An A-Z of Norwich City's promotion season
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Head of sport Chris Lakey takes a bit of a sideways look at this season. Warning: Includes reference to Robbie Savage...
A is for Aarons. Never allowed himself to be distracted when suitors were in a position to unsettle him with transfer interest. Behaviour has been a credit to him. On definite interest from abroad, sporting director Stuart Webber said: “We decided not to act on that interest, with Max’s blessing I must add.” Good man.
B is for Buendia. A very average season, not enough assists, not enough goals. Nothing to see here, move along please.
C is for Cantwell. The Dereham Deco learned a lot from being dropped because Daniel Farke questioned his attitude in training. Look at him now – more mature, a better player arguably. And still with enough enthusiasm for the game to be a clear winner of the Norwich City best goal celebrator of the season award. Just a shame someone didn’t recognise his talents at England Under-21 level properly.
D is for Derby County. The two games against the Rams have been won by the away team, both with sublime free-kicks. Kieran Dowell’s winner was magnificent – up and over the wall from not too far, a difficult skill. Wayne Rooney’s in a surprise win at Carrow Road in October was excellent, but had a bit of history – it was his last ever goal in football.
E is for empty stadiums. The lack of home support was blamed, in some quarters, for City’s abysmal exit from the Premier League. This season we’ve had four games with a smattering of fans, but it hasn’t seemed to make much difference. The home and away records are almost identical – 45 points from 22 games at home and 45 from 21 away.
F is for Farke. Who else? The coolest man in football. Holds his nerve, brave, likeable – and has built a team in the image of Norwich City FC.
G is for Giannoulis. Those of a certain age will remember the Magic Bus, on which you could get from London to Athens for £27. The only hitch was it took three and a half days. That still might have been a better way of travelling than the one Dimitris Giannoulis had in the international break – a few hours of snatched sleep after a game on Wednesday which meant he was in no fit state to travel to Preston on Good Friday, let alone play.
H is for Holloway (Ian). The master of the one-liner (and a few more) loves Norwich City. After the 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest he could hardly contain himself: “It was like watching Brazil. I have to say, that is as good a Championship team as I’ve ever seen play. They look like a Premier League side playing against a Championship side.”
I is for Idah. The youngster scored City’s first Championship goal of the season, at Huddersfield. But he’s started just one game, been a sub 15 times and scored one other goal. It’s because of a hamstring injury, a problem with a foot, a case of Covid and a hernia. Fortunately, he’s only 20 so he has time to get into Lady Luck’s good books.
J is for Jose (Mourinho). The former Tottenham boss has been effusive in his praise of Oliver Skipp. Excellent. But here’s the rub – with Spurs so, er, up and down, and consequently dispensing with Jose’s services, will his full-time replacement be so eager to see Skipp back in north London? And if not, might he possibly consider another season’s loan at City? Please...
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K is for Krul. Who’s he going to hand his Player of the Season trophy to? Seems the people’s favourite is Emi Buendia. Hard to argue against that. But it’s also hard to argue against a bloke who could feasibly end the season with 30 league goals to his name. Could it be shared for the first time in its history? Or could Oliver Skipp come though in the middle of a split vote? If he did, he would be the first loan player to win the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy. Just saying...
L is for Lewis (Jamal). Sold to Newcastle for £15m last summer and remains, along with Ben Godfrey, a reminder that City might not have to sell this summer, but could find their hand is forced by bids that are too good to turn down. We’re all good at naming our price, so how much for Buendia, Cantwell and Aarons? One thing for sure, Godfrey’s record (up to £30m) would be shattered.
M is for Marcus (Evans). Sorry, but it has to be done. He’s just flogged the Tractor Boys, which would guess is one way of closing the gap. But has anyone seen any sign of £10 notes being metaphorically thrown in the direction of Norwich? No, thought not. It’s because Norwich are now too far away to be even involved in the Town argument.
N is for NR1. It’s home to so many, usually. Let’s hope things get back to normal soon as, eh?
O is for Odd One Out. First, to irreparably damage a well-known poem that begins “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you” and ends with “you’ll be a man, my son”... apologies. But City never once bowed to pressure to follow the norm and sack their manager when things weren’t going well. It’s the done thing. Unless you’re Norwich City. They were brave enough and wise enough to know it’s not usually the best solution. So they didn’t. And here we are.
P is for Posh. Who, presumably, will definitely be promoted this season, now that City have gone up to the Premier League. Will these two ever meet in the league?
Q is for quote of the season. “I have a good relation with the Norwich manager, so if they play I like to watch them” – Pep Guardiola. Enough said.
R is for Robbie (Savage). Slagging off Norwich again, eh? He should know better.... ”it’s too far away; if they played Brighton in my back garden I’d close the curtains” The list of Savage-isms is long. Thing is, Robbie, you’re being taught a broadcasting lesson every weekend by Chris Sutton. Give up while you can...
S is for Smith. Etty Smith. Mother of Delia, mother-in-law of Michael Wynn Jones, died last November at the age of 100. She was a super-fan. Rain or shine, she was there. Part of the furniture at Norwich City. She would have been a proud lady, just like her daughter is today.
T is for tipple. What’s Daniel Farke’s? In much the same way Delia Smith’s culinary tips could ignite the sales of a particular product (when she taught us how to boil, fry or poach an egg, shops began to sell an extra 1.3 million eggs a day), the City boss could start a new trend. If only we knew what he liked... “Perhaps in a few years with a glass of wine, a pint or a cup of tea you can sit on the sofa and reflect on being part of it” he said of this season’s exploits.
U is for United. Manchester, definitely, Sheffield definitely not. With luck we’ll be heading north-west next season. Going to be good, isn’t it?
V is for VAR. We’ve had a season without it. Don’t want to upset City fans, but it is now going to be a part of your post-match discussions, whether you like it or not.
W is for Webber, Stuart. He doesn’t like the spotlight, but sometime in the next week or three it will fall on him. It’s inevitable. And deservedly so.
X is for Xavi, Quintilla. Not been the best loan spell, the Spaniard spending too much of it injured. That’s probably prompted the signing of Dimitris Giannoulis, so not all bad then...
Y is for youth. He did it with Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis and Ben Godfrey. Lately, he did it with Andrew Omobamidele. Blooding youth. It’s what Daniel Farke does. But it isn’t a game or a show of bravado. And it comes with a caveat. “I won’t simply play a young player so I get some praise. I have to make sure they are prepared. Otherwise I could kill their career,” he said. They’re in good hands...
Z is for Zimmermann (what did you expect, really?). Horrible season for the centre-back. In and out of the team, no thanks to injuries and the form of Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson. And when he gets a chance, he then suffers another injury. But there is a part of Zimmermann that’s in the Norwich City DNA this season – and always will be. “Everybody knows he has to play his part and sometimes you play more, sometimes you play less.” Exactly. Billy Big Boots he isn’t.