Improvements in the entertainment stakes but ultimately it counted for nothing. Nick Hayhoe tells you about his beer fueled afternoon in the sun, which was all going so well for 30 minutes.
The sun is shining, the beer has just made you mellow and all seems perfect with this world of ours as Norwich City, our Norwich City, are dominating the first home game of the season. The front three and central midfield are pushing the ball around like it’s on a string. Winning tackles here. Winning tackles there. The crowd are up and there’s a great noise in the ground. Tettey does some tricks to oles from the Snakepit. Jordan Rhodes is one of us and he hates Ipswich. Onel Hernandez is on fire and even Ivo Pinto is looking decent in the shock position of left back. We score and those forever lingering nerves seem to dissipate. We are comfortable. We are world beaters and potential champions. This is going to be the most glorious of seasons.
Then West Brom attack, we fuck up at the back and concede a penalty.
Sadly, football matches (or, indeed the season) do not last for 30 minutes. But for those 30 minutes I dared to think big. We were looking great. The slow ball from last year had gone, and we were exciting, vibrant and exhilarating. If only we could just bottle that up and keep it in the fridge so that it lasts for longer spells, we could have something special on our hands.
Moment of the Match
Where do we start? Rhodes’ penalty is the most obvious place, but at the time it felt that it was just a hiccup. It wouldn’t matter. We’d bang it in anyway soon enough. This didn’t happen. Half time came and went and while we continued to deteriorate, it was Krul’s error that really saw City fall apart in the 2nd half. Like when a great night out is ruined by someone in your group getting into a fight in Piccolos on Prince of Wales Road, a bad vibe washed over the squad; realising how bad the hangover was going to be.
Random Star Performer
Not so random, but difficult to look past a sublime performance from Hernandez. His ability to not just run well with the ball, but to win it back when all seems lost and keep play alive was brilliant, and most un-Norwich, to see. If he stays on this kind of form this season, and he keeps fit, then we could have a real player on our hands. And, if this happens, then we all must be really, really quiet, and only talk about him in whispers - so that teams in the Premier League don’t suddenly sniff him out. The pack of very rich wild dogs that they are.
Special shout out to Rotherham United. During a particularly bad spell of defensive play in the 2nd half I froze into an almost nightmarish like state; crippled by fear in realising we are playing them lot in a mere three league games’ time. Luckily the Millers were on hand to remind us that there’s nothing to worry about.
Rhodes’ penalty and Krul’s fuck up were such Norwich things to happen there was almost an air of inevitability about the way they occurred. It has become a bit of a cliché that the mind of the football fan always works to be pessimistic, no matter how well things are going (not being comfortable with a 4-0 lead and so on), but with Norwich it always seems that this pessimism turns real very quickly. The longer this seems to go on under Farke, the more tiring it will probably get.
On the other hand, Norwich making basic defensive errors is so ubiquitous throughout the course of my life I have now got to the point where I find them strangely comforting. If things are going wrong in life, everything in the news seems terrible or something really bad is happening, there’s an odd relief to knowing that Norwich haven’t changed and still can’t defend a corner with 10 of our players in the box. I am sure it has always been thus. From 1902. All four of West Brom’s goals seemed awfully familiar - as if they were carbon copies from the various other defensive Norwich horror shows we have seen down the years. A best of compilation if you will. I can’t see us ever changing. In a funny kind of way, I am not sure I want us to. It certainly wouldn’t seem right to start keeping unfussy clean sheets.
The uber-modern fußball tactic of playing out of the back with patience, no matter the state of the game or which hapless defender finds themselves in possession (such a big part of our play last season) seemed to be near non-existent today. Personally I find this a welcome relief. I am not sure I could cope with any more shouting of “NOT THERE TIMM GET FUCKING RID!” before we gift possession away as a result of a simple high press from the opposition, while the big man dithered on the ball, unsure what to do with it.
Instead, a high tempo drive to quickly get the ball into the feet of players up field who could make a difference was the focus, even if that meant the odd ball over the top or (gasp!) a deep cross. This worked for the most part, and City unquestionably looked a threat when they got the ball forward. Unfortunately, as is the case with this tricky old game of ours, our tactics left us ridiculously exposed at the back; where something as simple as a midfield deflection turning possession over would gift West Brom swathes of field and acreage. At times it seemed as if the Duke of Norfolk himself was on some sort of crown usurpation tilt and trying to curry favour with those in the West Midland royal court by gifting land to them.
Mr Farke took to wearing a coat which, considering the warm glad-I-wore-my-shorts temperatures in Norwich, was a bemusing move.
I was also disappointed not to see him in sunglasses. You don’t often see managers in sunglasses do you?
The really rather brilliant fan march (keep an eye out for a picture of a certain glasses wearing football hipster holding up One City Strong on the back page of your EDP) set the tone for a quality first half from the Barclay in the atmosphere stakes. After West Brom’s equaliser, we even had a defiant On The Ball City, something I haven’t heard in the face of conceding a goal (at least not at Carrow Road) for a very long time. Considering the ease of which I purchased my season ticket back in May (where the very helpful and friendly customer service person seemed genuinely bemused by my request to buy one), and my apparent free choice of seat - I feared that many had carried out their threats and absconded from CR for the season. Fortunately, a few pockets in the corners notwithstanding, the place had gone nowhere near the full Portman Road I had feared.
Norwich gonna Norwich, and West Brom’s 2nd sucked the life out of City somewhat. Even so, the backing of the team didn’t drop as drastically as it seemed to last year after a concession and there was some terrific roars-when-we’ve-won-a-corner-or-throw and one of the best renditions of OTBC (I think after our third) I have heard in ages. It’s irritating to see on Twitter afterwards that people are reporting a few bellends here and there still; but overall a great improvement from last season. I don’t think I even heard a boo at the final whistle. Which is a bit of a minor miracle if you think about it.
Bonus kudos to the scoreboard operator, who has taken the bold but brilliant decision to dress the scoreboards to look like the old ones (with the yellow LEDs and black background) - complete with GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL effect after we score. If we’re going for early 2000s nostalgia, I can take or leave Samba De Janeiro, but the scoreboard move was inspired. The Carrow Road control room, too, decided to play some absolute belters over the PA before the game. Insignificant in the bigger picture perhaps, but it’s remarkable how good Primal Scream and a reminder of how the old scoreboard looked for NORWICH 2 MAN UTD 0 can make you feel in the sunshine after a couple of pints just before kick off at the football.
The word entertainment was thrown around a lot on social media after the game and it was entertaining to some extent. But we football fans are fickle creatures. Scoring three goals against many people’s league favourites is not to be sniffed at. At times we looked stupendous on the ball, and for thirty minutes I dared to dream a dream I hadn’t had in a very long time. Sadly, however, the rules of football dictate, no matter how many you score, if your opponents score more than you, you lose the game (I blame the FA for this development). And it’s really, really annoying that we ended up doing that.
A shithousery 1-0 win over Sheffield United would be most welcome, and immediately dispel negative grumblings before they really get started.