Crucial Norwich City win lifted spirits of everyone
I wonder, who gained the most out of Saturday's win over Arsenal? Was it the players, the manager, or the fans?
I was in a car driving into Norfolk when Grant Holt scored – frankly, if there was to be a surprise outcome, then it was always going to be Holt-inspired. When the ball hit the back of the net, passing motorists heading away on the motorway will have wondered what the loon in the Honda was doing. I was celebrating.
By the time I was deep in the heart of Norfolk, it was all over. I wore, I admit, a smug expression that said, I told you so. Not that I did.
But I would suggest that the win changed a few opinions among the City supporter base. Instead of berating Chris Hughton, the manager took a couple of steps up the pedestal, confidence in him revived. I looked hard on Twitter for those who had started to call for his head in the weeks leading up to the game, but I found none. Suddenly, he was okay, a decent man who was starting to get it sorted. His timing was spot on too, what with a visit to Aston Villa – and Paul Lambert – this weekend.
So, fans box is ticked. Yes, they benefited hugely.
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And what of Hughton?
Did he need the sort of boost that sort of acceptance by some of the paying supporters provides? Yes, I think he did.
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The question 'Do you fear for your job?' hadn't, to my knowledge, been put to him, but I suspect he got the general glass, pre-Arsenal, half-empty vibe. When managers tell you they don't read the papers or the places where fans go to shed their tears online, they are fibbing. I've heard it from managers before, then I've witnessed the slip-up when they moan about what you've written, about a comment, a mark out of 10.
Hughton looked a little shell-shocked at times as Liverpool and Chelsea waltzed through chasms in his defence. City looked like whipping boys, and played like it at times. Not being able to see off QPR was criminal, and West Ham should have been done and dusted before they got back into the game. Four points were thrown away. Hughton will have heard the moans and groans, but he didn't resort to pithy comments, a humorous retort that lacked the vital ingredient of humour. Hughton retained his respect and tried to work through it.
No one is suggesting that beating Arsenal means it's job done, but it's a pretty decent way to start the improvement.
As Holt said post-match, the players are learning different things. They've had three years, some of them doing it the way of one man. Now it has to change, and I'd suggest Lambert and Hughton are very different animals. It takes a bit of getting used to.
But the players will be able to look at what they did last Saturday evening and realise that it works, that they are getting there. Then they will do what the fans did, and look at the Premier League table and wonder why on earth everyone was saying Norwich had had a dreadful start to the season when, in fact, they were not an isolated case.
They are only a couple of points worse off than Sunderland and Stoke, one win worse than Liverpool. The goals against column is a little ugly at -11, but Wigan and Villa, just below them, are on -7, so it's not THAT bad.
The conclusion? All sides will be strengthened, invigorated, by the win. The fans will travel this weekend in good heart, the players and manager too.
One win doesn't make a summer, but it doesn't half help.