The draw with Southampton in the cup showed me something that I haven’t really seen from Norwich City in a long time – grit, determination and a will to not lose.
Have we really had that in a group of players since Paul Lambert left?
I’d say ‘no, we haven’t.’
Yes the playing staff have changed and we don’t have Grant Holt, Andrew Crofts or indeed Bradley Johnson any more and we haven’t had a real leader since Holty left but nevertheless, the manner of the draw with Southampton was important.
To come from behind twice in the game, the second time in the 92nd minute, was Lambertesque and could be crucial as the embers of confidence are stirred up by what has now become two draws and a win in the last three.
A three game unbeaten run?! Well I never.
If we’d lost against the Saints then we would’ve taken one step back, with Rotherham on the horizon and an expected three points next Saturday.
On Sunday morning, I watched my son’s U11 side, Freethorpe play against Ormesby.
Freethorpe are a good group, with the nucleus of the team having been together for almost four years now. They have some quick flair players and they have some defenders who like a tackle, which is rare at their age, one of whom is my lad.
Ormesby on the other hand are a physically big team with a much bigger catchment area than Freethorpe. They are well drilled and have a manager that doesn’t stop shouting at his team from the first minute to the last, offering support and rollockings from the sidelines in equal measure.
Our manager is much more measured and does things in the right way. He doesn’t shout too much and he never publicly lambasts a child in the middle of the game.
Freethorpe have never beaten Ormesby in these last four years, as Callum reminded me as he got ready on Sunday morning. The Ormesby team are all good players and as I said, physically imposing as well.
As the game kicked off, there were the usual jokes about the size of the opposition. ‘That lad drove himself here’ etc but Freethorpe took an early lead.
What then followed was an example of how to defend when the kitchen sink is thrown at you. Ormesby controlled the majority of the possession and for long periods, were camped in the Freethorpe half. Reducing the home side to counter attacks, one of which hit the post and another was incorrectly chalked off for offside – an Ormesby father running the line who didn’t know the rules.
Anyway, for about 50 minutes, the Freethorpe team defended as if their lives depended on it with my lad making a goal saving sliding tackle in the final five minutes. He came out of his own area with the ball only to be scythed down by an Ormesby player as the counter was on. He had to go off injured but we won the game.
As my lad laid on the floor, being cajoled to get up by our manager (no magic spray for the U11s) the Ormesby manager came onto the pitch and I heard him say to his players ‘This is like a cup final for them, they can’t believe they’re winning.’
The Ormesby lads were visibly upset at losing the game, shoulders slumped, lots of moaning, diving and nasty tackles but the bottom line is Freethorpe won 1-0.
Now, getting back to the analogy with Norwich City, Freethorpe didn’t used to have that fighting spirit and would never have hung on as they did, a year or two ago. It strikes me that we haven’t seen that spirit from the boys in Canary yellow over the last couple of years either.
There was an element of it when Alex Neil first arrived as City surged into the play-offs but that has been lost through the following Premier League season and now the nightmare of this return to the Championship.
My point being is that grit and determination won’t always win you games but they will help you not to lose them. With the talent and skill that the current Norwich City squad has within it, as we saw on Saturday, if you add some steely determination and a will not to lose then you give yourself a chance.