A Win’s a Win

For me Saturday brought many reasons to be cheerful and cheerful I was. Indeed the squad and their media commitments seemed to be full of relief. For some, however, they were prepared to look hard for the rain clouds that created the rainbow.

Some have urged caution to the optimism and I am in agreement with this. One loss against Wolves did not make us terrible and one win against Watford does not make us promotion certainties. It has rightly been pointed out that against ten men this helped show us in favourable light, that our real problems are away from home and that Watford seemingly had mentally capitulated in some respects. Broadly would not disagree with this other than to say you can only beat what is in front of you. Indeed I am can remember plenty of times we have toiled against ten men with little success, nothing like the confident play we saw on Saturday. I agree with those who are happy but are not letting themselves get carried away.

There is an entirely different set of people who are still fuming over anything they can think of. Not many, we hear the odd ones at Carrow Road and we spot some of them online (as an aside you need to get following the PinkunMeltdown account on Twitter). Everyone was/ is entitled to their view and ultimately they may well prove to be right that we are headed towards doom. But why surround yourself with this bitterness constantly? There are things not right with the club but we won, surely that kind of thing cheers you, if only for a while? Also if you truly believe this doom scenario will happen then just wait until we lose, you will probably find lots of people to agree with.

I would also like to comfort those who felt following the win the news that Fer and Surman were likely off marred what should have been a joyous evening. Leroy was always in the unlikely to stay camp and Surman wants to play games and this he is far from guaranteed with us. We do also need to shift our wage profile from a Premier League one to a top end Championship one. Whilst we would all like us to retain top players we would do so risking perhaps the one really lasting legacy of our Premier League stay, that we are finally external debt free. This is a very unsexy thing, not the sort of thing for fans to get excited over but it is a gift that will keep giving year after year as we do not enter into debt repayments. Ultimately we should have more funds for the squad over a longer period. I don’t think the board will let us sacrifice this for a gamble at the top flight this year.

All this could seem like positive tripe come the end of the season, here’s hoping not.

Watford elbowed aside

Turning to the game itself I have to say I am relieved that we managed to get such a performance in early in the season. This should help us start to clear that relegation feeling and push forward. Things may well have been favourable for us but we carried it off with a swagger. It is the manner of the victory that will help the confidence of the team too.

Ultimately it felt like a non-contest for swathes of the game. The thought crossed my mind that Watford had given up hope for phases of the game but equally we played in a way that stopped them believing. They are considered a serious shout for the playoffs this year and they are well backed in their new guise as Udinese B. Even down to 10 they did represent a test to be overcome.

Man of the match? You could choose from Hoolahan, Lafferty, Johnson or Tettey for me. My pick would be Lafferty, a very disciplined wing performance with some flashes of brilliance. He gave us real balance and made us a threat down both flanks, important against ten men. He looks like he could be a gem. It might help that from a far he looks like Grant Holt’s after photo.

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Opening Game Disappointment. But Panic Button not to be pushed. Yet…

I watched it. We all watched it. Not a good game and we were second best. But what can we take from this as an indicator for the season to come?

The temptation post relegation is to see it as a continuation from last season that will run and run with little or no change. Relegation in my opinion is something you feel, an emotion felt in the gut rather than rationalised in the brain. Given this I am not surprised with the strong reaction the performance has generated. Equally too I am not surprised by some people already calling for the managers head.

It is only when you take a step back and take a breath that you realise that patience, if not limitless patience, is required for a number of reasons. Given our position I feel that if this season is a successful one a slow start was always likely.

For me the number one reason that we were destined to start slow was the effect that relegation has on a club and the fans. As stated it is feeling that hangs over you, that doom lurks behind every result, decision, transfer etc. This manifests itself on the pitch and was seen yesterday. Players lacking confidence and belief that they can win led to some pretty directionless spells during the game. Desperation to redress last season acts on players in different ways, for example for Olsson this was rash challenges where normally he would be the boss of a situation. This will take time and a manager who can look to turn this mood that hangs over the players. The most experienced manager would struggle. One of our best ever managers Paul Lambert struggled at first in League One with a squad capable of automatic promotion.

This leads me onto my second point, that a manager with no (or very little) first team managerial experience will more than likely make more mistakes and take some time to come good, indeed if they ever come good. Ultimately it makes an immediate return to the top flight less likely. This may not be what we need given the financial benefits of bouncing straight back, given the rhetoric from the club on an immediate return it is not what we want, but the decision to appoint Adams leaves this a likely scenario. All managers are a gamble, all make mistakes, particularly at the start of their reign but new managers are a greater gamble. Slower to deliver consistently if they are successful with less certainty that they will become successful. Will Neil ever become a good manager for us? Don’t think any of us could say for sure.

Turning to more short run concerns, the team is currently unbalanced due the players available and certain decisions as to where to play those available. This has been covered at great length by others on message boards and Twitter so I apologise for going over old ground. Currently most of our absentees, through injury, game time or “fitness” are in the middle of the park. Whilst one or two might be sold, what team in this league would cope well without players like Howson, Fer, a fully fit Tettey, Pilkington and Hooper. This focuses on the centre of the park and was highlighted by Johnson and Surman getting the nod. Surman has a role elsewhere and Johnson really needs someone who is very good next to him. As we are in the transfer window player availability will remain an issue but once this settles and if/when these players do become available our form should improve. Whilst the transfer window is open we will likely keep Bassong and Becchio out but if they remain beyond that a good manager would find a role for them. Lambert did with pretty much everyone despite not being favoured by him. Roeder refused to play a whole team of players. Where does Adams sit between these two extremes?

Finally those available need to be played in positions they are most effective. For my money Martin, Surman and Redmond were out of position yesterday. Martin would be an ok fourth choice centre back, as one of the top two it is a real worry. Why not Ryan Bennett if he is considered good enough to extend his contract? Surman plays better wide midfield for me and did not do enough to stick to continue in the middle. Finally Redmond looked lost up front. He has always been great with the ball at his feet and is terrifyingly quick but his end product is barely good enough to cross into a box full of players let alone score. I hope that Neil has already noticed all of this and some tweaks (rather than wholesale changes) are planned.

This is why I am yet to feel panicked about how the season is shaping up. If by the end of September we are in the top 6 or very close to it then I would be reasonably happy. Beyond that I feel we will improve as each of the issues listed here lessens. However, whilst patience is a virtue, it is not infinite. Some fell into that trap with Hughton (alas a number are NCFC Board Members), lets be prepared give it time, but not hesitate to act when we need to.

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Paul Lambert – The Rise and Rise

I know this come so far after the event that everyone else has done it, but I felt I needed to put into words my thoughts and feelings about the Lambert years and his departure.  Now the dust has settled following his drawn out departure I feel it is time for some considered reflection.

We have had 3 years of football porn.  Clubs do not have that kind of ongoing success and gratification and if they do it is extremely rare.  We have crushed teams around us, made them jealous and ultimately  moved out of trouble into a real chance of establishing a future of riches.  The team played with a steely desire to win, the football was attacking and a joy to watch.  We took players from lower leagues and made them into Premier League footballers.  We did not need a dodgy owner (mad Russians, Chicken Processors or Gun Merchants) and we did not spend endless money endless foreign players.  Indeed it is a time that I will look back on with a real golden glow behind it.  Perhaps we did not fully appreciate how good it was at the time but in time we will.

There is a lot of bitterness towards the man which I feel is unfair.  It has always been clear just how driven he is and he will do whatever necessary to be successful.  This is why he has been so successful for us.  Many have questioned why jump to Villa but I can see sense in it.  They are a bigger club, last season they were on an extremely low ebb following 3 terrible choices of management and we were at our highest point for almost 20 years.  He does inherit a squad next to useless but he can sow silk from a sows ear.  Once he unloads some of the crap at Villa, the wages freed up will give him plenty of wriggle room.  I think he will do a same thing for Villa, push them on, deliver them success and then move onto an even bigger club.  

Ultimately if you had said to me 3 years ago he would give the golden second season in the Premier League and then leave for Villa I would think you quite mad as the task seemed impossible.  Players and Managers come and go in football, you just need the right ones at the right time and if all goes well then ultimately they will be poached/ sold on. A club can only be successful if it manages this reality well.  Jealously holding onto your chattel until you spoil it or until it is worthless will drive you into the ground.  It is about knowing when to move on and then making the right decision to replace.

Once upon a time we would have appointed some terrible unemployed manager.  Under the Doncaster regime we would have replaced Lambert with McCarthy, Hoddle or some of the terrible names Forest are currently linked with.  Instead we had a plan prepared and I think we have got the best man we could have for the job.  We were bold enough to stump up some cash for him and then fund him in the transfer market.

This ultimately fills me with hope.  I back the current board to make the right choices at the right time.  It took Delia and Michael long enough but they have now got a good set up that will ensure we can push on as far as we can.  It is that base that will see us make the right choices in personnel.  

It is with this in mind I wish Lambert well.  We owe him a lot and I do not buy this he needed to be loyal line.  Our own future is bright enough without the need to be bitter. It was good whilst it lasted but everything comes to an end.  I will only be looking for him to lose 2 games next season, beyond that it’s so long and thanks for the memories.  

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Some Pre-Stoke (h) Thoughts

My bet today is on a tight game of football not pretty on the eye.  I do think we will win.  Stoke have done remarkable things but I think we are in the good position of having Stoke’s first European hangover game, the new experience hopefully laying them low.

Usually before the game myself and my mate (we shall call him Gamblor) like to guess score, first scorer and attendance (to the closest 500 if you are a purist).  Today I will go with 1-0, Hoolahan (my pick for player of the season – early shouts are for real men) and 26500.

Likely line-up:

Ruddy

Martin

Barnett

De Laet

Tierney

Fox

Crofts

Bennett

Hoolahan

Holt

Morrison

 

My thoughts are that Bennett will give us more craft and pace in a game that others will have to take the burden physically.  I would keep Johnson on the bench as he is our midfield unit (tall/fat/well-built) to match Stoke at this if we feel the need.  I would go diamond once more as we looked better against Wigan with this formation.

It is also pretty rubbish having to cut into Sunday for the football.  I am a purist and football should be 3pm Saturday.  Normally this is a good opportunity to blame Sky but it is mickey-mouse Europa League that holds the blame here.

I will be tweeting as ever post game so if you fancy a good debate then tweet-me-up.  At some point I should blog on the game itself but the wife’s baby scan tomorrow will probably keep me busy.

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The Lowest Ebb?

Following the miracle of the turn round in our fortunes we as Norwich fans are probably at what good be the highest point in terms of mood.  Whilst the outcome of the next season will see if this is the highest point for this good feeling this leads me to think what was our lowest point?  Since we were relegated from the Premier League last there were some desperate times and trying to recall them has not been difficult.  Here is my selection of the contenders for our lowest ebb.

Huckerby allowed to leave out of contract

What in the bluest of blue hell led to this decision?  Roeder made some poor choice but this defied any sense for me.  Committed to the club, still the best player and an inspiration for those around him.  Some point to age and expense but for me he still had it and could still have done the job for us.  He would have easily been the best player in the next season (not saying much) and ultimately could have kept us up.  Perhaps being so important meant he was a threat to Roeder’s ethos (Glenn is king and always right) or perhaps he actually believed Huckerby was a poor mans Omar Koroma.  With this moment you sensed the problems we would have, that we were fighting relegation next season not dreaming of promotion, that you had to accept demise was likely.

The end days of Worthy

Now this probably was not as low as we got but when you look at the expectation built around that time it certainly did feel bad.  The performance were stale, no passing, no drive, no verve that characterised the rise of his team.  This promoted an air of real bile towards Worthy himself.  People hated him, would curse his very name.  Some people took what they considered to be extreme measures (which ultimately turned out to be walking from the swimming pool to behind the City Stand singing a few songs).  This atmosphere was at its most poisonous during the home game against QPR where the infamous “We’re so shit it’s unbelievable” chant rang out.  Amazing lack of support and frankly seeming all the more odd when you know what was to follow.  What followed after eventually was a Burnley game which I believe was on Sky that was so very bad I have tried to forget most of the complete pounding we received (although a Doherty rugby tackle and Huckerby being the only one to put in a shift stick in the mind).

Peter Grant

I like Peter Grant as a person but the thought of him as manager sends shivers through me.  He was like the assist to the shafting Roeder gave us which set up the relegation Gunn slotted in.  The thing that sticks in the mind is the terrible signings.  Brellier, Fozzy, Semi, David Marshall, Big Dave and Little Jamie Curtain were all poor and wasted money we could not afford.  In failing to score in the 5 previous games we player QPR away which was televised on Sky.  In perhaps the worse game of football I have ever seen we were beaten 1-0.  Grant did the honourable thing a quit but alas he left us bent over with our pants round our ankles waiting for Roeder.

I’m sorry, I must have missed your tenure as England Manager

I wish I missed your tenure as Norwich Manager Glenn.  Far too much for me to detail here but an Opus of an blog post for a later date.  We hated Glenn and I believe he hated us.  A PR disaster who sold all our players and replaced them with dodgy loans not up to the job.  Tactically inept who thought he was the saviour of good football but eventually he players would not break into a sprint for him let alone hit a half decent pass.  He left us a hollow husk of a team ripe for relegation.  We knew things were desperate at that stage, turning up was a chore and the players were not players we felt had a connection to the club or us.  We were like a bad advert for the Premier Reserve League.

Get me John Hartson

Jim Duffy was a desperate interim choice.  What was worse was watching someone so fat he had his own gravitational pull pretend to player football for us.  We were definitely a joke at this stage, if it was another team I would be laughing my head off.

Relegation to the Third Division

We were awful and fully deserving of this fate at this time.  Poor performances all over the shop, players not capable and loan players who did not care.  Carl Cort getting games, Cureton missing everything and Alan Gow wandering around like Bambi only mention a few terrible contributions to a beaten man of a team.  All summed up by the last game at Charlton where we had every chance of staying up but were completely outdone by a team who had been awful all season who were playing under a terrible manager.  No effort, no passion and a shrug of the shoulder attitude from those players involved.  Recently fans sung at Sammy Clingan that he could have been part of our promotion team – short memories of the teams he was part of during his time here.  After that game followed a summer of infighting, rumour, Gunn’s confirmation as manager, the rebate issue and the moanfest at St Andrews Hall.  A very real fear that we were going to continue to slide through the leagues came into our minds.  Everyone was laughing at us, especially the binners (who only built up the level of payback we gave them this season by a ration of 9 to 2).  Lets not forget at this time the seeds of recovery were sown with the changes upstairs at the club.

Essex Wide Boys slap us like Slaaaaaaaags

This one for me did not feel too bad.  I remember laughing, actually out load and I was far from alone.  Perhaps it was shock, perhaps it was being so used to things being terrible that I felt it was typical.  As the goals went in I felt the best thing was for them to score more to ensure that Gunn was moved on.  Poor Bryan, a good man in a bad situation but he was not up to the job.  We also had people chucking their season tickets at the manager on the first game of the season, another point of desperation highlighting our plight.  Watching those small time Col Who fans (both of them) living it up and laughing at our expense really brought it home how far we had fallen.  I hope they treasure that DVD as the revenge of taking their manager and humping them at their place was sweet.  Whilst most point to this as the lowest ebb but it is so linked to the rebirth that I cannot see it as such.

Which was the worst?  I change my mind all the time and I leave you to come to your own conclusions.

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Loan Stars – Bad – Omar Koroma

This one was so bad I had to Google the spelling of quite a simple name.

A loan that was bad on so many levels.  Where do I start?

What sort of a player was he?  He apparently was a striker but I thought you could of used him as a utility player, quite capable as being equally poor anywhere on the pitch.

Was he any good?  I will cover the good to get it out of the way.  He could run fast.  The bad, as briefly as I can sum it up:

– Kicking the ball

– Being anywhere useful on the pitch

– Knowing the rules of football

He made 5 appearances which was 5 too many.

But simply being a poor player is not the only reason he features in the bad category.  This alone could be forgiven but that are many other things that make this experience memorable for all the wrong reasons.

One thing that stand out is that he was a Roeder player and a prime example of the managerial decisions that dropped us deservedly to the third tier.  The  man who looked like a Geography teacher who disliked kids signed Koroma after keeping us up in his first season from a pretty desperate position.  Whilst storm clouds were gathering for some, Glenn’s self belief (of which the magnitude was only matched by the level it was misplaced) led to some real gems of interviews.  Whilst he was loaning in some terrible players and alienating them entirely with his Roeder-centric style he was declaring his brilliance.  Everyone else was wrong, anyone who played for a Premier League club was brilliant,  Simon Lappin was Dr Evil, Shola Ameobi was Pele, Huckerby was suddenly washed-up and Glen was the saviour of real passing football.  Madness that King Lear would consider too much.

Not only was Omar from Cromer linked to Roeder, he was a ‘arry Redknapp player.  Signed from nowhere and fading back there why did wheeler-dealer ‘arry pick up Omar?  I cannot even begin to think why.  I have never understood the adulation ‘arry receives in some quarters as he can only ever seem to do anything with money.  He also to me was linked with the Portsmouth meltdown of which anyone involved with should have had some serious questions to answer.  Not ‘arry however as the media was more focused on whether he would be the next England manager.  How can he thrive if he cannot buy players endlessly?  Players such as poor Omar.

It is also the sort of player that Omar kept out.  Chris Martin was turned around at Luton but could that not have been done at Norwich with a manager with the people skills to nurture a young talent?  Would he have kept us up?  Tall order but I am sure he would have done a better job poor Omar.

When I think of poor loans Omar is one of the first that come to mind.

 

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Norwich City 2011-12 Football Manager thoughts

Now we are top flight thoughts turn to the challenge of staying there.  People who take these thoughts to the next level tend to play Sega’s cult game series Football Manager.  Whilst the new version of the game is not expected for a few months I am one of those sad cases who is already thinking about how you would play it with Football Manager.  This is a very brief run down of how I would approach it.

Tactics

No contest here for me.  I have never set-up my own tactics from the ground up as this trial and error approach nearly always comes a ground.  I will tend to enter into discussions on various message boards to see generally the most effective formation then tweak it from there.  One person well worth following is Mr Hough on fmbase.co.uk as he has some very effective thoughts on formations to use.  Generally these are narrow formations that require small pitch dimensions.  I would use this as a base and tweak from here.  Currently I am using a narrow 4-3-3 with no wingers.  A good tactic will hide a number of sins elsewhere.

Players

You would need to work out quickly those that can cut it in the current squad.  At this point it is best to put aside your real world thoughts on players  as some odd players turn out to be the best ones.  Indeed I can remember Stephen Hughes, Julian Brellier and Jurgen Colin playing regularly for me in the Premier League and becoming club legends.  Once this is complete you need to turn to the market to plug the gaps.  I would adopt my usual approach of picking up the best free agents, then spend money on wonderkids available and finish up with cheap older players to fill any remaining gaps and provide much needed experience.  Free agents this year would include Earnshaw, Upson, Woodgate, Reo-Coker and Viera.  Wonderkids would need scouting and maybe a visit to a message board for some tips.  The older players would be Beckham, Campbell and Henry.

Coaches

Whole sale changes getting anyone with better stats in.  You need to get the training categories as close to 5 stars as possible so sack the dead weight in your backroom at whatever cost and bring in anyone from all corners of the globe.  Do it quickly and offer mutual terminations.

Training

Easy to build your own schedule for each position you have in your set formation.  Generally for me tailored schedules would be GK, FB, CB, DM, AM, QS and TM focusing more on the attributes you need to enhance for that position.  Set your coaches to the correct schedules and you are up and running.

Preseason

2 games a week and ensure your reserves play every week.  Match fitness is key so don’t worry about too many games.  Some games against decent opposition but most against lower teams for target practice to gain confidence.

Player handling

Over confidence not an issue ensure that players are reminded to always do it for the supporters.  When a player comes to you with an issue such as squad status ensure you come out as king.  During the course of the season you will annoy at least one good player.  If you can rid yourself of them then do it.

Media handling

Cautious or no comment.  Simple.

Scouting

Get as many scouts as possible and keep them going all season.  Be sure to scout Brazil, Spain and France as the key countries.

This is a whistle stop tour of what I would do.  Once the new version of the game comes out I hope to blog about how I go about the task and if I stay anywhere near what I have put in this post.

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