Norwich: season review

From selling players for a packet of Haribo to favourite games, and from worst goals to unsung players, all of the Little Yellow Bird writers pick the best, worst and oddest moments of the season

Happier times. We were happy once, right?

Happier times. We were happy once, right?

Words by: Dan Brigham, Rich Jeffery, Jon Rogers, Clare Thomas, Seb Ward, Zoë Whitford

Favourite and least favourite games of the season (not including Man U and Newcastle away…)
Rich
: Favourite – Plucky £ittle Bournemouth™ (H) feat. Eddie ‘Ferret Face’ Howe. He always looks a bit furtive. A little bit woaaahh, a little bit weyyyyyy. He's a geezer. He'll nick anything. He looks like he’s been caught in flagrante delicto with his wife’s sister and is about to go home and face the music. Also I know a massive cockend who supports Bournemouth, so I always want them to lose for his sake.

We won, 3-1. They wore pink. Friends from Bournemouth were up. Cam-Jam scored a ghoul from Wes’ shinpad-in-hand assist. Wes’ goal. Jarvis scored a great goal and looked a great signing. It was sunny. We were full of early season swagger and optimism. We were top of the newly-promoted teams’ mini league. The beer tasted good that evening. What could possibly go wrong? Oh.

Least fave – after we lost to West Bromwich Albion (H) I feared for us, even though it was only October.  It was dull. You could make a case for it actually not being a football match. We created nothing. They had one chance and scored it.

Zoë: It might have only been a 1-1 draw (let's face it kids, there's not much choice here) but I felt really proud of the team after Arsenal (H). Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez may have dinked it around to each other for the first 20 minutes like butter wouldn't melt but by the end of the game it became clear that the Norwich players were prepared to fight for each other. Plus Ryan Bennett's death pit is right in front of me and you could see Sánchez recalling every awful minute he spent trapped down that mine as he hauled himself free.

The defeat to Aston Villa (A) was the type of match you immediately declare shall never be spoken or even thought of again, as you pour a massive gin and wipe away the tears.

Dan: The 1-1 draw at home to Stoke was my fave. We’d played well in the first game at Palace and lost, played well away at Sunderland and won and then absolutely battered Stoke at home. Although it was only a draw – Jack Butland had his cape on and we missed a couple of sitters – we attacked an established Premier League team with verve and guile and were by far the better side. Carry on playing like that and we would definitely, definitely stay up. No sweat.

The worst defeat was the 1-0 home defeat to West Brom. It was the match following our 6-2 defeat to Newcastle and everything we’d feared would happen after that thrashing – a more defensive approach, uncertainty among the players – did happen. Bollocks.

Clare: Without question my favourite was v Watford last week. I didn’t know how to feel going into the game. My mum summed it up; ‘discombobulated’ (well actually she said comfomflobulated, but I got the point). But what occurred was an unexpectedly magical night at Carrow Road. A warm and hazy evening, mist falling onto the pitch. The team played with a freedom so lacking since those first heady weeks of the season. The crowd responded and together we joined as one.

Oh, I’ve gone all Mills and Boon….

It reminded everyone why we love Norwich (let’s face it we needed reminding). Plus with chants like ‘you can stick the Premier League up your ass’, what's not to love?

Least favourite: Aston Villa away. The moment I truly thought‘Oh. Shit.’  We lost to the third worst team in Premier League history. We even let Fatty Agbonlahor score. I mean seriously. That alone makes me accept relegation.

Unsung player of the season?
Seb
: Generally, those worthy of having their names sung have been sung about, and those unworthy have been placed in stocks and had tomatoes thrown at them through the media of Twitter, Facebook and Canary Call. No one has got away with anything this season. Every action scrutinised, every player talked about. It’s difficult, then, to give such an award. But Martin Olsson reminded us all, including Alex Neil, why he is our best left-back amidst all the adoration of Robbie Brady. We’d do well to keep either this summer.

Jon: I guess by definition it’s the one person who has played regularly but hasn’t had a chant about them. So…Sebbo Bassonginio.

Oh wait it says unsung ‘player’…Sorry.

Looks like I’m going to go for – Russell Martin. Ignoring his brain fart against Liverpool where he might as well have picked the ball up and thrown it in our goal, he’s been quite steady for a while now. I wrote about him after that game and suggested it might be the end of his Norwich career, and he’s proved me wrong.

Zoë: Olsson was consistently impressive once he came back into the side. I mean, it's not hard to look all right when the three blokes next to you are apparently wearing clown shoes, but still. I always thought that Olsson was a bit of a tetchy, uninterested character, but there has been less of that this season. I've come to the conclusion he was playing with so much pain in his shoulder before the operation that it made him a bit cross and anxious about the prospect of being in even more pain. Which is kind of how I felt in the final third of the season.

Rich: Wes. It’s Wes. I know he got third in the Bazzy Butz, which isn’t exactly unsung, but consider this:

*STATATTACK KLAXON*:

Wes – Appearances: 25(5) Minutes: 2006 Goals: 4 Assists: 8
Redmond – Appearances: 24(11) Minutes: 2339 Goals: 6 Assists: 3
Brady – Appearances: 34(2) Minutes 2988 Goals 3 Assists: 2

Wes was directly involved in more goals than anyone else. Nearly as many as Redderz & Braderz (our other perceived main creatives) between them. In just over a third of their combined minutes played.

Wes is more than goals and assists though, he’s Wessi. He is twinkling blue eyes, he’s mercurial. Wes and the ball are one, he sees things they’ll never see. He makes us tick. Cherish him, love him, you’ll not see his like again in a Nodge shirt and the twilight approaches. Not just for his career, he is 33 though, but for players like him. I, for one, want to see him start every game. I see the case for him not doing so in some games but I’d still start him. Every time. We can’t keep the ball without him. Players like him are why I love football, not athletic defensive midfielders whose heatmaps show they cover more miles than anyone else and win the most aerial duels.

Wes could be crowned King of the World, which he should be, and I’d still think he was unsung.

Dan: Nathan Redmond. Unfairly castigated too often for not beating his man (despite the fact that, with most teams including Norwich playing one up top, if a winger beats his man and heads for the byline he’ll only have one player to aim for in the box…), Redmond was a wasted opportunity this season. Although he played in all but three matches, he too often had to emerge from the bench. His defensive duties are about as plausible as… well, our defence, but when we played at our best, it often meant Redmond was playing at his best. He’s a bit inconsistent, but name a winger in the Premier League who isn’t. It goes with the territory. We’ll miss him badly.

Clare: Olsson. It’s amazing what a fully functioning shoulder can do. He’s been outstanding since Neil finally remembered he had a proper left-back. Ok, outstanding is probably not the right word…he appeared outstanding on the basis he stood next to the Chuckle brothers & co. But I do love watching him marauding down the left. And his goal v Newcastle made my legs turn to jelly. No Norwich player has ever done that for me before so, you know…

The worst thing a player has done this season?
Dan
: Kyle Lafferty replying to spotty teenagers on twitter with abuse. He’s 28! And, of course, Gary O’Neil’s cartoonish run, lunge and red card against Stoke. An entire novel could be written about what was going through his head as he was flying through the air, on his way to crash-landing Norwich’s season. A shit novel, mostly made up of weeeeeeeeearrrrrrrrgggghhhhhhhhfuuuuuuccccckkkkkknooooooooo, but a novel nonetheless.

Clare: Whatever it was that Alex Tettey did to convince Neil to take him off against Newcastle.  It was the moment everything changed. I’m not sure we ever recovered. The game shocked Neil. Made him question his previously unquestionable philosophy. Like a virtual earthquake, it shook him to the core. He stood amongst the rubble and tried to rebuild, but the foundations had crumbled. The pieces just didn’t seem to fit any more.

Poor Tettey. Turns out ultimately he ruined the party…

Jon: That’s easy. Given me hope. Good old fashioned, straw-clutching hope.

Brady scoring against West Brom. Steven Naismith versus Liverpool. Olsson scoring in the last minute against Newcastle. Those moments were painful because all the fist-pumping meant nothing.

Rich: Spoilt for choice here. Ryan Bennett’s existential crisis in not stopping that cross v Leicester (A). Every time I watch it I think ‘It’s OK, RyBen’s got this covered, he’ll stop this’, *spoiler alert* he doesn’t. Gary ‘What the fuck were you thinking?’ O’Neill’s red card madness at Stoke. The Tombland Slugger. Seb dithering v Sunderland. Andre Wisdom’s pelunty-conceding lunge v Sunderland. Cameron Jerome's ‘how did he miss that?’ miss against Everton (H), and the one against Stoke (H). Countless soft goals conceded, I mean I could go on. And on. And on.

But even in such a crowded field one stands out above all.  It was symptomatic of our season, in that we kept shooting ourselves in the foot, and helped us to a deflating defeat which set us on our irreversible plunge downwards. It was, of course, R:Mart’s pinpoint through ball to James Milner against Liverpool. Watch it again. A back pass, for that’s what it was, wasn’t just not the only option open to him, it was by a fucking mile the worst and least likely option you’d choose. Fucking hell Russ.

Zoë: Lewis Grabban going AWOL at Rotherham. The most interesting thing that has happened to Norwich in a Cup competition in years. Yes, the thought of Grabban wandering around South Yorkshire in his club tracksuit looking for a train to Bournemouth is hilarious. But by doing this Grabban embarrassed his manager once again (was thumping a fella in the stomach a few months before not humiliation enough?). In the end, the striker's time at Norwich became untenable. He might not have kept us up, but at least he was a different option.

One player you’d like to sell for a pack of Haribo?
Clare
: Sébastien Bassong. And you can keep the Haribo. 

Zoë: Lafferty has one of those heart-shaped Haribos in his Twitter name, so he's the sensible and entirely obvious choice. I wish him all the best in the Euros but he's been nothing but a negative force for Norwich all season. How he managed to convince swathes of impressionable Norwich (and at one point, Leeds) fans that he was the answer to ALL THE QUESTIONS through a series of aggressive Twitter posts is beyond me. The bottom line was always that he wasn’t even good enough for us in the Championship. His mistimed ‘karma’ tweet on relegation is unlikely to win him any friends at Carrow Road. Get rid, and to a rubbish team.

Rich: Nobody has let us down through lack of effort and it’s not their fault they’re not good enough to keep us up, so it’s impossible to answer this one. So I won’t.

However, I noticed one member of staff at FCR who needs to up their game or the Haribo axe will fall next season. I don’t know her name and google won’t help me, but our physio needs to up her training. She ran onto the pitch against TWatford, I can’t remember who was injured, and it looked like she was running backwards she was so slow. These could be vital seconds in case of serious injury. I suggest some upper body sessions and some squats and leg presses alongside some interval sprints to improve her speed. That should sort it.

Ricky Martin’s been livin’ la vida loca on club time for a while now too, with mixed results. There’s a pack of Starmix with his name on too if he’s not careful.

Jon: Bassong. His time is ending with Norwich. Can you remember when he broke Samir Nasri and then let the Arsenal player headbutt him to get sent off? Or when he posed with a gun and it got in the paper? They were good days.

Nowadays, we’ve got a guy who likes to dribble in his own half like he’s celebrating National Twat-it-Up Day and judges the flight of a football like a dog with glaucoma trying to catch a tennis ball.

And it would be for those mini jelly babies. Bloody love them buggers.

Seb: A pack of Haribo would be generous. I think six misshapen gummy bears would suffice — one for each of Bassong’s relegations. In fact, maybe just a single gelatinous egg, given the fact his season turned into a big fat yellow splat. The ball at his feet was like watching Doctor Who as a kid — you’re crouched behind the sofa — hoping — praying — that it all ends well. But not all fantasies have happy endings, and Bassong playing for Norwich was unfortunately no fantasy. We may be in an easier division next season, but Bassong’s time is up — and no Timelord in the universe can fix that. 

Dan: Ryan Bennett. He was pretty good when we defended deep and played against physical sides. But he’s injured too often, and has somehow convinced too many fans that he’s a cross between Bobby Moore and Franco Baresi. PLUS HE DIDN'T STICK HIS ACTUAL LEG OUT TO STOP THE ACTUAL CROSS AGAINST ACTUAL LEICESTER CITY. HE JUST WATCHED IT ROLL PAST HIM. JUST KICK IT RYAN. PLEASE JUST KICK IT.

What’s the one thing you want from the new CEO?
Seb
: He’s got to do his best impression of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street. Hair slicked back, a $2000 pinstripe suit and the unconditional willingness to throw money at anything and everything. Okay, I’m joking. Although if they’re as good-looking as DiCaprio then David McNally might find his legacy short-lived and quickly forgotten.

McNasty did possess many desirable traits, but his resignation paves the way for revolution, refreshment, resurgence. Whoever does take the Iron Throne must be more than just an adept businessperson but someone who understands what makes a good manager, a good team, a good player. Because as obvious as it might sound, nothing comes before the football at Carrow Road.

Dan: To be as much of a hard-bastard as McNally. And for it not to be Delia’s nephew. And to install an eject button under every seat, which only I have access to, and will use when anyone questions Wes’s tracking back, moans about Redmond not hitting the byline or bangs on about playing two up-front.

Zoë: Sexual intensity, a hint of danger and an ass that won't quit. If I had to pick a football thing though they've got to have some of the ruthlessness that McNally brought to the job. The comparative wealth and stature of Norwich City cannot compete with even many championship clubs so we have to be shrewd, smart and take calculated risks. The new CEO will have to hit the ground running and make some immediately sassy decisions.

Rich: So many choices. An undertaking never to have clappers again. Better beer in the ground.  To ban the annoying child that sits next to me. No not that one, he’s my son, the one on the other side. To stay off the social media when you’ve had a sniff of the barmaid's apron. More mascot dance offs. To SIGN A FUCKING CENTRE BACK OR TWO.

Clare: To be ruthless like McNally. It was refreshing change for Norwich City, and no coincidence that our most successful period in years accompanied that tenure. I quite liked ‘mean Norwich’. It was like demure Sandy turning into a sexy rock chick in ‘Grease’. It would be sad to go back to frilly skirts and plimsolls when you’ve been wearing tight leather trousers and high heels…

Jon: It’s a toss up between three things: A) big curly slides from the top of the Barclay to the ground. B) fuck-off Big Screens, or C) strong but fan-orientated leadership which removes the personnel who have consistently failed, to install a combative and competitive squad of young, fit, fast and aggressive players who can challenge at the highest level.

So, I’m going with B. Fuck-off Big Screens.

Worst goal we scored?
Rich
: Bassong’s very late thunderbastard equaliser against Liverpool. Of course I enjoyed it at the time and it was a very good goal, but it was what happened a few short minutes later that makes it our worst goal. I was resigned to defeat, after the aforementioned R:Mart backpass as through ball incident, then big Seb cracked one in from distance to draw us level in injury time.

I completely lost the plot when that went in. I launched into a visceral, blood curdling, swearathon of a celebration. It included copious use of the C word and so many gestures that were absolutely vile, in such a short space of time, you’d have thought I was a sweary, epileptic octopus.

Then Adam Lallana’s goal happened. I dropped to the ground. To lurch from that level of elation to literally lying face down on the floor of the Barclay dumbfounded in the space of a couple of minutes was a huge comedown.

I didn’t, couldn’t, speak for about two hours after the game and anyone who knows me will attest I’m garrulous. I have never felt so gutted after a football match. Never.

And it was Seb’s goal’s fault.

Jon: Two. Both in the same game. Both for different reasons. Sunderland away.

Martin got hit on the leg and it went in. Shit goal.

And Redmond’s. Technically, it was beautiful. Slick as his dress sense and lovely finish. It never got better than that day. We all seemed to switch off. Relax. Easy easy easy, the chant went. 

Zoë: It's been overshadowed by the overall horror of the game itself (anyone else still having night terrors about it?) but Wes' penalty against Liverpool (H) was one of the worst things I've ever seen. It couldn’t have been much weaker if he’d decided to kick it towards the centre circle instead of the goal. How it went in I don't know.

Presumably it was all part of the universe's cruel plan to make us believe we might be capable of catching a frickin' break.

Clare: Our worst goal wasn’t officially a goal. Jerome’s disallowed overhead kick against Palace. It was by far the BEST goal we scored and therefore the fact it wasn’t makes it the worst. It still angers me to this day. Just think where we might be if that goal had been given? We would probably have gone on to win that game, a priceless first day victory. It would have given us precious momentum and confidence, and I swear Jerome would have gone onto score far more goals that he did (quiet Dan).

Seb: He shushed the crowd and he played it cool, but the celebrations belied the quality of the goal. Jerome will thank Hart for making the worst goalkeeping error since John Ruddy threw one in his own net versus Derby and the worst goalkeeping error for approximately four-and-a-half minutes. He really couldn’t miss, though I suspect he did try.

You can follow them on Twitter at: Dan – @dan_brigham, Rich – @twitchut, Jon – @BigGrantHolt, Clare – @clarebearthomas, Seb – @Seb_Ward, Zoë – @zvfm2

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