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Carlos Tevez was happy to demonstrate his five month break from Manchester City was put to good use after scoring a hat-trick in the 6-1 win over Norwich at Carrow Road. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images
Thursday, April 19, 2012
The galleries rather than the golf swing should be the abiding memory of Manchester City’s Premier League visit to Norwich.
Predictably, the post-match focus centred on the latest chapter in the bizarre footballing career of Carlos Tevez. Three goals and a celebration that paid homage to a favourite past-time; one he was able to indulge during a five-month sojourn from his occasional employer.
While the rest of Roberto Mancini’s squad slogged through the daily grind of an English domestic season, ‘Carlitos’ was busy lowering his handicap. The former West Ham and Manchester United ‘commodity’ illustrates the worst excesses of player power. Tevez is merely the starkest example of the cult of the individual within the team game.
Sergio Aguero is far more worthy of deification in the eyes of the Manchester City faithful than his Argentine compatriot. The 23-year-old underlined at Carrow Road why his first season in English football may bring consolation for a title near miss by succeeding Jack Wilshere as the PFA Young-Player-of-the-Year.
But I digress. The final whistle at Carrow Road on Saturday did not merely signal a merciful end to the onslaught for Norwich.
It also triggered a truly uplifting display of support from the majority of the home fans. Large pockets in all four corners of the stadium burst into spontaneous applause; no doubt partly to recognise they had just witnessed a sublime performance from world class talents.
Given the dross those long-suffering fans endured in recent seasons as the club tumbled towards the lower reaches of the Football League, the sight of a Tevez or an Aguero or a David Silva in full flow must carry a macabre fascination - despite the portents for their own heroes.
Yet there was an undeniable sense the efforts of Paul Lambert and his well-beaten players were also being lauded. Maybe on this one particular afternoon, City’s Premier League march proved a bridge too far, but no-one inside Carrow Road needs any history lessons on what an achievement it is to just be on the same road.
Lambert appreciated the gesture. You can bet so too did his players when the pain of a humiliating defeat started to recede. The vast majority stood their ground; save that strange constituency who head for the exits to avoid the rush irrespective of the state of play. Those who stayed to the end delivered their voluminous verdict.
The home players were not being patronised; they were being lionised. Both for their efforts against an obscenely expensively assembled opponent and a season that has far exceeded the expectations of all bar the most optimistic.
Contrast the Carrow Road scene at full-time with how Tottenham and Arsenal fans emptied respective grounds over the last few days. Wigan’s superb Premier League win at the Emirates on Monday night was greeted with a sea of red seats. Likewise, Spurs’ embarrassing FA Cup semi-final mauling against Chelsea at Wembley proved too much for many.
Supporting a side like Norwich traditionally means more lows than highs; certainly pre-Lambert. The north London giants have no such defence, given the relative comfort of top division longevity alongside periodic league and cup triumphs.
City have avoided becoming embroiled in the guts of a relegation scrap this season because of what they have achieved on the pitch. And what they have achieved off it. That sense of unity is why the home players can be applauded - not castigated - after losing 6-1. Look at some of the clubs now fighting for their lives and you detect a common theme. A disconnect between those inside the club and outside.
Blackburn’s disgruntled supporters have scheduled a march from the Town Hall to Ewood Park ahead of Norwich’s Premier League visit this weekend for fresh protests against Steve Kean and Rovers’ hierarchy. Just what Kean needs to rally his troops for the final decisive push.
Who can forget those images from earlier in the season of ex-Wolves boss Mick McCarthy being berated by his own fans at Molineux. Given the shambolic state of affairs Terry Connor inherited and the aborted pursuit for a permanent replacement one feels a sense of footballing karma has now settled over the famous old Black Country outfit.
Norwich as a club have not been immune to fans airing grievances in darker times, but right now that common sense of shared purpose is a powerful force.