Just be grateful we're through

Tuesday night's victory over Barnet was a bizarre one, to say the least. For a start, all seven goals were scored in front of the Barclay/Snakepit.

Tuesday night's victory over Barnet was a bizarre one, to say the least.

For a start, all seven goals were scored in front of the Barclay/Snakepit. It's usually the case that the fans in the N&P stand and the posh people in the 101 Club get to see most of the goalmouth action, so it was good that the balance was restored to some extent the other night. (That'll probably be it for the season, mind.)

Slightly more importantly, there were also some notable performances on the pitch.

It was obviously good to see Jamie Cureton get off the mark, but I thought the best player on the field was Chris Brown.

Last year he took a lot of stick even though he didn't do very much wrong, and there were some people who seemed to have decided he was useless before giving him a chance. (The same people, I guess, who decided that Iwan was a waste of space after his first season.)

On Tuesday, Brown was the linchpin up front, pulling defenders this way and that. OK, so they weren't the world's best defenders, but it was still a fantastic performance and something that bodes well for the team.

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Furthermore, when was the last time we had three midfielders score in the same match - never mind within about 10 minutes of each other?

But after such a mesmerising start to the match, the game came to a halt because of the linesman's injury, and after that it was all a bit of a letdown, at least from the home fans' point of view.

Barnet fully deserved their second-half consolation goals, and they actually finished the night with more shots on goal than we had.

Peter Grant's comments after the game were understandable - it was, after all, frustrating that we didn't go on and get another five in the second half and make it one for the record books.

But while Grant's desire for perfection is admirable, I was just happy to have got through the first round comfortably. A quick look at the disasters that have befallen us in previous years (not least against Barnet 10 years ago) puts it all into perspective.

t Barnet deserve credit for the way they refused to lie down and die despite finding themselves 5-0 down within half an hour. But I thought the post-match quotes from Paul Fairclough, their manager, were just a tad OTT.

“We were like the gladiators in the gladiatorial ring,” he said.

“The locals were baying for our blood and for more, but we stuck together, we put the shields out, we put the daggers in our mouths and came through it really strongly.”

I think he's been watching too many Hollywood epics. Either that or he's a bit of a luvvie.


Today will probably see the return of Youssef Safri to Carrow Road.

I say 'probably' because it can be pot luck with Safri - as George Burley will no doubt soon find out, half the time he's in the treatment room or away on international duty.

He was potentially one of the best signings of the second half of the Nigel Worthington era.

But while his talent was beyond doubt, he was not consistent enough and didn't play enough games to become a true great.

Most returning players can predict the response they'll get from the fans. Damien Francis, for example, will never get a warm welcome from us, whereas there'll always be a place in our hearts for Malky Mackay.

But it's not so easy to predict what will happen with Safri, and that's mainly due to the manner of his departure a couple of weeks ago.

There will no doubt be some people for whom he has become an iconic figure - not only because of THAT goal against Newcastle in 2005 but also because he fell out with Peter Grant during his final few months at Carrow Road.

Although I'm a staunch member of the Grant fan club, a lot of people have yet to take to our manager, and some of those people will support anyone who takes him on.

But Safri has only himself to blame for the disappointing end to his spell in Norfolk. Had he been a star player over the three years, putting in performances to remember week after week, he could probably have named his own price. But more often than not he flattered to deceive, and he rarely put in a run of show-stopping performances, so he didn't have the luxury of calling the shots.

There was clearly a difference of opinion over Safri's commitment to Norwich - he kept telling us he loved it here and didn't want to leave, while Grant said his agents had been trying to secure him a move for some time.

The claims and counter-claims surrounding his apparent desire to leave were murky, but ultimately it was within Safri's gift to tell his agents to cool it and stop touting his services to other clubs.

He failed to do that, and ultimately Grant had no choice but to boot him out of the club. He got what he deserved.

It will be interesting to see where Safri's career goes from here. Broadly speaking, his career so far has been spent at middle-of-the road Championship clubs, and a transfer to Southampton was hardly the glamour move that I assume his agents wanted for him.

I have no reason to disbelieve Safri's claims that he holds our club and fans in high regard, and I certainly wish him no ill in the future, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he might come to look back at his time at Norwich and wish he'd put in just a little more effort and commitment.

The grass isn't always greener elsewhere, and he certainly wouldn't be the first player to leave for big things only to move sideways, at best.

Just ask Darren Kenton and Andy Marshall.