An opportunity knocks for Norwich City with so much change in the air

Jonny Howson's match-winning strike to sink Manchester City 3-2 helped propel the Canaries two further places up the final...

Jonny Howson's match-winning strike to sink Manchester City 3-2 helped propel the Canaries two further places up the final Premier League table and netted them an estimated extra £3m in merit payments for finishing 11th. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

If ever a goal was worthy of earning millions of pounds for a club it was Jonny Howson's wonder strike.

The skill and composure Howson showed as he took on the mighty Manchester City single handed was the crowning glory of what turned out to be an unexpectedly successful campaign.

I am not one to blow my own trumpet but I have scored several goals just like Howson's.

The most difficult thing after beating so many players is picking the right moment to take on the shot but over the years, and with plenty of practice, I was able to hone the technique of scoring those sort of memorable individual efforts on a regular basis. Pressing the red button on the joystick at the precise moment became a rich source of goals for me as I took on all comers on Gary Lineker's Hot Shots on the Spectrum in my formative footballing years.

In fact so extraordinary was that effort that it would have been no surprise if the camera had cut to Chris Hughton as Howson wheeled away in celebration just in time to see the City boss tucking his Playstation controller back in his coat pocket.

The Canaries ended up 11th, one place higher than last season, eight points clear of relegation and achieved the small victory of a higher finish than Aston Villa. Who would seriously have forecast that with any confidence a fortnight ago, let alone when Paul Lambert walked last summer?

Up until the last two weeks 2013 had been a watch from behind the sofa sort of a year for Norwich fans as they flirted with the drop like a circus daredevil, teasing the audience by wobbling on the high wire. This all leaves Norwich City at an intriguing crossroads.

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With a third season of Premier League football on the horizon and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel on his way opportunity knocks at Carrow Road.

The Premier League is going to be a funny old place next year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Everton will all have new managers, Arsenal will have clocked up eight trophy-free years while the frustration of missing out on the Champions League again will be rankling with Tottenham and Liverpool. So it is impossible to know quite what to expect from the top flight next term.

Even after what felt for long periods like a mediocre season, Norwich ended up a hair's breadth away from a top half finish. It would not take much of an improvement in results next season to see City pushing for the sort of top flight finish not seen since the 80's and 90's. But, and it is a big but, the Canaries did only win four matches after the turn of the year. If that sort of form is tapped into next season then more finger nails will be bitten.

So it's over to Chris Hughton and his little book of transfer targets to help us through the footballing wasteland that is a summer without a World Cup or European Championships to keep us ticking over until August.

Hughton's record suggests he's a man you can trust with the Carrow Road credit card. The voting for the 2012-13 Player of the Season saw Sebastien Bassong and Robert Snodgrass rightly recognised by fans as City's best two players. Both were signed by Hughton.

I would like to advise him on the best transfer policy to adapt this summer but once again I only have my wealth of experience in the fantasy world of computer games to draw on and I think he could manage without that sort of advice, don't you?


No review of Norwich City's 2012-13 season would be complete without a generous round of applause in honour of the Canaries' impressive FA Youth Cup winning squad. That really was some achievement, albeit an unexpected one.

The snowball rapidly gathered momentum when Neil Adams' side won 4-2 at Everton in the quarter finals in early April. Six weeks later, via a tense penalty shoot-out win over Nottingham Forest and a storming final against the mighty Chelsea, they were dancing with the latest shiny addition to the Carrow Road trophy cabinet in front of 3,000 City fans huddled in one corner of Stamford Bridge.

Norwich City's name was perhaps destined to be on that cup this year. Moments after the final whistle last Monday night the Chelsea ground staff set about hastily building a stage in the centre circle so the medal and trophy presentation could take place. As the construction trundled onto the pitch in kit form in the back of a trailer I could not help but notice that even the tractor pulling it was yellow and green. Maybe the FA had paid such attention to detail that they also had a blue one parked somewhere in West London to cover the eventuality of a Chelsea victory.

Is this the Youth Cup's answer to a tense final day of the season when the Premier League trophy has to be put in a helicopter ready to fly to whichever ground happens to be the one the winners are playing at?

This seems unlikely, as pleasing as the thought of a big old piece of farm machinery rumbling past Harrods and through London's trendy West End is. A Norwich win must have been written in the stars or at least ploughed in the fields.

Chelsea has in recent years become a club used to winning trophies. In fact just 48 hours after Norwich's triumph, they picked up a consolation prize in the shape of the Europa League trophy by beating Benfica in Amsterdam.

As we packed up our commentary equipment at Stamford Bridge last Monday night a loud noise started on the pitch. One of the Chelsea ground staff had a large vacuum cleaner that looked a bit like one of those leaf blowing machines that I have never fully understood the point of. He was sucking up all the glittery confetti that had been fired into the air as part of the pyrotechnics when Cameron McGeehan, Norwich's inspirational captain, held the trophy aloft. You know you are at the home of a seriously successful football club when they have a special machine to clear up after trophy presentations.

Who knows? If Norwich City can go on progressing at the same rate the club has over the past five years and a few members of that talented under 18 squad fulfil their undoubted potential perhaps the Carrow Road groundsman will, in years to come, be asking for a machine to suck up confetti to be brought in during one of the transfer windows.