On the back of Norwich’s pitiful exit to Leicester in the F.A cup this weekend I think it’s important to try and grasp at a sensible level of perspective. Everyone is entitled to their own unique knee-jerk reaction, my favourite put forward by a lady sat behind me on Saturday was that Steve Morison should be shot for his performance. This was obviously from the Jeremy Clarkson school of opinion but she didn’t specify if it should be done in front of his family.
It has been said that Norwich were shit on Saturday. I agree, we were shit, certain players in particular were more than shit. Morison has come in for large amounts of criticism but I thought Russell Martin was equally shit and that Leon Barnett was far beyond any level of shitness I’d seen from a Norwich player this season. That performance made it abundantly clear why Lambert hasn’t been playing Barnett, although I think it’s perhaps somewhat harsh to judge him to severely when the rest of the side were so far below their usual level.
The #yellowarmy seemed mostly to focus on Morison’s lack of work rate. This doesn’t concern me, partly because most fans deem not chasing down a lost cause as an affront to their basic human rights and react with the same amount of rage and raw anger as someone telling them they were going to be locked in a dark room, alone, for 30 days because they looked a bit like a “terrorist”.
Grant Holt is exceptional at putting defenders under pressure and often sets the tone for Norwich with his exuberant chasing. Sadly not all players can be Grant Holt. Morison isn’t Holt, but despite not being Holt, he has still managed to score 9 goals this season. The concerning thing for me was that he didn’t look like adding to that total. He blazed over a good chance at the start of the game, his touch wasn’t right, he struggled to control the ball and when he had the chance to take on Wes Morgan 1 on 1, something he’s done well this season setting up goals from previous similar chances, he lacked conviction and confidence, took an awful touch then another and the ball went for a goal kick.
That was Norwich on Saturday, a lack of conviction and a lack of confidence. We looked disjointed, like a group of individuals struggling to slot together. We never passed the ball, never had any rhythm about our play and never put Leicester under sustained pressure. The Leicester players wanted it more and they were spurred on by fantastic vociferous away support while the home fans were as subdued as their team.
Now for some perspective. Leicester will hope to use this win to springboard their play-off push as they face two big games against Midlands rivals Derby followed by Coventry. Our next test is Manchester United at home. We’ve arrived, we’re where they want to be and we look set to stay. The last time we put in a terrible performance was away at Sunderland and we bounced back. If we beat Manchester United and Morison scores the winner, that will go a long way to putting the Leicester defeat behind us and fans will churn out phrases like “I’ve always rated Morison” having called for him to face a firing squad the week before.
However, beating Man Utd is unlikely. It would be a great 3 points and we would get to continue to tell Man Utd fans that the last time we played them at home in the league we beat them, but we were close to Wembley. I wanted us to get to Wembley, I’ve never been to Wembley. The closest I’ve come in footballing terms was the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for the play-off final, yes it didn’t end well but it was a brilliant experience that will live long in the memory. If I had to weigh up which was more likely, beating Man Utd or getting to Wembley after beating Leicester, I’d say the Wembley route would have been the easier option, that defeat to Leicester hurt.
Before the start of the season I thought we’d go down. I was worried when we were so pants at Sunderland, I thought that we’d go on the slide, but we bounced back comprehensively winning the next 2 games. I’ve been wrong pretty much every step of the way when it comes to predicting Norwich this season. So I’m going to change my usual pessimistic, cynical outlook and adopt a policy of cautious optimism.
Look where we are now and think about where Paul Lambert might take us next season, suddenly Wembley doesn’t look impossible, I dare to dream. Norwich City are now one of the sides people don’t want in the F.A Cup, because you know it will be a tricky game. We got beat by Leicester and their fans were ecstatic. We are Premier League, we’re back at the big table, at the top of English football. We went to an established Premier League side West Brom and won in the last round of the cup, repeating the scoreline from the league game. 2 away wins? At Premier League level? For Norwich? Are you mad?
We’ve come from League One to mid-table in the Premier League as quickly as it can possibly be done. So the horror of our previous record in the F.A Cup is a thing of the past, just like Glenn Roeder’s loans, Robert Chase’s player sales and our inability to win on Sky or away from home in the Premier League. We are now a club who gets to the 5th round of the F.A cup and is disappointed not to have made it to Wembley. So, next time the players have a bad game, try and maintain a sense of perspective.