Dry January? Pathetic. Veganuary? No thank you. For LYBP and for NCFC it was all about WINuary, and winning is what (for the most part) happened. Clare Thomas had the fun task of revisiting FA Cup heartbreak, a satisfying transfer window and quite a few points, actually.
The strange old month of January has turned out pretty well in the Fine City. Nine points out of twelve collected, two hundred and twenty minutes of heart swelling-if-leg-knackering-battle against the Champions of England, old faces departing, new ones arriving; if Norwich City’s New Year’s resolution was to roll their sleeves up and plough forwards, then they’ve made it through to February without breaking it. And someone bought them a damn fine plough for Christmas.
New Year’s Day saw the sore-headed folk of Norwich head to Carrow Road for a match with Millwall. As Steve Morison gleefully whacked in a goal from 30 yards many probably wished they were still in bed with an aspirin rather than sat on a cold plastic seat surrounded by 26,000 other sufferers (to clarify, that’s Carrow Road, not the NNUH A&E department), but second half goals from Tom-Boy and Jim-Bob sent the crowd home with a rare home win to lift their hangovers.
It was the Magic of the Cup™ next, as Chelsea arrived in our far-away land on a jet plane. They did not adapt to their new climate well, and struggled to break down a Dieter-Mined City. Zimmbo excelled, pocketing the multi-million pound Chelsea forward line in his er, pockets, and with our dynamite midfield of TnT blowing up any other threat, the budding romance between Maddison and Pritchard was allowed to blossom. Goalless it may have been but it was a great performance and fans left feeling positive at what the future held.
It didn’t hold Pritchard.
For a few short weeks we were treated to the The Alex and James show; so entertaining, so high in quality, but with even fewer episodes than Fawlty Towers. City didn't need to sell, but it was always clear Pritchard was desperate for Premier League football. If he’d played more games for Norwich perhaps we would have realised that beautiful dream together; the frustration lies in what might have been. Instead he’s chosen an express route and a short six months stay via Huddersfield. He got what he wanted, we got good money. We move on.
The further departure of Yanic Wildshit (no, that’s not a typo), together with some key injuries, saw a rather depleted City turn up in Bristol to take on the Kings of the Goal GIF. Desperate for the nation not to have to witness the sight of a grown men behaving like this, Farke launched ‘Away Plan A’; not conceding and Maddison scoring. It played out perfectly, as the Red City were left pointless and GIF-less, and the Yellow City stole away with three precious points, ending a difficult week on a high.
Despite TFL’s best efforts, Chelsea and Norwich turned up at Stamford Bridge for the midweek cup replay, and those that made it were in for a treat. A very, very, very long treat. Chelsea took the lead, but a combined effort of some phenomenal refereeing, that lovely VAR system (seemed to work perfectly to us) and a never say die attitude put pay to an early night. As most of the watching nation were about to turn off the tv and make a cuppa, Jamal Lewis leapt, salmon-like, to head in Timm’s incredible cross and extra time beckoned. In the end, after approximately 3095 minutes of football, all that separated us was a great penalty save. Heart-breaking yet heartwarming, all at the same time.
A mere three days later Chris Wilder and The Wildlings turned up in the land of the North-folk, wound up and ready for battle. Sadly, Norwich turned up weary-legged and weary-minded, and it was never really a fair fight. No amount of cryogenics or cupping could save this one; it came too soon and the #yellowarmy couldn’t muster the energy for a #pitchwar. Sheffield Utd left victorious and headed home for their open top bus parade around the Steel City.
After a luxurious seven days of rest, it was back to Bees-iness the following Saturday, as Norwich ended the month on a high at Griffin Park. Once again ‘Away Plan A’ was activated, as James Maddison curled in a beaut and The Wall repelled all attempts to penetrate it, ending Brentford’s 13 game unbeaten home record. It’s been nearly 30 years since City last achieved four away clean sheets in a row; turns out we just needed A Gunn in goal.
Positive strides on the pitch this month have been matched off it; even the dreaded January transfer window has been abnormally pleasant. Efficient and effective, Stuart Webber has done the business. We waved goodbye to the last remnants of Norwich past, and hello to a lower wage bill, as Steven Naismith and Russell Martin returned to their mother country, and Ohhh Cameron Jerome departed for Derby. Thanks for some of the memories, lads.
And, just like buses, three new signings turned up in one day, as we raided Bundesliga Zwei for new German gems. High earners gone, younger, fresher faces through the door, all positions covered, Maddison safely secured. Add to that the hugely exciting emergence of Jamal Lewis and for once the Canary faithful can be happy with their January lot. And not a panic buy in sight. What crazy world is this?
So there we have it. January; the month we take down the old decorations, pack away the sentimentality and move forward into a brand new year with fresh intentions; out with the old and in with the new. Perhaps then, it is fitting that this is the month that something feels like its shifted at Norwich City, in an almost seismic way. At last, it feels like everyone is on the same page and the intentions suddenly appear clear. As everyone else's new year resolutions fall by the wayside, Norwich must hold on to theirs.
Now, if we could just sort out that home form...CT