At halftime on Sunday, as I stood in the warm spring sunshine with my sunglasses on (through necessity, honest!), my thoughts pin-balled between two nagging, inescapable facts.
Fact 1. Norwich had started brightly and taken the lead fairly early on but had then sat back and invited Wigan to ‘have a go’. It was a dangerous policy. If Paul Lambert didn’t do something about it at half time then we would be in trouble.
Fact 2. The lad with the turquoise football boots taking part in the ‘crossbar challenge’ couldn’t hit a cow’s bum with a banjo, bless him.
Discussing Fact 1. with the lads in front of me, we came to the conclusion that we’d set ourselves up badly. We had little or no width and the game was being played out very narrowly. Wigan were exploiting the wings far better than we were and were creating time and space. Given their brittle confidence we should have been matching up to them and battling like mad for everything. We weren’t, and you could sense that it was breeding optimism in the Wigan ranks. Wigan were running at us regularly and were creating far too many chances. Yes, we’d taken the lead but no, it wasn’t likely to stay that way unless we made some changes.
On to Fact 2.
Remember when coloured football boots first came out? I do. I distinctly remember that you had to be quite some player to pull off the ‘look’. Anyone could buy them, but it was asking for trouble if you had two left feet. “Who does he think he is?” would be on everyone’s minds. So as the lad with the turquoise boots stuck another ball high, wide and handsomely in to the Barclay it fell upon the chap with the microphone to wade straight into him. “Look at the turquoise boots!” he exclaimed. Now fixated, he repeated the comment each time a ball sailed harmlessly over, under or, most often, considerably wide of the crossbar. It became a little painful and THAT’S why I have never bought a pair of coloured boots, turquoise or otherwise.
Anyway, back to the football. We didn’t make any changes, Wigan continued to press and the inevitable happened on 68 minutes. Ironically, just as we were about to make the two substitutes that we desperately needed to.
We could still have won it. Their keeper made one truly world class save. We could have lost it. Fortunately their strikers were playing in coloured boots.
…and then I heard it. I heard the funniest thing I’ve heard at a football match since the lad in front of me screamed “don’t shoot you idiot!” at Yousef Saffri just as he lined up THAT 40 yarder against Newcastle. I heard this:
“I don’t like all this passing business”. It was made in reference to Norwich’s preoccupation with keeping hold of the ball rather than giving it away. This chap wanted it launched up-field at every opportunity. Yes, that’s right, launched at a bank of 6ft 4 centre and full backs that had been winning headers against Wessi all afternoon. I laughed. I’m still laughing now.