so in a pre-season friendly or a third-round tie, not a last-16 match for which fans have been obliged to pay £25.
There was a general air of ‘couldn’t care less’ in the air, which wouldn’t have been tolerated in any league game, and this time Lambert’s substitutions failed to alter things.
And talking of which, I cannot understand why Grant Holt wasn’t on the bench. Fine, if you don’t want to play him, leave him on the sidelines, but the Canaries’ general lack of intent must have become obvious to Nigel Pearson the moment he saw the opposition team sheet.
And if you’d needed him for the last 10 minutes then, yes, he might have picked up a knock in that time, but he could do that in the opening stages against Manchester United, or at Stoke or Newcastle. These things happen.
In strict numerical terms this is the second shortest season the Canaries will have played in the modern era: the 42 fixtures being one more than in 2004/5 and seven fewer than last year.
Yes, if we’d beaten Leicester we’d have to embark upon a midweek trip to Newcastle, but the fixture programme is not exactly clogged up with them: Sky switches and bank holidays apart there have been just two this season.
In other words, you’re not exactly resting players for the most packed of schedules.
I can’t help but think that reactions to the Leicester defeat are almost a generational thing; if you can remember another infamous Canaries FA Cup no-show – the 1992 semi-final against Sunderland – you know what this competition means. If you can’t; well, the chances are it’s going to be all about the Premier League for you.
Personally, given a choice between winning on Saturday and beating Manchester United I’d have taken a victory over Leicester.
Quite apart from the 2-0 win in 2005 against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side I’ve seen more wins over Old Trafford’s finest than significant FA Cup runs.
Come the end of the season will the thought, “Well, we ran Man United close and limited them to a two-goal winning margin” be any consolation for Saturday’s FA Cup exit?
Hardly. And if anyone at Carrow Road thinks otherwise they’ve made a serious misjudgement.
If we had fewer points I could understand concentrating on the league, but we were in an ideal position to have a crack at both.
I don’t doubt that by the time this Sunday roles around I’ll feel different, and normal service will soon resume, but for now I can’t help but think that all the good work against Burnley and West Brom has now been undone and we’re now back to where we were after the MK Dons defeat. How many supporters will be queuing up for tickets for the next home cup tie?
Sadly, you are almost left to come to the conclusion that the Lambert-Culverhouse management team, which has a Midas touch when it comes to league fixtures, is not about to buck the recent NCFC cup trend.