The launch of Football United has brought together a lively bunch of football bloggers beneath the same umbrella, where we are encouraged to feel sheltered but not owned. One of the stars is Rachel Neil at a Norwich City site, named let’s be ’avin you after Delia Smith’s rallying cry to Canaries fans. Rachel* agreed to reflect on links between City and Sunderland.
The one link she failed to explore was exactly how to come back from a seven-goal mauling. Norwich have done it splendidly since losing 7-1 at home to Colchester United on the first game of the season and are now pressing Leeds United at the top of League One (which, as Leeds fans sometimes need reminding, is the Third Division). City even avenged themselves last Saturday, romping to a 5-0 win at Colchester as we, er, romped to a 7-2 defeat at Stamford Bridge. Another City fan, Nicholas Mead, writing here before we beat Norwich 4-1 in the Carling Cup soon after the Colchester slaughter, had said of the season ahead: “In all honesty right now I’d take fifth bottom …”
But as Rachel – Girl in the City to her readers – could have pointed out, the answer on how to stage a memorable comeback is simple. You go out and appoint the manager of the club that’s just thrashed you.
So just as City stole Paul Lambert from Colchester, it’s time to say sorry to Steve Bruce: “You’ve done a decent job so far Steve. It’s just that Carlo Ancelotti starts work at the Stadium of Light in time for the Everton game next week.”
And now over to Rachel …
The Friendly Final: Norwich City v Sunderland, Milk Cup, Sunday March 24 1985
Not wanting to make those mature fans amongst you feel ever so slightly older, I was just a little girl when this game took place.
However, as I grew up, I became very aware of our Milk Cup glory (let’s face it, it’s one of very few,) and it was always impressed on me that our two clubs held a healthy respect for one another.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t aware it was possible, such was my experience at the time, but friends of mine that were old enough to make the trip to Wembley that day were always telling me of the good nature amongst the rival fans, and the gentle humour that was expressed.
There was no nastiness, there were no vicious antics. It was merely two sets of fans, supporting their teams but showing a mutual appreciation of each another. It’s a bit different these days.
I can’t class it as a top moment for me because I can’t actually remember it. However one of the highlights in my career as a Norwich City fan so far – not that I get paid for it, I might add – funnily enough does involve Sunderland.
Actually, sorry Sunderland fans, I’m lying a bit there – my ultimate top highlight was Bayern Munich and that win in the Olympic stadium, but honestly, you follow in a close second! Munich, Europe and the Uefa run aside, the other, almost as significant, highlight for me so far was seeing City get promoted to the Premiership in 2004 as Champions. I wasn’t sure I’d see us in the modern-day Premier League again, but we did it, and I was ecstatic!
And where did we confirm our status as Division One Champions, you might well ask? Well of course, it was at the Stadium of Light:
Division One: Sunderland 1 – Norwich City 0 , Tuesday May 4 2004.
I remember the night very well. I wasn’t able to make it up to the game due to a very unsympathetic boss, but made it to Carrow Road to watch it live on the beam-back.
We actually lost, 1-0, (which at least meant everyone was happy, and helped to maintain the friendliness between the two clubs….) but thanks to West Brom’s drubbing at Stoke, we were able to celebrate becoming Champions!! I remember the celebrations as if they were yesterday (I cling to them in hope they will be here again soon…) the fans were delirious in the streets of Norwich, cars were tooting their horns and flying flags, and there were continual cries of Champions, Champions!!
It was magic. I even went so far as to whisk myself up to Norwich airport to watch the squad fly home and greet them – it was great!! (And yes, I was that sad.)
Of course our meetings with you guys have wavered some what since then, (the less we talk about that the better…) however, our paths did of course cross this season in the Carling Cup….
Carling Cup: Norwich 1 – Sunderland 4, Monday Aug 24 2009.
As soon as the draw was made, the inevitable connections were being made – a repeat of the Friendly Final in 1985, a City side that beat Sunderland whilst being led by Steve Bruce and how ironic then that it should be Steve Bruce who is bringing his Black Cats side to Carrow Road for the cup tie. A meeting of the two friendly teams…Oh how football does throw up these situations….
Funnily enough, I didn’t make the game this season either. I’ve nothing against you guys – honest! – and it isn’t because I’m not a fan who doesn’t “do” cup competitions…it was because I was on holiday! I know, I know, usually I wouldn’t arrange a break during the season, that’s what pre-season is for after all, but it was cheap and I wanted cheering up after a disastrous start to League One, so can you blame me? However, I did manage to drag myself away from the sun and sangria and take time out to check my phone for updates. About every five minutes.
It wasn’t happy reading. 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 3-1, 4-1…quite frankly it spoilt my night, and indeed the next couple of days of my holiday. When I heard too that Michael Spillane had been sent off , and Ben Alnwick, our then ‘keeper, had to be taken off due to injury which led to Cody McDonald (our striker) taking over the gloves, I thought to myself: “Can it possible, possibly get any worse??…”
Thankfully, I’m very pleased to say, no! It didn’t get worse, and if anything, it got better, and has continued to get better since that disappointing night – woo hoo!!
To confirm, since we faced the Black Cats, we have played 27 games in all competitions, (including the Johnstones Paint trophy…What? They all count ok!) and out of those 27 games we have won 18. That’s 18. We have drawn 5, and lost just four times. (Mmm…and you beat us by four goals, the irony….well no, it’s not ironic at all, but hey, I was just trying to make a connection..)
So whilst, I don’t want to blow our own trumpet or get carried away, it is a rather impressive record don’t you agree?! And maybe, just maybe we have you guys to thank for that….
After all, days before facing you we had beaten Wycombe 5-2 at home. We thought that was it, the table had turned, But the defeat – and convincing at that – to you gave those of us that had dared get carried away, yet another reality check. We were going to have to fight, and dig dip, if we were to get our season back on track.
Thank the Lord that is Paul Lambert, that we did. Although it wasn’t all plain sailing straight away. Lambert was clearly disgruntled at the effort of players against Sunderland, the most telling of his actions was that he dropped Wes Hoolahan and Gary Doherty from the squad completely for the next game. In fact Hoolahan was not recalled until almost a month later. His absence was never quite explained, and I half expected him to leave, but since September, the Irishman has been ever present, and an absolute revelation at that. He has scored 13 goals so far; the season prior he bagged just two. The man got the kick he seemingly needed.
As for Gary Doherty – well we all thought his last performance in a City shirt would be that against Sunderland. He was dropped by Lambert and looked set to seek pastures new, until injury resulted in a shock recall at the end of September. That led to Doherty re-establishing himself as the first-choice centre-half, and since then, he has been an absolute rock. His Canary career has been saved!
So it is possible to point to our Carling Cup game against you as a significant point in our season so far; the turning point; a blessing in disguise… call it what you will. All I know, is City have been near as perfect since. Let’s just hope it continues. I’d like to think too, we helped give you the confidence you needed to go on and get those four wins out of seven you recorded straight after your Carling Cup victory. Or the draw at Old Trafford, and the win against Liverpool….but I fear we have not impacted your season as much as you have ours!
So Sunderland fans…when we shall meet again, I’m not too sure. I guess our best bet is the cup…we owe you won after all.
* Girl in the City on Girl in the City: Born and bred in Norwich, Norfolk (no jokes; I’ve heard all them all!) I grew up supporting the Canaries, becoming a season-ticket holder when I was seven. Twenty years on, and many ups and downs later, I’m still a season ticket holder, and I couldn’t imagine it being any other way.
Being a girl and loving football, provided me with a few challenges growing up, however my credentials were and are helped by the fact I played the game for many years at a decent level, although unfortunately injury cut short my career. (I say career…you couldn’t exactly call it that but still…)
My relationship with City was tested a few years back, although it was nothing to do with the team’s performance. I started working for the club – a dream job right? Not exactly, in fact being behind the scenes wasn’t all it cracked up to be, and it began to ruin the perfect image of the club I had engraved in my mind growing up.
Something had to give, so I quit. I went back to being a proper fan, and thankfully the love returned.
I still live in the City, in fact Carrow Road is just a walk away, and that is where you’ll find me every other Saturday. Not shy of an opinion, I started writing my Let’s Be ‘Avin You blog about a year ago, although if you’ve read it, you’ll know I can in no way, shape or form call myself a proper writer! However, I enjoy it and it’s a good way for me to release my aggression or delight (depending on on-field events!) in a controlled manner!
All the best to you for the rest of the season Black Cats, it’s been a pleasure!
* the elephant in City colours comes from the Flickr pages of Den99