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Thursday, April 12, 2012
Bizarrely, there was a small part of me questioning whether Monday’s heroic efforts at White Hart Lane constituted a famous victory for Norwich City. It’s probably the same part that wishes football was still like it was in 1989 and 1993.
• Am I the only one who thinks Mario Balotelli is being made something of a scapegoat at Manchester City? He was hardly at fault for the three goals against Sunderland or the defeat at Arsenal – but it probably provides the perfect excuse for spending so much money and still failing to win a trophy. At least Mario’s ban means we’re unlikely to see any shoulder action on Saturday.
• I’m getting tired of the regular furore over Match of the Day and its running order. Obviously it’s a fraught position to make the call with all that emotional relevance for fans – but as an editorial decision, I’d say it’s usually a fairly easy one to make. And I wish people would either take a joke or leave Gary Lineker alone on Twitter.
• So the last of City’s fellow League One big hitters is almost free. Charlton should be back in the Championship next season, maybe with Paul Hayes, Darel Russell and Rhoys Wiggins in tow – and Gary Doherty too, if he gets a second chance. Good for them.
After all, why shouldn’t a hard working team enjoying their season go to a big ground and win a game of football over 90 minutes against stuttering – if star-studded – opponents?
Plus, City have now taken seven points from their last four league visits to Tottenham.
But of course, the rules are completely different now. In this football day and age, big money almost always dictates – as we have seen at regular intervals this season, including when Spurs rocked up at Carrow Road just after Christmas.
The figures – both financial and on the pitch – at Spurs’ disposal will always dwarf City, who started with 11 Englishmen on Easter Monday. And no, Russell Martin isn’t a Scottish national – just a Scottish international.
But money doesn’t buy you the qualities Norwich City showed at White Hart Lane: the energy and tempo that would have seen most sides run out of gas long before Elliott Bennett struck his pearler.
Or the bravery shown in finishing the game with two strikers on the pitch, as well as Andrew Surman and Jonny Howson – and playing not only with defensive resolve, but the ambition to score again. Because however much Tottenham were not quite at the races, it was a ‘coming of age’ performance from Paul Lambert and his Canaries. A wonderful highlight that will only fail to be a defining moment of the season if City produce repeat performances over their servere run-in.
With so many mentions of just how far and how swift City’s rise has been, it is easy to become blasé about it.
And while Match of the Day pundits don’t seem to be flavour of the month around here at the moment, Alan Hansen’s declaration Norwich fans are in “dreamland” after Monday’s result and the season as a whole, he is spot on. City’s success is unparalleled across most of English football – and certainly at the higher levels of the domestic game.
When was the last time a manager took a club from the lower reaches of the third tier to, quite possibly, a top 10 top-flight finish in three seasons? And all without being bank-rolled?
Maybe Southampton will prove such successes are like London buses, but the key for all Norwich fans has to be to suck these final games of a memorable season, and really enjoy them.
So many teams will be looking at City with envy at the moment.
I remember watching Premier League teams and their millions turn up at Carrow Road for either cup ties or pre-season friendlies and simply roll City aside. Those carry greater context than what happened 20 or 24 years ago.
And of course, no one has more millions than Manchester City – currently seeing the heart ripped out of their Premier League title challenge and probably not in the ideal frame of mind to face a trip to the fine city.
Two upsets in the space of seven days? No doubt – that would be a famous week.