Middle men must step it up for City

The draw against Ipswich last week was a fair result, but how many more times are we going to take the lead against the Great Enemy only to let them back into the game?Last season's Carrow Road meeting saw Jonatan Johanssen score first before we ended up losing 2-1, and Luke Chadwick's opener at Portman Road earlier this season was a pre-cursor to a 3-1 defeat.

The draw against Ipswich last week was a fair result, but how many more times are we going to take the lead against the Great Enemy only to let them back into the game?

Last season's Carrow Road meeting saw Jonatan Johanssen score first before we ended up losing 2-1, and Luke Chadwick's opener at Portman Road earlier this season was a pre-cursor to a 3-1 defeat.

At least we didn't lose this time, but at the end it felt like two points lost rather than one gained.

And with just two games left this season that could yet prove fatal to our effort to finish above the Suffolk lot.


You may also want to watch:


Embarrassingly for both Norwich and Ipswich, we're playing second place in the East Anglian mini-league. It would be mean-spirited not to give Colchester the praise they deserve, but finishing behind both Ipswich and The U's is something that we simply mustn't do.

Last Sunday's match was a million times better than the shower of You-know-what we were treated to at Portman Road in November, but as has happened so many times this season, it was frustrating that we were unable to finish off the opposition despite totally dominating the first half.

Most Read

And once Ipswich got their equaliser, I can't have been the only one who thought things could get even worse.

So what went wrong? For my money, the most obvious difference between the two halves was our midfield.

In the first 45 minutes, Dickson Etuhu - in particular - and Mark Fotheringham were dominant, and their success boded well for the team as a whole.

When the midfield wins the 50-50 balls, we are a match for anyone in this league.

If we had done that all season, we would not be where we are now.

But in the second half last week, the Norwich of old returned.

Time and time again, the ball was cleared by our defence to no-man's land and each time it was picked up by someone in a blue shirt.

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to work out that if you keep giving the ball away, you're going to invite pressure on your defence.

Something will eventually give, and on Sunday it did - but, fortunately, only once. The Etuhu who had been so dominating during the first half returned to the Etuhu of old.

Fortheringham, too, was a shade of his former self during the second half.

Peter Grant - never one to mince his words - said this week that it was “Gut-wrenching” that we were not in the play-offs. That's one way of putting it, but if Grant can get his team playing next year with as much passion as he clearly has himself, we should do a lot better.

We have not been good enough this season, and while Grant's positive thinking is to be admired, his suggestion that it was only after the recent West Brom game that our play-off hopes were extinguished was well wide of the mark.

The priority over the summer is surely to sort out the midfield.

This season has been a season of second chances.

There can be no more of them next year.

We have seen that our midfielders can be good enough for short spells.

Next year, they must stop showing occasional flashes of brilliance and start showing some consistency.

It comes to something when Manchester United becomes your favourite 'big' club.

If you'd told me just a couple of years ago that I'd be rooting for Sir Alex Ferguson's men in Europe AND in the Premiership AND in the FA Cup, I'd have scoffed.

But the so-called cream of English football has become so bastardised in the past couple of years that millions of neutrals are now backing Malcolm Glazer's set-up because the Reds are the best of a fairly unappetising bunch.

I suppose that of the big four, Arsenal are my team of choice, despite Arsene Wenger's constant moaning when things go against him. With their youngsters, the Gunners could be the best team in the country within the next couple of years.

But that doesn't help when it comes to deciding who to back in this year's Champions League.

There's no doubt that having three English clubs in the last four of the competition speaks volumes for the state of our country's football, but the idea that it doesn't matter which of Chelsea, Liverpool and Man Utd lifts the trophy couldn't be further from the truth.

I'd better be careful about my comments on Scousers because Liverpudlians are known for insisting that people who offend them are hauled up to the North-West to make public apologies.

Of course, making sweeping statements and generalisations is usually unfair, but suffice to say I still feel bitter about Norwich having been kept out of Europe following the ban imposed in the light of the Heysel riot.

I did, to be fair, enjoy my trip to Stamford Bridge in February (although I was a little wary of the “Didn't brave little Norwich do so well to only lose 4-0” sentiments expressed by some afterwards).

But while I quite like Jose Mourinho, I detest the fact that Chelsea is a team of hired mercenaries. I don't know the figures, but I suspect that what Roman Abramovich spends on his toy that is Chelsea FC is a drop in the ocean in terms of his overall wealth.

He can buy players not because he wants them but just to stop other clubs having them.

There is no real legacy that Abramovich has built on at Stamford Bridge - it has just been a case of throwing money around like confetti so a rich foreigner can get what he wants.

So that just leaves us with Man Utd.

Yes, they're another club that spends tens of millions of pounds on buying new players and on those players' obscene salaries.

But at least they only spend what they can afford. The Glazer family might be affluent backers, but they are in the business of making a return on their investment and they don't behave in the over-the-top way that Abramovich does.

And it's impossible not to have a grudging respect for Sir Alex and all he has done over the years. I think he's seen off something like 10 Chelsea managers during his reign at Old Trafford.

Chelsea have already won the Carling Cup this year so they're not going to end the season empty-handed.

But how sweet it would be to see the Reds win everything else.

Neutrals backing Manchester United to win the treble? These are strange times indeed.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus