Norwich City feelgood factor is as strong as ever
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Chris Foy would appear to have little in common, but even without actually kicking a ball in the name of Norwich City Football Club they may well have done the Canaries a huge favour.
There is a theory that bringing in new players provides a boost inside and outside of a club – the reaction to Friday night's news that RVW would be leaving Sporting Lisbon for Norwich in the summer was impressive validation.
While City fans celebrated, rivals were left scratching their heads: how did Norwich City land such a prized striker? Well, it took a record transfer fee, and, no doubt, an impressive sales pitch. The fact that RVW was sold on City allowed everyone else to thrust their chests out with a little bit of pride – especially as you would assume the Dutchman moves because the general feeling is Norwich will be in the Premier League again next season. Any doubters might be won over now.
It's a coup for Chris Hughton, but the City boss has done well in the transfer market – and is clearly working hard on his summer recruitment.
Even with a blank weekend, City fans have been buzzing at the speculation and, then, the reality. It can have an effect on players too. If you are a striker at Norwich City you might just look at the back page headlines and treat that news as a kick up the backside.
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If my sums are correct Hughton has signed nine players on permanent deals, three on loan and two – twins Jacob and Joshua Murphy – from the Academy ranks. Of the permanent deals, only Jacob Butterfield has not made a Premier League appearance while loan player Harry Kane's stay was a bit 'wrong place wrong time'.
Butterfield's absence from City's top flight squads is something of a mystery given that he is a Hughton signing – had he been inherited from the Lambert squad it might have been easier to understand – I refer you to the cases of David Fox, Andrew Surman and, to a lesser extent Elliott Bennett and Marc Tierney.
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But of those who have arrived since the managerial change of last summer, they have almost all acquitted themselves well.
Sébastien Bassong is being touted as a Player of the Season, while Michael Turner is being lauded for impressive displays alongside him. Mark Bunn is no John Ruddy – not many are – but he has grown into the role, while those who questioned the signing of Camp might just want to reconsider their views. Steven Whittaker has had injury problems, but is more than accomplished at right back or in the middle, Alex Tettey likewise in midfield. Robert Snodgrass is another PoTS candidate, while Luciano Becchio is still finding his feet.
Of the other loans, Javier Garrido is a solid citizen at left back, and Kei Kamara has been a breath of fresh air up front.
When you look at them one by one, the success rate of his signings hasn't been at all bad – there are more than a few managers around who wouldn't, hand on heart, be able to say that.
So where does referee Foy fit in?
His dismissal of goalkeeper Mark Bunn (a Hughton signing) for handling outside of the area at the Stadium of Light won't really have dire consequences beyond what happened during the final hour of the game. The first thing his replacement and another Hughton signing, Lee Camp, had to do was pick the ball out of the net, and with 11 men City might well have won the game. A point gained when it might have been three. Yes, in the bigger scheme of things it could prove important. But it was the reaction that is interesting. City joined arms, worked out a plan to get through the game and, as a 10-man unit, executed it to perfection.
The body language spoke volumes: for a team that has been accused of all sorts of footballing horrors of late, they were actually quite impressive.
There were reminders of certain days gone by, when swashbuckling City cast aside all before them. The success of the Paul Lambert era was built partly on the sheer determination and bullying of a team that was bonded arm to arm as one. Team spirit was the backbone on which the side was built.
Hughton has had to step out of a very large shadow, but the signs were there. Post match too – his comments and those of his skipper for the day, the excellent Russell Martin, smacked of a united attitude towards the challenge ahead.
Hughton: 'There is no doubt what you get from a positive result when you have played free-flowing, attacking football but you also gain massively from showing the type of resilience we showed.'
Martin: 'The reaction from the boys was immense.'
Snodgrass on Twitter: 'Boys were class today going down to 10 men and team performance got us a well deserved point. Decisions change games.'
The fans' reaction, too, was impressive – most of it praising the backs-against-the-wall attitude that brought home the point. So, is the theory correct? Was there a little bit of Foy's actions that might actually work in Norwich City's favour?
He might just be kept out of the firing line as far as City are concerned for their remaining matches, but if, and I stress if, he has helped, then I salute him.
And what of those remaining games? The great debate is about how many points City need for survival, and it matters not that we wake up this morning with them in a very healthy 12th place in the table – all that matters are the points, and the seven that separate City from Wigan, in 18th place, should be enough. Predicting results is impossible, but here's what's left for Norwich:
Wigan (a) – winnable. You'd be disappointed not to get at least a point.
Swansea (h) – two points from last five away games, but good side. Again, you'd want a point at least.
Arsenal (a) – Might spring a surprise, but you fancy a blank afternoon.
Reading (h) – Should be a win, but Reading will be battling for everything.
Stoke (a) – Potters are struggling, with one in last 14 league and cup games. A point.
Villa (h) – Could be a cracker – home win surely (it's not a cup game).
West Brom (h) – If City are already mathematically safe, who knows?
Manchester City (a) – You'd give them a point out of sympathy.
So the glass is half full with, what, another nine points? The quiet confidence that City will survive is getting a little louder.