Ian Clarke: Don't take Hanley for grant-ed when saluting City's stars
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Are you starting to smell promotion?
Yes, I know there are 13 games to go in the Championship campaign and a lot can still happen between now and Sunday, May 8.
Brentford could take all three points away from NR1 after the biggest game of the season so far.
That could be the catalyst for the Bees to really get buzzing.
The Hornets could be stung into action after their weekend slip up and go on a great run, while things could go swimmingly for the Swans in their push for the Premier League.
Oh, and the Canaries could fall off their perch.
But it just doesn't feel like that's going to happen, does it?
- 1 Woman left with 'serious back injuries' after pub fight
- 2 Norwich pub's shock after city council refuse outdoor seating bid
- 3 Driver flees after crashing into level crossing
- 4 Delivery driver fined for 'flagrant' seafront stunt caught on CCTV
- 5 Police and air ambulance called to major incident near Norwich
- 6 Couple sell 'amazing' converted water mill after two-year renovation
- 7 Hairdressers working 12-hour days to recoup Covid losses
- 8 Day of two halves - Footballer wins £80,000 and breaks leg in 24 hours
- 9 Caravan left dumped near beach for several years will be removed
- 10 Man staged his own kidnap to get ransom from his family
I think I've done the maths right that in my lifetime, Norwich City have been promoted nine times.
I'm sure those who have been through as many seasons (or indeed more) will agree that you get a sense of when things are in your favour and your team is going up, up, up.
By looking at the facts, even the most pessimistic of fans will have to accept that Daniel Farke's men are in a very strong position.
Seven points clear of second place, 10 clear of third and 19 ahead of seventh.
City have only lost three times in the league since early October and are well ahead of the points tally from previous promotion campaigns.
Five wins on the bounce with just two goals conceded is mighty impressive.
And there's that momentum which is building up.
The devastating duo of Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia are rightly gaining rich praise from everyone who is watching the Canaries.
Their incredible link up is a massive reason why we find ourselves sitting so pretty.
With the iFollow away coverage picking up a few commentaries from other local stations, you get confirmation from elsewhere that they are as good as we think they are.
The contributions of Todd Cantwell, Ollie Skipp, Kenny McLean, Max Aarons and Tim Krul (I could go on) are also key factors.
I want to salute the impact of another member of our squad who I believe is a crucial ingredient to the Canaries' apparent unstoppable journey back to football's top table.
I can think of plenty of years in my time supporting the boys in green and yellow when Grant Hanley would have been a good bet to win player of the season with the way he has performed in this campaign.
The likelihood that one of his counterparts who performs higher up the pitch will probably scoop the Barry Butler Trophy takes nothing away from our captain, who is set to play his 27th successive game against Brentford.
His performance at Wycombe on Sunday was a microcosm of what he gives our team.
The excellent Twitter Canary-cyclopaedia @ncfcnumbers revealed Hanley beat everyone else on the field for the number of touches (113) , successful pass completion (92.2pc), headers won (10) and clearances (12).
He certainly knew he was in a real old ding-dong battle with Wycombe frontman Uche Ikpeauzu.
Successful promotion pushes can't just be built on silky skills and clever tricks.
We need leaders. We need man mountains. We need no-nonsense, tough, rough Scots at the heart of the battles.
Hanley gives a massive big tick in all those aspects.
It's important to remember, though, that he is far more than a stopper.
Hanley is comfortable on the ball and is a key component of the Farkeball plan to play out from the back.
So on top of the 152 clearances, 22 blocks, 56 interceptions and 72pc success rate in aerial duels this term so far, Hanley has made 2004 passes with an 88pc success rate.
Impressive? I'd say so.
Norwich have let in just 25 league goals in the 33 games.
I've written before about the aim of keeping it to less than a goal per match through the season for the first time since 2004/5.
There's still work to be done on that - but there's a real prospect of that happening.
Of course Krul, Aarons, Ben Gibson, Christoph Zimmermann, Dimitris Giannoulis and others who have filled in at the back this campaign take huge credit for their roles in City's solidity.
For me, however, Hanley has been the main reason why we look meaner.
And let's not take our Great Scot for grant-ed.
I was shocked when I heard the news on Sunday evening that Glenn Roeder had died at the age of just 65.
I was the night editor and was working on the front pages for the EDP and Evening News and looking through pics of Pukki and Emi celebrating the win at Wycombe. The announcement stopped me in my tracks.
We all know Roeder will not be remembered as a great Norwich City manager.
But let's never forget that he brought Wes to our club - what a thank you we owe him for that.
Reading tweets from the likes of Krul and Iwan Roberts shows how well respected and thought of he was within football.
Krul posted a great pic of him with Roeder with the words: "So sad to hear the news that Glenn Roeder passed away. The man who believed in me and who gave me my @NUFC debut. Rest in peace."
Meanwhile, Iwan said: "Such sad news that Glen Roeder has sadly passed away. Played with Glen @WatfordFC when he was coming towards the end of his career he was great with us young lads just starting off on our journey."
Sort VAR out
So much has changed in our world and in football over the past year.
But one thing which it seems just won't alter is the controversy around VAR.
Yes, let's remember the technology was brought in to sort out mistakes, help officials and make the game better.
Mmmmm - don't think that's worked then.
Of course I'm still angry about that Pukki goal against Spurs at Carrow Road being ridiculously being ruled out for offside.
And the crazy decisions keep being made - and post match analysis is still dominated by errors.
I just can't understand how it can still happen.
Surely it's all about correcting clear and obvious errors?
We're talking Maradona hand of God. We mean that stonewall penalty that the ref didn't spot through a crowd of players.
On the whole sports like cricket and rugby use technology well.
I know I'm being naively optimistic, but wouldn't it be great for a post-Covid burst of common sense to break out and the system be refined before we get back in the PL?
I'm not asking for much....honestly.