Ian Clarke: Norwich City prove fortune favours the brave
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
A lot happened since Norwich City last netted four times at Carrow Road - before Saturday.
A promotion, a relegation and a decent start to a fresh push to get back to the top flight.
Oh, and a global pandemic has completely turned the world on its head and meant most of us have hardly seen our team in live action for almost 12 months.
It was April 6, 2019, when a brace from Teemu Pukki and one apiece from Emi Buendia and Marco Stiepermann sent QPR packing as the Canaries' promotion bandwagon rolled on.
Turn the clock forward 22 months or so and what a joy it was to see Pukki at the double again, while Emi again gave more ammunition to the "one-man team" theorists (we're not, of course - but my goodness we're better with the magician on the pitch).
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I felt the 4-1 win over Stoke was huge in lots of ways.
Obviously it halted the slight blip/massive slump (delete as you saw it).
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Seeing the "goals for" column boosted was really important and while being top only really matters at the sharp end of the season, doesn't it feel good?
So what changed in the freezing cold conditions of NR1 to warm the hearts of us fans who are still really, really missing being there?
During the week when Daniel Farke had the rare luxury of all the squad at Colney and no midweek matches, it appeared to me that he had rejuvenated the lads.
There was an intent, a tempo, a cutting edge and crucially a bravery we know the team is capable of, but which we haven't always seen recently.
Throughout the 90 minutes I felt bravery was a really key factor - and as the old saying goes, fortune favoured City for it.
Let me give you some examples.
Todd Cantwell's goal will rightly be remembered for his mazy run and wonderful finish plus THAT delightful little flick from Mario Vrancic.
But look back 50 seconds from when the ball hit the River End net, to what happened in the penalty area in front of the Barclay.
Yes, the players didn't have the "just get it long" yells from certain fans ringing in their ears as they worked the ball from the very back.
However, Stoke were pressing high and it took courage to stick to the "Farke way" when confidence may have been low.
Then there was the bravery shown by Dimitris Giannoulis. You can only imagine what was going through his mind just after the hour mark when he made that most terrible of terrible passes to gift Stoke a foothold back in the game.
I'm not sure what the Greek is for "I want the ground to swallow me up" but I sense the left back was muttering it under his breath.
He could have been forgiven for going into his shell for a few minutes - especially as he is still getting used to Championship football.
Forget that. Three minutes later he was bombing down in front of the Snake Pit and provided a great assist for Emi.
Talking of the little Argentine, it was fantastic to see him charge down the defender and set up Pukki. Again, after all that has happened, he may have been excused for taking things a bit easier.
That is not our Emi. And, fortunately, that is not our Norwich City under Farke.
I think our return to form may have spooked Brentford a bit the following day as they slipped to a surprise defeat to a Carlton Morris-inspired Barnsley.
It's another massive few days ahead in the promotion battle with the midweek and Saturday double headers.
While the Canaries go to 20th-placed Coventry and then entertain Rotherham (who are in 21st), Brentford (who are a point behind) travel to QPR (17th) and Coventry. Swansea (five points off City but with two games in hand), are at home to Forest (16th) and then go to Huddersfield (18th).
When Norwich stormed clear at the top, we knew there were lots more twists and turns to come in this long and strange season.
And when things went a little barren, the same thing could be certain.
It's a rollercoaster ride and the Canaries must show more bravery as the pressure grows and race hots up.
We're back to being the team the others want to hunt down.
Let's see the same intensity and endeavour in the Midlands and as the Millers head to NR1.
Praise for City
I'm not always a big fan of articles on Norwich City in the national media.
Too often they are built around cheesy puns on Delia or out of date misconceptions about our club.
So I do have to praise the Financial Times (not normally my first port of call for footballing analysis) for a piece they published at the weekend.
It was an in-depth insight into the way the Canaries have developed - as you'd expect, particularly with a look at the finances.
For too long, too many people have questioned the way the club has been run and the decisions which have been made.
An independent, expert eye certainly told a different story and concluded things have been done very well.
The journalist had clearly spent a good deal of time in Norwich and also got the views of well respected people like Robin Sainty.
There was also an insight into the language used in one exchange between Farke and Emi (which wouldn't be allowed before the 9pm watershed).
How good is Ollie Skipp?
It's a genuine question and I'd be interested in hearing your views.
But there's also a heavy hint of rhetoric in my reason for asking it.
He came on loan with a hugely impressive commendation from Jose Mourinho, who has tipped him to be a future Spurs captain.
And I can see why.
He may be just 20 but already has an impressively mature head on his shoulders and a great array of attributes.
Skipp works tirelessly, he does so much dirty work for the team, is an excellent link player and is capable of a decent pass.
If we go up, I'd love to really make an effort to keep him.
If he could add goals to his game, he really would be a complete player.