Michael Bailey: German precision, pure promise and true poignancy – Six things learned from in-form City’s latest success
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As Norwich City made it five wins from seven Championship outings with victory over Middlesbrough, Michael Bailey delivers his six things learned from a productive and poignant afternoon at Carrow Road.
1 – TT is a driving force
It was the perfect way to celebrate his new contract – as was said by all, including me, the moment Tom Trybull “punted” City into the lead against Boro (more on that choice of word later).
Yet the German midfielder was more annoyed at an ankle knock that could – but hopefully won’t – set him back a few more games.
From his attitude in that instance to his feeling that all his hard work has deserved a bit of good fortune, there is a healthy edge to Super Tommy. You see it in his energy and how combative he is on the pitch – the way he took to visiting Bramall Lane earlier this season was along the lines of exceptional.
He has that, and he has the quality – that crisp, instinctive strike on Saturday was as gorgeous as it was important.
On Saturday his new contract lifted the atmosphere before kick-off; his performance then continued the momentum. That is the value of someone City can really build around.
2 – We have seen this before
Without labouring the point, it’s worth remembering when Trybull broke into the team – a 20-minute Carrow Road cameo that had City fans purring at the player they had managed to nab.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because we all felt it again on Saturday when Moritz Leitner introduced himself to Carrow Road – 30 minutes, 95pc pass success, two key passes and fans looking at each other going, ‘he’s good’.
We also got a sight of what may now be an issue, given James Maddison’s influence took an opposite turn as soon as Leitner entered the fray. How Daniel Farke works things now is a key task.
Without going for a dose of hyperbole, you don’t need long to see if a player has real quality. And while no official option exists, some City fans are hoping Moritz proves good enough to hang around beyond the summer.
Whereas in reality, we’re already seeing why that option doesn’t exist in the first place – so for now, just enjoy seeing what he’s got.
3 – Now they know how it feels
It was the perfect example – and probably still left a few City fans inside Carrow Road a tad underwhelmed.
It was only City’s fifth victory at home in the Championship this season, and for once it offered a glimpse into what those travelling fans have enjoyed seven times already – getting ahead; solid, compact and controlling the game.
Norwich have no interest in the jugular – just making sure the result is right come the final whistle.
What is perhaps most telling is that Saturday was Norwich’s first clean sheet at home in the league since their goalless draw at home to Bristol City, all the way back in September. Since then, Norwich have found themselves behind on far more occasions that would ever feel comfortable.
The tariff still feels high – City almost restricted themselves to shots from outside the box, one of them good enough to earn victory. It wouldn’t be Norwich without a big issue to work on.
4 – It’s going to get feisty
Quick quiz question: What do Wes Hoolahan, James Husband, Ivo Pinto, Sean Raggett and Marcus Edwards have in common?
I know, it’s not hard. None of them featured in City’s 18-man squad at the weekend – and all of them are probably banking on that changing in the near future.
Marley Watkins, Marco Stiepermann and Dennis Srbeny didn’t get any time off the bench either; it was fairly brief for those that did.
I asked Tom Trybull if it felt more competitive in the squad now than at any time this season – and he felt it was similar at the very start. But that was when people were fighting to be involved in a new project.
The project isn’t so new anymore and the players are now being brought in to strengthen it. From Josh Murphy to Onel Hernandez, Srbeny to Nelson Oliveira, there are a lot of people breathing down necks at the moment – and that should make life very interesting from here until May.
5 – No love lost for Jonny
Football fans love Jonny Howson. As a son of Leeds, the midfielder always got a hero’s return to Elland Road when with Norwich. It’s fair to say Howson was treated similarly by the City supporters on Saturday. That’s spot on by me.
No doubt he was hugely disappointed not to start too – although not quite as disappointed as Boro were disappointing.
For the money they’ve spent and the manager they’ve sought to recruit, they looked like the shell of a side hoping to break into the promotion picture.
It may have been different had £15m signing Britt Assombalonga started – and got on the end of one of the opportunities afforded to a now unsurprisingly anonymous Patrick Bamford.
From Rudy Gestede’s stupid red to one Boro journalist calling Trybull’s goal “a bit of a hopeful punt from distance”, the whole tone being set at Boro is not one that’s going to take them back to the Premier League.
6 – Football is a powerful thing
On Saturday I took the time to look around as I walked up to the press box, seeing so many faces involved and enthralled by their environment; exactly the feeling I remember from my first intoxicating visit to Carrow Road.
As 52 minutes clicked on, everyone inside the ground stood as one in applause. The City dugout did likewise. I’ve been told some Norwich players joined in too.
That was to celebrate much-loved City fan Michelle Dack, who died of cancer last week. The rendition of On The Ball, City that followed brought a lump to my throat; I’m sure I wasn’t alone. And all alongside Simon Thomas’ son Ethan getting to be a mascot for the day, after such a difficult and heart-breaking few months.
Life can be so hard and testing at times. Sometimes we think football tries us in the same way.
But all it gave on Saturday was love, belonging and the essence of what it means to be part of a football club.
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