Why is the reaction to City’s current position a little, er, tepid?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
If you have ever seen a film called The Commitments, you might recall leading character Jimmy Rabbitte playing out an appearance on the Wogan Show - where he was interviewer and interviewee, a showerhead being his microphone.
The Commitments (part of Roddy Doyle's brilliant Barrytown Trilogy) is set in Dublin and apart from being very funny, has a magnificent soul soundtrack, although that's by the by.
Let's face it, many of us have done the Rabbitte interview. I have. No problems admitting that one.
Only recently I turned down an appearance on Richard Keys' Middle East show so Mark Chapman could interrogate me...
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MC: So, Chris, you were at the Rotherham game. Thoughts?'
CL: Plenty, Mark. Crowd were content rather than delirious – everyone expected a Norwich win, which they got. Only when Rotherham scored was there a frisson of panicked excitement.
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MC: What do you prefer: the nervous moments or a big-scoring stroll in the park?
CL: Some fans are happy just to see City thump the opposition week in, week out. But I find that boring. Yet when a game gets nervy – and there have been a few involving City - the knives come out and suddenly Alex Neil can do no right. It's a strange situation. Frankly, I prefer a nail-biter.
MC: And you didn't get that last Saturday?
CL: No, Mark. Rotherham were terrible. Wes Hoolahan had more space to work in than Captain Kirk. Should have been out of sight by half-time.
MC: And your neighbours are on fire?
CL: They score two goals in a game after five games without hitting the back of the net – news that very nearly knocked Trump v Clinton III off our screens. And still they harp on about European escapades...Seriously, though, Mick McCarthy can't afford another boring run. Even the local newspaper asked if they were the most boring team in England. Incidentally, I wrote the same thing last spring and got slaughtered for it.
MC: Back to Wes Hoolahan ... I detected a look that suggests a problem...
CL: Only when he leaves. I don't see how you can replace him, certainly not like for like, so, for me, there needs to be someone who can slot in and who the team can work around. That player won't have the same skills, but they need to adapt to that. But saying that, I see no reason why Hoolahan shouldn't play on and on. Pace is not a strength: his speed is in his brain and his feet, and he won't lose that for a while. He doesn't have many injury problems so keep him safe and he can run and run and run. We seem to want to pension off our players too quickly. Footballers seem to be past it at 32 – maybe it's just a trend that so many leave the game at that age because of the money, they don't have to play on. Maybe Wes could hang up his boots and live the life of Riley – but have you ever seen a player who looks like he is enjoying the game as much as Wes?
MC: Will City go up this season?
CL: Well, Mark. I'll tell you this: they've only played three of the teams in the top six, and managed to win just one point. Tougher games are to come, but the hope is they are still in third gear.
MC: But they are second in the table – you still don't appear to be too happy.
CL: That's a bit 'pot calling the kettle black', Mark, but, anyway, that seems to be the way many Norwich fans are. Last week, all I heard was groans – most fans struggled to raise a hearty cheer. Maybe they just expect things to happen and the success to come automatically.
Ted MacDougall's been back in the fine city this week, bringing back more than a few memories.
MacDougall's career record shows a goal every other game: he was a sensational striker in the 1960s and 70s. At Norwich he bagged 66 in 138 games. Unfortunately his competition for Scotland caps came in the shape of Denis Law then Kenny Dalglish.
But would Ted fit in to football in 2016? He was a goal scorer, nothing more, nothing less. Think Jermain Defoe: brilliant at his job, but without, perhaps, a few more tools that managers today desire.
MacDougall lived in a golden era: he played alongside Eusebio and George Best so, like many of that era, has stories galore, which he isn't afraid to tell.
How about this, about Margate's Scottish goalie Chic Brodie: 'Chic told me he was the unluckiest 'keeper in the world. One time he went to pick up the cap he wore in games and there was a grenade in it. He was attacked by a Jack Russell during a match and, just before the cup-tie, a crossbar fell on his head.'
Old school. And fantastic.