Norwich City deserve more credit for response
Norwich City's players and fans have probably become immune to the doubters who question their Premier League credentials.
City defied the odds to survive last season after largely being written off outside Norfolk. The same applied in the summer. Managerial change wrapped around second season struggles would ensure a swift return to the Football League.
Elliott Bennett summed up this condescending trait perfectly prior to that game-changing win over Arsenal last month.
'The more people go against this team, the better we seem to be,' he said. 'We will come out fighting - like a dog, you back us into a corner, we will always bite our way out of it. If people keep doing that, brilliant, because we will hopefully prove them wrong, like we did last year.'
Prophetic words from the eloquent wide player as Chris Hughton's men answered the critics in the best possible fashion with that redoubtable win over the Gunners. More victories have followed in league and cup since to construct a justifiable case that maybe a corner has been turned.
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Yet, even fresh from beating Stoke this past weekend I read an account on a leading bookmaker's site suggesting now may be an opportune moment to pile into City's lengthening odds for the drop. Value to be had was the general strapline.
No issue with that. Norwich should expect to feature at the head of such a market after some heavy early season defeats, but it was the tone that irked. Let me offer a flavour.
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'A sluggish start to the campaign which involved them handing out goals to allcomers put them right at the forefront of the relegation candidates…this recent purple patch, however, has only served to paper over some fundamental cracks in their team of Championship players plying their trade one level beyond their means.
'Bringing Steven Whittaker in at right back is not the sort of addition that will turn a rubbish defence into one capable of flourishing in the top flight.' And on it went. Showing a total disregard for the Canaries and, worse, a total lack of appreciation of what is happening in these parts.
Beating the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Stoke, along with dominating Aston Villa, is not indicative of some lucky short-term streak. It is the result of an undeniably positive trend; a product of players bedding into a system that suits and the fruits of a managerial philosophy gradually distilling itself across a squad that had to integrate nine new players in a relatively short period.
As Bennett's pre-Arsenal comments testified, those who really matter do not buy into the enduring negativity. Long may that continue. Hughton and his squad will shape the destiny of their own club. No-one else.
The core of those players proved they were good enough to survive in the Premier League last season. Subtract the element of surprise from the arrival of fresh quality and the equation again appears favourable.
Even the measured Hughton was moved to concede City were unlikely to get the credit they deserved for despatching Arsenal. So it proved, as the Gunners perceived failings came to dominate the post-match agenda.
Stoke's Ryan Shawcross labelled the Potters' collective efforts disappointing and their performance 'poor' at the weekend. Again, the implication is Norwich prevailed through the deficiencies of their direct opponents.
Turn that around and perhaps City's two Premier League wins have actually been founded on an impressive ability to nullify the opposition and to make the most of their attacking opportunities.
Let their rivals indulge in quiet contemplation at their own weaknesses. Let the bookmakers and the critics stick rigidly to their stereotypes. In the final anaylsis, such negativity only has any residual impact if it gnaws away at Hughton and his players. But that doesn't stop it grating.