December 10 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
And that’s why Grant Holt will be player of the season. Again. Forget the sending-off for a moment – that’s part and parcel of his game. And anyway, it was his goals which won the points on Saturday.
Never mind England call-ups, City’s No 9 should be a serious contender for every major national player-of-the-year award going.
Not just for his amazing scoring record – 20 goals in League Two in 2008/9, 24 in League One in 2009/10, 21 in the Championship in 2010/11 and 12 so far in the Premier League this season – but for the fact that it should be highlighted as an inspiration to any player in their mid-twenties who feels they are never going to make it.
It was fitting that Holt got the goals against Wolves – and, what’s more, a piece of quality finishing and a no-messing penalty technique from which some of his team-mates could learn.
This was the sort of game that has become a City trademark victory over the past three years he has been here – doesn’t matter how ugly and forgettable it is, you win when you have to. Hartlepool, Carlisle, Preston, Coventry… we’ve seen so many of them.
This past month is how I expected the Premier League to be – nervy, things not going our way, always looking over our shoulders at how the bottom three are doing.
The middle of September to the end of February, when we looked at home in our new surroundings without a care in the world, have been quickly forgotten.
Had we lost on Saturday I think that our 36 points would still have been enough to stay up, although you could have done without the subsequent weeks of worry and chewed nails as the bottom five continued to get closer and closer.
After all, if we couldn’t beat Wolves at home what chance would we have away to Blackburn or in any other fixture, for that matter?
Getting to 36 points and nine wins and then almost appearing to be sticking would undo an awful lot of the good work done earlier in the season.
Not to mention stacking up trouble for next year – and, at the very least, being installed among the favourites for relegation.
Our role models for the next couple of years have to be Stoke. Not for their style of play – the day a Carrow Road crowd gets excited about winning a throw-in is the day I start finding something else to do with my Saturday afternoons – but the way in which they have quietly established themselves in the Premier League.
We have long since stopped being mentioned in the same breath as Blackpool, but had we lost on Saturday there would perhaps have been new comparison voiced – Hull.
Now although Paul Lambert is way too savvy to conduct a half-time team talk on any pitch, you could see the similarities being mentioned: well, they started very well in their first season, then they were found out a bit, slid down the table, only survived thanks to the failings of others and were never able to turn things around in their second season and were comfortably relegated.
But instead, thanks to Saturday’s victory, we can return to looking at the teams above us in the table rather than those beneath us.
At the very least we ought to be looking to make this our second most successful Premier League season.
We might not match the 53 points of 1993/94 – secured from, let’s not forget 42 fixtures – but we ought to be at least looking to equal the total of 12 victories from that campaign and the final position of 12th.
And this whole change of outlook has been brought about by two Holt goals on Saturday, so if that’s the price to be paid for his red card, then so be it.
Yes his offences were pretty avoidable, but if he didn’t get as involved in things he wouldn’t be the same effective goal getter that he is and in terms of influential NCFC strikers he’d be ranked on a par with Peter Thorne.
No, it’s fair to say that the City No 9 has proved rather more of a cost-effective signing than Djibril Cissé in terms of plusses rather outweighing minuses.
And besides, given Paul Lambert’s varying approach to away fixtures, who’s to say that Holt might even have started at Craven Cottage had he been available.
No, like his fifth booking of the season at Paulton in 2009, to conveniently get himself suspended for a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie, there are perhaps worse times to be pick up a ban.
• NOT AN EPIC, BUT THE RESULT IS WHAT MATTERED
It’s been a long time coming, but finally – a meaningful win over Wolves.
Yes I know there was the 5-2 victory of 2008, but a lot of good it ultimately did a relegated City, while it was the merest of blips on the way to Wolves winning the championship title.
There has certainly been a heavy price to pay for winning the 2002 home play-off semi-final; until Saturday that Glenn Roeder triumph had been our only success in 12 meetings with Wolves.
And boy, have there been some low points in that sequence as well.
A 3-0 Easter Monday home defeat in 2003 which ended our faint play-off hopes, the 2-0 final-day loss three years later made even worse by comments about “true supporters”, the 2-0 reverse at Molineux in which Jason Shackell and Julien Brellier were sent off and had we conceded another four it still wouldn’t have made for a reflective scoreline…
After that little lot I didn’t mind that Saturday wasn’t exactly an epic; it was all about the result.
Paul Lambert being Paul Lambert his first-half formation surprised home fans if not away players but it eventually got the results.
We tightened up in the second half, but at times tried to over-elaborate in our Arsenal-like quest for the perfect goal and they were four very long minutes of stoppage time, but we got what we needed on a day when the result mattered.
• FOUR CHANCES TO BEAT A TOP SIX SIDE
With the pressure off now time to address one of this season’s few remaining targets – that only us and Wolves have failed to beat a top-six side.
We could finish comfortably above Swansea now, but their results against the leading teams would still give Brendan Rodgers the manager-of-the-season plaudits. But after the way they capitulated to both QPR and Wigan you just know that Liverpool will not come here and roll over, even if they have reached the FA Cup final by then.
But with four chances to come, and being able to play without fear, who knows? After all, that was our attitude behind the defeat of Manchester United in 2005; we were so far behind 17th place at that point that we had nothing to lose.
And really we have nothing to lose now. If we were to beat, say, Manchester City and then get tanked by the others if we were to adopt an adventurous approach, then so be it – there’s always next season, something we couldn’t say seven years ago.
• TIME TO PUT RIGHT 2005 NIGHTMARE
So Fulham then, which you’d like to think should at least be more of a competitive occasion this time for the home side rather than an end-of-season jolly since the game is already completely sold out.
Yes, it’s a particular fixture I’d like us to win, but ultimately I just want us to a) play as a team, unlike last time, with no particular players not being fussed because they know they’re already sorted for next season elsewhere; and b) improve on the 2005 result, even if it’s only losing, say, 3-0 this time.
At the moment it’s hard to know what to expect from Fulham until they get tonight’s visit to Old Trafford out of the way, but plainly Swansea’s emphatic win at Craven Cottage will have done us no favours whatsoever.
But given that we got to Craven Cottage having amassed 16 league points on the road, as opposed to just seven last time, you would like to think that we will go there with something of a tried-and-tested away approach.
The last really humiliating City result on the scale of Craven Cottage 2005 was against Colchester in 2009 and we cancelled that one out as soon as possible.
I am not expecting anything along those lines this Saturday. All I want I to be able to walk back to Putney Bridge tube station at around 5pm not feeling completely embarrassed to be a Norwich supporter.
If we’re seventh and last on the Match of the Day running order because the game is a lot less eventful than the rest of the Premier League programme then, to an extent, this objective will have been achieved.