Nick Hayhoe takes up the review baton and offers a stirring recap of a stirring night under the Carra lights. Prepare to be stirred.
We are winning games and we are scoring goals. We are 5th in the league - a position that many people are surprised by we are playing well. This is all very good.
However, this summary is only a tiny minutiae of the story of what is happening at the club right now, and you will have to excuse me as I slim down the rest of the report to expand somewhat here.
When I discuss my enjoyment of football to anyone (or, indeed, do so in writing), I quite often refer to supporting a “club like Norwich”. While it would take an entire piece of writing to describe what I mean by “a club like Norwich”, I think it can be neatly summed up with a little example from a few years back. When Chris Hughton was sacked in 2013, a number of figures in the national media were incredulous. “What do they expect down there?” they howled, choking on their craft lagers in their recently renovated £6-a-pint chain London pub, at the heinous thought that Norwich fans should be anything other than happy at thumping losses against Liverpool, Manchester City and, er, Swansea, having set-up with 11 behind the ball and essentially committed themselves to a defeat before a ball was kicked. This criticism for sacking Hughton came Norwich’s way for a good few months after the event, particularly when relegation was confirmed and further “sports media personalities” jumped on this bandwagon. Determined to put this pokey upstart club and its clearly arrogant supports from somewhere…*waves vaguely* up there… back in its box.
We Norwich fans know that the pundits were entirely missing the point. As Norwich City supporters, we *know* we are not going to win the Premier League or play in the Champions League. Our enjoyment of our football comes solely from what we see on the pitch during a given game and the way our club operates in its community; and not from what is in the trophy cabinet or on the balance sheet of whatever amount of money we have spent on players. This is a point that is often missed by these pundits, owners, some players and, yes, the odd greedy fan. It isn’t about what our club *could* be (mid-table in the Premier League? Possibly?), it is about what our club *should* be. What you want when you support “a club like Norwich” is to have a bit of soul, a bit of direction, to be a central pillar of our community with players who love meeting fans and clap with us and become one of us (and sometimes start off as one of us), to actually give it a go, to leave it all on the pitch and to be a bloody enjoyable thing to go and watch on a Saturday afternoon. We aren’t going to win every game, and most of the sides around us aren’t going to either. Only three teams can get promoted, and sometimes you just aren’t one of them. So this stuff. It is all we really want.
Right now we are getting it. Our attacking football on the pitch, yes, is outstanding at the moment. “Death by a thousand cuts” is how Mundial magazine described our 2nd. But on top of this we have a thrilling array of academy players (including a lad from Dereham. Dereham!), a manager with a unique philosophy and personality, an exciting fan-led movement improving the atmosphere at home games with some brilliant work by a wide array of talented people and, on top of it all, players that are genuinely leaving it all out there - not in a “he’s a model professional so that’s what he does” sort of way, but in a “I don’t want to let my team, and most importantly, my club down” sort of way. Imagine that, in the wider context of modern football. It’s rare now. It does not happen very often anymore. The players are all chasing and sweating and lung-busting and absolutely gunning for it because they do not want to let their club down. It’s such an exciting thing for the modern football supporter to witness.
So now it feels that this is us. This is what it means to support a team like Norwich. The young lad holding his mum’s hand singing the "Super Tommy Trybull" song as he walks back to the train station; the roar from the Barclay as an aggressive but clean and committed tackle flies in on the high midfield press; the pride of our players as they speak about each other in the interview room the scoreboard flashing the 90s style “COME ON YOU YELLOWS” at a corner; the excited old boys on the train comparing this side to great Norwich sides of the past; songs about Timm Klose buying a house in Diss; an exciting young player bombing forward up the middle and receiving a standing ovation from people who are from the same small rural market town as him; the grin of the young girl waving the big green and yellow flag in the Barclay.
This is how it feels when Norwich City is everything it should be. And it’s all we want “up here”.
Moment of the Match
Unquestionably Rhodes’ equaliser which completely swung momentum in our favour. Villa fell apart quicker than a cardboard box in my pet rats’ cage, and suddenly everyone was up for it. Chasing, rushing, tackles, blocking, lung busting runs. Songs a-plenty in the Barclay. There was only going to be one winner.
Random Star Performer
Mo is rightly getting the plaudits from everyone, so for a slightly left field choice I am going to go with my current favourite Norwich City player: Jamal Lewis, who has put in two excellent shifts after what was a tough international duty with Northern Ireland for him. It is a show of great strength from the lad, and the great strength of Farke’s man management.
It was a brilliant performance all round, so this really is picking holes but the classic Norwich suspect defending appeared once or twice too often for comfort, just to remind us that we are supporting Norwich after all.
Villa’s goal was a poor to concede, and we seemed to struggle at defending basic crosses and set pieces.
I can’t remember a bigger sense of togetherness from the dressing room, even under Lambert. Farke’s man management was always pretty good (I can’t remember a performance last season where we just threw the towel in lacked effort, we just weren’t good enough), but Rhodes’ interview with Sky nearly brought a tear to my eye. As an old boy behind me on the train summed it up “they’re playing so well because they are all playing for each other.” Indeed they are. It seems such a simple thing in football, and yet is so rare. It is a joy to see.
Some brilliant flags (the 1902 one is my personal favourite as I am something of the sports history enthusiast) as the teams walked on the field set a tone which generally kept pace for most of the game - and shifted to electric after Rhodes’ 2nd.
A good, dominant, controlled, win to nil on Satdee would help dispel any jitteriness about the defence; but, frankly, the club is everything I feel I ever want it to be at the moment. Lang lebe die Kanarienvögel.