Jeez, how cold was it at Carrow Road yesterday!?
I was wearing a North Face parka, the sort of coat that Sir Ranulph Fienes might wear on a walk to the North pole and was still cold. My feet were like blocks of ice by half time and tingled painfully in the heat of the car on the way home.
But enough of my personal sacrifices and the hardship I had to endure to watch the glorious Canaries, we actually had some entertainment for a change.
Things have been a tad dull of late, with no wins in seven and a series of consecutive draws at Carrow Road. On the flip side, we`ve only lost twice in the last 17 games (I`m not counting Chelsea) but not scoring enough goals has been a continuous theme.
Having said that, we`ve now scored 7 goals in 3 games, which is a bit better, although for a while yesterday, I thought we may be about to throw away a 2 goal lead for the second time on consecutive Saturdays. Fortunately though, we managed to hang on for what was, I think, a deserved win.
There were several plus points for me in Hernandez, Murphy, Vrancic, Srbeny and of course, James Maddison.
I liked the attacking nature of our forward three. Maddision got his 14th goal of the season and is on course for 20, which would be a truly exceptional return from a central midfielder. It`s the sort of goal return that Frank Lampard used to supply for Chelsea in his golden years.
Either side of him though, I like the attacking nature of Hernandez and Murphy. Both are direct and both had good games against Reading.
Onel is intent only on taking on his man and getting a ball into the box. He`s strong, stocky and can do a few lollipop tricks as well. He`s getting better each week.
Josh has been better in recent weeks after some maddeningly inconsistent displays during the season. He`s capable of being a match winner at any moment, much like his brother, but it`s doing that week in and week out that needs to happen. Mind you, if he was at that level then he`d be worth £30m+ and be a target for the Premier League top six. I saw him try to do “James Rodriquez” flicks on two separate occasions in the first half that didn`t come off. Keep it simple son, you`re not James.
Dennis Srbeny had his best game in a Norwich shirt against Reading. He`s (like Josh) only 23 years old but unlike Josh, he`s having to make a huge step up in class. Mario Vrancic, while talking about himself, said on Friday that the first season for a foreign player in Germany is not exactly written off but allowances are made for the change in well, everything really.
Dennis has all the physical attributes to play the game, although he`s arguably short of that lightning bit of pace over 6 yards that helps strikers. He looks like a target man though, a big lad that can hold the ball up and bring others into play as well as scoring.
Against Reading, he did all that except score and boy did he have a chance to score.
That he put that chance agonisingly wide when one on one with the keeper will have taken the gloss off an otherwise decent display for him but the signs were promising. He was physical and competed with the Royals` centre backs and showed some nice touches to bring others into play as well as winning many (the majority?) of his aerial duals.
The player that really caught my eye though was Mario Vrancic. A player that has been much maligned at times by fans, who have been unwilling to allow this foreign newcomer much in the way of time and grace to get accustomed to the Championship.
The expectations from fans are justly high. We want to win games and we want to win them now. There is precious capacity for patience among the Canary nation and I don`t blame anyone for that. I want to win just as much as the next fan.
Mario has taken his time to adjust, which isn`t surprising. The Championship is a league unlike any other in terms of it`s balance of physicality and ability. It`s how a player like James Maddison can flourish because of his ability on the ball as well as his ability to take a kicking and dish one out, as well.
Against Reading, Mario showed that his left foot is a thing of wonder, a wand with which to deliver perfect incisive forward passes. We`ve seen that before of course but not quite so often as this one match.
He`s had to bide his time and if Tettey, Trybull and Leitner were all fit, I doubt he`d have played yesterday but they aren`t and that`s why we have a squad. He doesn`t have the physicality of an Alex Tettey but he does have the passing ability of a Leitner of a Maddison.
Playing in that deep lying “quarterback” role alongside a ball winner, he was able to dictate play (like Leitner and Trybull) and make things happen.
Some of his passes, I remember a couple to Hernandez and Murphy one of which was with the outside of his boot, were little short of filthy, over the top efforts that split the Reading defence and caused havoc.
He also scored the opener and although James Maddison was given the sponsor`s man of the match award, I would`ve plumped for Super Mario.
You will notice that I haven`t mentioned the defence, which is deliberate. I think we`re better with three central defenders and expect us to return to that formation after the international break, when Christoph Zimmermann has got his strength back. We switched off a couple of times against Reading and that`s all I`m going to say.
Instead, I`m just going to say that for the first time in quite a while, I left Carrow Road having been entertained, albeit I almost died of exposure.