Six things we learned from Norwich City’s Sheffield Wednesday stalemate and the EFL action
- Credit: Sean Dempsey/Focus Images Ltd
After Norwich City's frustrating return to Carrow Road on Saturday with that goalless draw against last season's play-off finalists Sheffield Wednesday, Michael Bailey tees up some of the talking points…
1 – Home patience is in short supply
It's a question that's been uttered among City supporters since Saturday – did you boo?
If you were to distil the most likely reasons, it would come down to not having a recognised out-and-out striker on the pitch of a home game you're pushing to win, and the continuing absence of signing more forward options. More on both points in a bit.
The reality is the first competitive home game following a relegation is not the environment where any patience or forgiveness is going to be easily shared.
In the same way players won't get too pumped about next weekend's derby and can make a more even stab at avoiding a relegation hangover, so fans will be far too eager for their trip to Portman Road – likewise, they are going to be on edge for a little while yet. And certainly when things appear stodgy on the pitch.
Of course, that emotion also needs to be channelled into positive support when the time is right – and that was there on Saturday too.
- 1 Weather warning as thunderstorms expected to hit Norfolk after heatwave
- 2 Norfolk village named among poshest places to live in UK
- 3 Woman 'shocked' to find CCTV in Marina Centre changing room
- 4 Anger as 'rollercoaster' appears at bottom of woman's garden
- 5 Cromer Carnival events cancelled due to extreme heat.
- 6 9 celebrities who have been spotted in Norfolk in 2022
- 7 Firefighters remain on scene of huge forest fire near country park
- 8 Flood alerts issued along the north Norfolk coast tomorrow morning
- 9 Investigation closed into fatal crash where car crashed into river
- 10 20 fire engines and 90 firefighters contain large forest blaze
But this is City in the Championship. They are a big fish – and fans rightly want to see them tuck in.
2 – McGovern's chance arrived quickly
Apparently football is a funny old game… We get het-up over decisions, options and opinions – and then, bam! The game delivers an opportunity to prove a point or break a myth.
Michael McGovern's arrival as a free agent was prolonged. It went on to raise the spectre of who would be Alex Neil's number one this term. By all accounts, it also pushed John Ruddy into the best shape he could possibly manage. And then, bam! Ruddy suffers a groin injury taking a clearance, and McGovern is making his competitive City debut with it all to prove.
The verdict? A few poor early clearances, some good handling, a couple of spills and reasonable saves that could have been parried a little further out of harm's way.
But given the muscle Ruddy has injured and the way he limped from Carrow Road after the game, it could be that McGovern gets more than a handful of games to show what he's got. Paul Jones better warm up too.
Martin Olsson, Alex Pritchard, Jacob Murphy, Graham Dorrans and Matt Jarvis already have knocks – it's a list you wouldn't want to get any bigger.
3 – What suits Spain doesn't suit City
There's no doubt the success of Spain and Spanish football has been absorbed by Alex Neil over his managerial career. The way he wants his sides to play takes a lot from what they have done.
Spain became kings of Europe and the world – and did it with most considering their lead striker an irrelevance.
The emergence on Saturday of Steven Naismith as the Canaries' semi-false nine was almost entirely literal – given City looked painfully short of a focal point the moment Cameron Jerome was taken off. And yes, that stands while acknowledging Jerome's ineffectiveness. The decision to bring on Youssouf Mulumbu worked – the issue was Wes Hoolahan and Naismith stayed on, as the only forward approaching 6ft walked off. From that point, City couldn't mix it up.
It all funnels into the striker search. Usually clubs say they will only bring in someone – or some-two – better than what they've got.
Well at the moment, City have vacant 9 and 16 shirts – you'd like to think they can find something better than that and quick.
4 – It only takes two games for a pattern
Back in the day, you wouldn't see a league table on teletext (if you're not sure, it was a kind of pre-internet on TV – ask your parents) until three games into a new campaign.
The present reality is very different – and in fact, you only need two dots to be able to join them together and judge the line.
Which for all the boos and frustration at Carrow Road, should at least leave City fans thankful they're not in Newcastle's current position. Despite their chosen manager staying and a well-scouted spending spree, the boos at St James' Park are currently louder – and arguably falling on deafer ears. But Blackburn's shocking 3-0 defeat at newly-promoted Wigan caught my eye.
City did a great job on the opening weekend – but if it bred even the slightest modicum of complacency or superiority complex, then it needs to be eradicated immediately.
If it isn't, the Championship has a good knack of doing it for you.
Hopefully we won't be spending any of the season wondering why City haven't replicated their opening-day quality – because at the moment, Rovers look like the division's whipping boys.
5 – The big screen works, for most
Despite all that transfer window chatter and frustration, there was at least one new arrival Carrow Road could lap up on its return to Championship action – that big thing in the corner.
And no, not Lee Croft. It was of course the Truly Remarkable Rotating Big Screen™.
Whether you're cynical about it or not, the fact is such an introduction to Carrow Road has been a hot topic of discussion throughout the summer.
So what of its debut? Well it had a promising warm-up – although you shouldn't really judge things on that. Alfie Hewett's heroics deserved such a big, bright display.
Then it started showing off with its switch from traditional TV landscape, to smart-phone portrait as the City team was read out. Scenes.
From there though, it lost a bit of energy – although the service from what was happening on the pitch rendered it rather isolated.
Let's hope there isn't a goal-replay drought.
Some of the Barclay Enders won't get much change out of the display – but there is promise that someone's shot will hit the screen before the season is out. The question is who?
6 – Championship has hit relentless mode
It struck home while I quizzed Alex Neil at Colney on Friday afternoon. Not only is he trying to get across the line some possibly season-defining transfer business in the next 19 days (as it was then) – in the same time, City play six games. That includes EFL Trophy and EFL Cup clashes, as well as a rather important derby date down south.
After a more gentle opening week to the campaign, the Championship hits its famous, relentless best from here on in.
Ivo Pinto – whose general attitude has impressed greatly since relegation – is right to want the games to come around as quickly as possible, as City try to establish some early momentum.
Bristol City may well want that too, given they are 100pc from their opening two games – beating two promoted sides in Wigan and Burton.
Gary O'Neil has played every minute so far, notching two assists. Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham has three goals in two league games. Korey Smith is still recovering from ankle surgery but Aaron Wilbraham will be around.
The Robins will be buzzing. City need to be aware.