Photo Gallery: Magic of the FA Cup still burning for Norwich City after win at West Brom
West Brom 1, Norwich City 2: Amidst the rancour and the recriminations, Norwich's FA Cup progress was one for the romantics.
Ties elsewhere in London and Manchester served only to magnify the existence of unpalatable fault lines within our society.
Football's tribal loyalties have been harnessed in recent times as a vehicle to exacerbate distasteful traits. The Canaries' passage to the fifth round owed everything to one of their own.
A young man born and raised in Norfolk whose affiliation to the club goes back a decade, when his talent was first spotted and recruited to City's academy ranks.
Jed Steer's potential and undoubted ability has long been an open secret to those on the inside. Norwich's fan base have become increasingly aware of a starlet in their midst over recent seasons with his elevation through the ranks for club and country. Steer's display at West Brom served only to catapult him into the national consciousness.
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Plenty would have questioned the wisdom of blooding a 19-year-old for his senior debut away to a Premier League rival with a place in the last 16 of the FA Cup at stake. Any lingering doubts were dispelled by a 90-minute shift remarkable as much for the level of maturity as the technical aptitude.
Eye-catching saves were interspersed with the command of a backline that contained plenty of experience in the shape of Adam Drury, Russell Martin and Zak Whitbread. All three embraced Steer at the final whistle; professionals who have been around long enough to know talent when they see it in their midst. There followed a wonderful moment as Steer left the field, having first accepted the applause of a travelling support willing to stomach more diversions on the A14 to savour fresh success in the Black Country.
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John Ruddy stood at the entrance to the tunnel and enveloped his understudy in the sort of bear hug that tests out the robustness of the rib cage. Ruddy has earned plenty of plaudits this campaign. He is another who had to overcome the doubters and the dissenters frustrated at the failure to secure Fraser Forster's services after his pivotal role in the club's League One success that laid the foundations for everything that has happened since.
Norwich, when Paul Lambert first arrived, had to borrow goalkeeping talent; now they have a trio the envy of many across the land. Maybe Ruddy's levels this season owe everything to the fact he has the likes of Steer and Declan Rudd snapping at his heels in training on a daily basis. Lambert has been inundated over the past fortnight with offers of experienced cover following Rudd's injury. Expect those calls to dry up in the final hours of the January transfer window once word gets around the circuit of Steer's Hawthorns heroics.
Steer belied his tender years to handle everything West Brom could muster. Such maturity will serve him well with the greater expectations and higher profile displays like these inevitably bring. Lambert wasted little time in reminding anyone who cared to listen it was just one 90-minute outing. A start. Nothing more. Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger, writing in his programme notes prior to the Gunners' FA Cup fourth round tie against Aston Villa this weekend, felt compelled to dampen down the wilder hype surrounding one of his own English gems in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The 18-year-old's rapier thrusts against Manchester United the previous weekend in the Premier League and the furore sparked by Wenger's decision to withdraw the England U21 international forced the Frenchman onto the offensive. Wenger wrote: 'In England, you have to calm things down. Sometimes the temptation is to think, 'one game, one star.'' It could have been Lambert musing on Steer.
The academy prospect will need careful handling to continue the superb formative work of Ricky Martin and his staff. He could hardly be in better hands with the City boss a teenage prospect in his own playing days and a managerial devotee of giving youth a chance.
Steer was only a few months old the last time Norwich seriously threatened in the FA Cup, when they reached the 1992 semi-finals. Lambert's initial team selection at The Hawthorns and raft of second half substitutions may have been influenced by upcoming Premier League battles.
Yet any notion Norwich were prepared to go through the motions was dispelled by the outpouring of emotion that greeted Simeon Jackson's winner. The massed ranks of away fans situated behind that end celebrated in unison with the players after the Canadian had feasted on Craig Dawson's calamitous late error. Lambert leapt into the air with a fist clenched in salute. Cynics may contend it was relief at avoiding the replay which would have constituted the nightmare scenario he painted on the eve of battle. But it was also further proof the Scot has instilled a ruthless edge; whatever the competition, whatever the personnel on duty, this Canary vintage always wants to win.
Norwich returned to the scene of their recent Premier League success without the services of both goalscorers from earlier this month in Andrew Surman and Steve Morison.
To prevail again illustrated the collective esprit de corps that is fundamental to the club's success.
West Brom attacked with venom when three points were at stake. Here, they chose a more measured approach. Marc Antoine Fortune was all too often isolated in the opening period – a half marked as much by a distinct lack of intensity as it was Steer's composure.
The City keeper's instinctive brilliance to deny Jerome Thomas midway through brought echoes of Ruddy's resilience to foil the same player a fortnight earlier. Both strikes veered against woodwork and to safety. Parallels were plentiful. Norwich appeared content to subdue, to bide their time, to strike with clinical efficiency when the opportunity arose. Wes Hoolahan was the common denominator spanning both contests.
The Irish playmaker had picked out Surman to volley Norwich ahead on league business. This time it was a cute inside pass bisecting two Albion defenders for Elliott Bennett to escape and laser a ball across the face of the six yard box, where Grant Holt applied the simplest of touches.
Simple only in the essence of the movement that preceded it to leave West Brom's last defender stranded as he anticipated the trajectory of Bennett's accurate cross.
The hosts' reached the interval adrift. Parity would have been a more equitable measure, but for Steer grasping Simon Cox's first time effort low to his left.
Russell Martin's rare aberration early in the second half was pounced on by the excellent Thomas, who supplied Fortune to finally break Steer's resolve.
Lambert's Norwich reign has been forged on the propensity to defy convention: first club to achieve successive promotions to the Premier League in a decade; purchasing policies that focus on recruiting the best from outside the top flight whilst eschewing perceived wisdom you need big time experience to prosper.
So it was again. Holt, Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington all withdrawn. West Brom's Shane Long travelled in the opposite direction – but City still possessed enough firepower to strike the decisive blow.
Joe Mattock and Dawson combined to display the sort of youthful naivety singularly lacking from Steer to present Jackson with a golden chance to beat Ben Foster in a straight shoot out.
It was entirely fitting on this day of all days that the final act should thrust Steer back into the spotlight. Long's seemingly personal vendetta against the Canaries was only foiled by an athletic palm away at the far post before Mattock was denied a chance for redemption early in stoppage time.
Steer may not be used to the glare and the attention he can expect to command in the future.
Nor should the teenager's short-term development be altered by one headline-grabbing outing - when was football ever so predictable.
But on a weekend when the FA Cup became sullied and synonymous with off-the-field distractions at Anfield and Loftus Road, for one young man it will forever be indelibly linked to a career-defining afternoon.