‘Norwich City defender has been Klose to perfection – and I’m loving it’
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There are many ways my Sunday league team-mates find to gently (and not so gently) rib me before, after – and during games.
The lack of hair, a previous (and thankfully long gone) tendency to score at the wrong end, the fact that as captain I always lose the toss and because I sometimes turn up for games fully kitted. They're sure I sleep in the green and white hoops of Newsman Celtic FC.
Above all, it is the way I react when we score a goal that is always guaranteed to raise a heckle. While everyone else is joyfully embracing, I can be found, head firmly down, making my way back to a defensive position ready to repel any forthcoming attack.
The poor fellow defenders then get a blast of hot air as they are firmly reminded of their priorities.
I can't help it, I love to defend. The fact I'm not really any good doesn't matter – on the field all I want to do is win a good header, make a decent sliding tackle and stop the opposition hitting the onion bag.
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And if you have the misfortune of sitting anywhere near me in the Barclay Lower, you'll realise that also influences how I follow Norwich City. A vital goal is always guaranteed to get me off my seat and cheering – but so too is a last-gasp tackle or goal-saving block. A highlight of this season remains a challenge by Robbie Brady against Crystal Palace, where he came from nowhere with a sliding tackle that stopped a sure-fire goal.
As you can probably imagine, my cup runneth over watching Norwich City of late.
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That's largely thanks to the sublime performances of Swiss man mountain Timm Klose, a guy who seems to confront defensive duties with similar relish, though granted much more talent.
It's always been a bugbear that defenders don't get the recognition they deserve. Fair enough, goals are the currency in football, but there must be others out there who, like me, believe a brave, crunching tackle is just as impressive as a silky skill or sublime shot.
All too often man of the match and player of the season awards are dominated by the obvious headline-makers. That's why we'll see Leicester's Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez up for awards, rather than Wes Morgan or Robert Huth.
Closer to home, at least, there appears to be an appreciation of the part the defence has played in City's resurgence, with social media buzzing about Klose and the latest player of the month award going his way.
After a few games to settle in, get to know those around him, work on his fitness and get to grips with the style and speed of English football, Klose has brought the quality and calmness you'd hope to get for £7.6m.
I've been particularly impressed by his reading of the game. He's no slouch, but not the fastest, but speed of mind means he's often able to anticipate a move and get in front of the opponent and reach the ball. This was particularly the case in the past three games and a few defensive statistics show just how great his impact has been.
Against Newcastle and West Brom, Klose was the only player to reach double figures for successful clearances, including those with his head. For those, and Manchester City, he made 37 such clearances, just over 12 a game. In the 2-0 defeat weeks earlier against Aston Villa that figure was just six. With his head, Klose has been imperious, winning 13 of 15 defensive aerial duels in those three games – and scoring a vital goal of course.
When you have someone like that in your team, whatever level you play at, they tend to improve those around them and Ryan Bennett's and Sebastien Bassong's core defensive statistics have also improved. Should Norwich avoid relegation I wouldn't be surprised if Alex Neil chose to make Klose captain going into 2016/17.
The only shame is it's taken so long for us to find him. Norwich has needed a defender of his ilk for years and relegation last time around would probably have been avoided had he (or someone like him) been purchased.
But he's here now and I for one am absolutely loving it.