A point! A beautiful, precious point! Jon Rogers and Dan Brigham look back at Norwich’s much-needed draw against Manchester City and discuss John Ruddy, gimmicks, Gary O’Neil, home comforts and Caravan Monthly
No novelty needed
The last words David McNally said on our interview podcast were: “I don’t like gimmicks”.
Interestingly, since then, the Chelsea game had flames spouting out of the ground like Hades had opened as the players walked out. And the Manchester City game? Yellow and green plastic bags to hold up. Hurray. I thought they were sick bags or suicide aids, until I saw they have health and safety holes stamped into the bottom underneath the instructions.
Unless I missed it, the wave-ya-bags-in-the-air-like-a-drunk-man-refusing-to-pay-the-5p-charge-in-a-Lidl was about as half-hearted as Wilfried Bony’s performance. Apparently, they were there to 'get us in the mood', in the same way a man throwing a video camera, a Tesco value cucumber and a copy of Caravan Monthly on the bed gets his wife in the mood.
I can pinpoint the exact time Carrow Road came alive for the first time since we went 3-1 up at Liverpool, and it didn’t involve clappers, explosions, posters, badges, singers or giant novelty inflatable breasts – with yellow and green tassels. It was a few seconds after the ball had just cannoned off the bar after that incredible Patrick Bamford effort. The crowd erupted and were fully behind the team for the full match after that.
I understand the club are trying to get us up for the game and make it a carnival atmosphere in the stands. But there is only one thing that will do that – a carnival on the pitch first.
And maybe giant novelty inflatable breasts – with yellow and green tassels. JR
From a shambles to resolute
We didn’t play any better against Manchester City than we had against Leicester or Chelsea. The difference? The couple of mistakes we made across the 90 minutes weren’t punished this time. While Kenedy took advantage of us sleeping in the first minute against Chelsea, and Leonardo Ulloa broke our fragile stupid hearts in the 89th minute at Leicester after failing to cut out a cross and stick out a leg, on Saturday Fernando and Raheem Sterling both made poor decisions when free in the box towards the end. Luck, it’s good to see you again.
This isn’t a criticism of the Norwich defence. In fact it’s praise. Against Chelsea, Leicester and Manchester City – against Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Sergio Agüero – Norwich’s defence has been bordering on exceptional for 270 minutes. Mistakes are always going to be made against such world-class attacking players, but Norwich have kept them to a minimum. Nearly 30 games too late, our defence is starting to drop its shambles tag and become almost… resolute? Yes. Resolute.
Some have described it as heroic. I don’t agree. Heroic is how you describe messy defending to make it sound better than it was. Instead it was composed, clinical and intelligent. Only towards the end did it become messy/heroic as the composure was lost as the inevitable desperation kicked in.
Now, if only we could score some goals. DB
Dribbling for Timm
Klose. Oh Timmy. On Saturday, I found out he can’t dribble to save his life, but the rest of him makes me dribble. This is the second week I’ve banged on about him, but it’s becoming more and more like finding the final part of a 11-piece jigsaw puzzle you started in 2004.
In his first few games he looked rusty and unfit, but had a style to his play; so much so I thought he could be pivotal to our survival. Slowly, he is becoming the rock we’ve been missing for so long. It’s his mixture of calming presence on the ball, and aggressive nature when off it that makes him such an important player for us.
And he is getting better. I think there is an air of Thomas Helveg about him though. If we do drop, then the likes of Hull and Burnley, or whoever is promoted, will be sniffing about. But I think he could play in a more accomplished side than a newly promoted one. JR
Ruddy good save
John Ruddy’s diving save to deny Agüero got a decent amount of praise. Some called it excellent. Others great.
Bollocks to that. It was world-class. Genuinely brilliant. Agüero has one of the fiercest, deadliest shots in the world, and Ruddy barely had any time to get down, let alone make his wrist strong enough to push the ball out rather than just brush it into the corner.
Before he was dropped, Ruddy wouldn’t have saved that. Those sort of saves – which required getting down quickly – appeared beyond him. His injuries looked like they’d eroded his flexibility. But he’s come back thinner and more agile, proving a lot of people – including me – wrong. He made an equally good save against West Ham, plunging low to parry a Victor Moses drive (although unfortunately Dimitri Payet was on hand to slot in the rebound).
So his save on Saturday wasn’t a one off. Welcome back, John. DB
O’Neil loves to bounce
I love the way Gary O’Neil jumps and bounces his way through a match. Given away a free-kick? BOUNCE. Missed a decent chance? JUMP. Got Robbie Brady’s teeth in your head? JUMP AND BOUNCE.
It shows the extraordinary energy he has, and how much it means to him. On Saturday he looked like he was on a mission to atone for that sending off at Stoke; putting in a performance few of us would even have expected he was capable of in the Championship, let alone against Manchester City. His energy and commitment brought back memories of Bradley Johnson, but O'Neil is a far better central midfielder. He was clever with the ball, disciplined in his position and a constant nuisance to the ref.
His partnership with Jonny Howson was overrun a little for the first 20 minutes, but after that they got to grips and matched City’s midfield. Both keeps things ticking over and, hopefully, against West Brom, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Watford they – or at least Howson – will be afforded more time and space to drive forward and create, rather than just nullify. DB
Home comforts needed
Despite the awful run without a win, the recent home performances have been good. We’ve played Liverpool, West Ham, Chelsea and Manchester City – and we had the opportunities to win all four and we should have got at least 10 points from those games. Instead, we got two points.
The Sunderland and Newcastle games are so crucial now.
If we lose one, we’re down.
Draw both? We’re down.
I think it’s really important we start well in those games, rattle the team we’re playing and just go for it. The Manchester City game showed if we go down fighting like a drunk, 15-year-old chav being arrested for nicking Britney Spears perfume from Wilkinsons then the supporters are more likely to accept we gave it a right good go.
Plus, if the board really wanted us to stay in this league? Giant novelty inflatable breasts – with yellow and green tassels, FFS. JR
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