Norwich City need to re-discover their lack of fear
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If there’s one thing I’ve learned during the past four weeks, it’s that there is nothing more useful than adapting to survive – as the saying suggests, if you can’t manage it you’re not going to last long.
I don’t really like bringing this column back to myself – honest. But I imagine the arrival of a little person in a tight family unit previously consisting of two, the subsequent and complete absorbance of your attention they take, plus every conceivable emotion under the sun registering at a Spinal Tap ‘11’ is the epitome of the saying.
Certainly I now understand that if you don’t adapt to the new landscape, it’s not going to be pretty.
Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten this is a football column – unlike the experiences of watching Norwich City toil against Tottenham, Aston Villa and West Ham. And when I say toil, I’m being very kind to at least one of those occasions.
What’s become pretty clear since the new year is that the Canaries have lost their way.
Be it unfortunate and disjointed against Spurs, unable and missing at Villa Park, or the frustrating and bizarrely naive performance while two goals up at home to West Ham, there seems little connection now to the edicts that underpinned the Norwich City Alex Neil wanted to perpetuate on his arrival last year.
The simple tasks and roles for his players to perform. The lack of long-term point-targets while concentrating on one game at a time.
Perhaps most keenly of all, the Canaries’ lack of fear and embracing of opportunity.
Obviously, this all needs context and the reality is protecting a philosophy is a lot easier when you are chasing promotion in the Championship; when defeats only punctuate the positive results and dominant performances.
That landscape doesn’t exist in the Premier League for the Canaries – nor for any newly promoted side enduring the usual struggles.
It’s not original of me to say Norwich City have lost their identity – but it does feel pertinent. And it’s not as straightforward as more defending, more attacking. It’s the bits in between. Closing down, managing a game, looking the part – however it is they want to go about it.
The case in point may well come tomorrow, when it would be a brave man that sends out a side at the King Power Stadium to press on the front foot – given what Leicester have done all season to such set-ups.
The extremes of approach, the tactical framework, doesn’t need to define Norwich’s identity. Just like it didn’t with the Foxes who, at this point last season were bottom of the Premier League with 18 points – that’s just two more than Aston Villa’s current tally.
What it needs is passion, work, concentration, desire, resilience, bravery and the forward quality Norwich have already shown this season. That is the only identity City fans will want to see between now and May. The identity that would really see them adapt to the Premier League – and survive to tell the tale.
• ALL A BIT OF A MESSI FOR OUR STAR TOG PAUL
Spare a thought for our superb photographer Paul Chesterton, who travels with myself and Paddy Davitt across the country documenting Norwich City’s fortunes – because he now has a story about the gem of a picture he never got to take.
Paul was at The Emirates in midweek working at Arsenal’s Champions League visit from Barcelona. Lionel Messi scores his first goal, and duly runs towards our man and his camera to celebrate. That money shot, seconds away, and then... BANG!
Sadly, Messi was also running towards the Barca fans – two of whom broke free of their ranks and kicked off a pitchside melee that saw Paul smashed on the back of his head by a flailing limb, the glass in his eye-wateringly expensive camera lens also smashed and that iconic shot of a football legend rendered a fleeting memory and a tale of what might have been.
The rest of his night was a write-off – sadly, unlike the damages. The bill came to more than £500 for PC but the good news is he has all the replacement gear he needs to set about his usual top job at the King Power Stadium tomorrow.
By all accounts, Paul gets on pretty well with the regular Norwich City away fans he tends to sit in front of during games. And let’s be frank, their opportunities to get as excited as those Barca fans have been few and far between this term.
Still, it would be nice if PC at least got the chance to take some pictures of a few smiles this time around. It’s been a little too long.