First of all, I want to hold my hands up and say that I was wrong to expect to be beaten by Manchester City.
If you’ve read the blog over the last couple of days then you’ll have read my articles on what to expect and the likelihood of defeat. After Friday’s devastating injury news, a Canary victory hardly seemed likely, did it?
I actually don’t know a single Norwich fan that expected us to win and that includes the guys on the forum too.
Anyway, wow, what a win. It was another in a growing list of extraordinary nights at Carrow Road and a night that will live long in the memory. Has there ever been a victory of this magnitude though?
That is a question that I started to ask myself after getting home and it slowly began to sink in that Norwich City had just beaten Manchester City – The Champions of England.
I’ve been watching Norwich City for over forty years. My first game was a 1-1 draw with Leicester City in the 1977-78 season and I’ve seen one or two big wins but do any rank as better than this one?
It’s a tough question because there have been massive victories such as being the first (and only, due to it being demolished) English team to beat Bayern Munich in the Olympic Stadium.
The Milk Cup Final In 1985, the play-off semi-Final win over Ipswich at Carrow Road was pretty special and hugely important, as was the next game in that season. The magnificent win over Middlesbrough at Wembley. Alex Neil’s side then beat Manchester United at Old Trafford, following that promotion but United were a shadow of their former selves under Alex Ferguson at that time and they still are.
It was a great win but surely not the best win we’ve had.
The reason I say that is the levels involved in this particular win over Manchester City. It was proper David v Goliath stuff.
I saw a screenshot stat on Twitter from Sky Sports comparing the two sides financially and the difference between the two starting XIs was just unbelievable.
Sky had the Norwich side costing £6.45m and Manchester City’s team costing £406.1m.
It wasn’t strictly accurate though as Kenny McLean cost £300k rather than £200k and Emi Buendia actually cost around £5m when all the add-ons were totted up but even so, it’s an amazing comparison 🙂
I’m trying to think of a comparable victory during the time that I’ve been watching the Canaries. Those wins that I mentioned above were all massive and you’ll all have your own ideas but if you compare the difference between the two teams, the absolute gulf in everything between them, then I think this could well be our best ever victory.
Scratching my head, I can only think of one other win that was as big as this, beating Liverpool at Anfield in December 1988.
At that time, Liverpool were the Champions Of England, as Manchester City are now and much more dominant than the current Champions are.
Liverpool won the First Division title six times in the 1980’s for all you youngsters out there. The fact that they haven’t won the League title for nearly thirty years now belies the history of the club. If you happen to know a Liverpool fan, then you’ll know, a bit like Ipswich and Forest fans, they do bang on about history.
To be fair, they have won quite a few cups in the time since but it’s always the title that has eluded them and that they crave.
So, can we judge the difference between the two teams of Liverpool (then) and Manchester City now?
It’s always difficult trying to judge sport between generations. Actually it’s almost impossible because these teams have never played each other, so how can you?
What I can say though is that Liverpool were an awesome team at that time, just like Man City are now.
The Liverpool team that Saturday December 17th 1988, was Mike Hooper, Gary Ablett, Barry Venison, David Burrows, Ronnie Whelan, Steve Nicol, Peter Beardsley, Steve McMahon, Ray Houghton, John Barnes and Ian Rush – Kenny Dalglish was the player manager.
The Norwich side that day was Bryan Gunn, Ian Culverhouse, Mark Bowen, Andy Linighan, Ian Crook, Andy Townsend, Mike Phelan, Robert Fleck, Robert Rosario, Dale Gordon and Trevor Putney – Dave Stringer was the manager and Norwich were top of the league at that point.
I was at College in 1988 and went to the game in a minibus full of Liverpool mates of mine, driven by someone’s dad.There was only one other Norwich fan amongst us, my mate Nick, and we had tickets for the famous Kop.
I don’t remember why Nick and I weren’t in with the Norwich fans but I do remember that I wanted to experience the Kop.
At that time, just before the Hillsborough disaster, standing was a given at football games and the Kop was the most famous stand of them all.
“The Spion Kop was a mighty terrace behind one of the goals at Anfield. It was built in 1906, as a reward to the fans after Liverpool had clinched their second league championship. It was an enormous structure, capable of holding as many as 25,000 supporters. It had 100 steps and towered above the Walton Breck Road behind the ground. The name came from a small hill in South Africa known as Spion Kop where in January 1900, during the Boer war, a battle left hundreds dead. Many of the soldiers killed came from Lancashire regiments with a strong contingent from Liverpool.”
So there’s the history of it, courtesy of this is Anfield.com.
The Kop seemed enormous to me, and Nick and I hid our Norwich scarves inside our coats as well as trying not to speak too loudly to give away our lack of Scouse accents. I remember some of my Liverpool supporting mates actually putting on Scouse accents in the ground!
Norwich were battered a bit but held out until the 60th minute, when Andy Townsend scored the game’s only goal from a long punt up-field by Gunn. Norwich won the game and led the First Division at Christmas as a result, eventually finishing fourth in the league.
Can we compare that game and this one though, really?
Well, Liverpool were an awesome team but the difference between the teams wasn’t as vast as it is now between today’s Norwich and Manchester City, in my opinion.
At that time, the Canaries paid £500k for Robert Fleck and Liverpool paid £1.9m for Peter Beardsley. There was always a gulf in finance but it wasn’t anywhere near as big a gulf as it is these days. On that December day in 1988, City had pretty much a full strength team out and were not decimated by injury as Norwich were on Saturday night.
So Dave stringer’s men were at their best, They were an established top-flight side and competitive with any team in the league at that time, although City fans wouldn’t routinely expect to win at places like Anfield or Old Trafford. Today’s Norwich are newly promoted and favourites to be relegated.
Football has evolved and not necessarily all for the better.
The footballers themselves live different lives these days. They are eating and drinking the right things and not going out on the town (or City) after a win for a skin full.
Consequently, they are better on the pitch. They are athletes and train tirelessly to achieve perfection. Any team can get their players to do this but the difference comes in finance.
Money talks (as Brian Johnson once sang) and it means that if you’ve got plenty of it then you can hire the best coaches and the best players to be coached by them, along with the best facilities for your athletes.
That’s where smaller teams will never be able to compete and it is part of why this win over Manchester City was so remarkable.
The really remarkable thing for me though was the injury list that Norwich had to deal with.
Byram, Amadou and Tettey were making their first starts of the season, none of them had played much football in the last six months and yet all three were more than up to it. They were all terrific and Tettey’s performance once again dismissed the opinions of those Norwich fans on social media who say that he isn’t good enough at this level.
Daniel Farke deserves huge credit for the way he set-up the team to play with the balance that I spoke about on Saturday morning. He set them up to press and to look for the counter-attack and his charges played his tactics to perfection.
Everyone associated with the club deserves huge credit for the way that the victory was achieved because I think, that this was the best victory (for all the above reasons) that I have ever seen Norwich City achieve, not the most important because it was only three points but the best victory.