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Warren Hill

Two post-match pints and some waffle(s)

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Following our disappointing late defeat to Aston Villa, my post game pint with the usual crowd was a very different experience. While our little group can always find something to disagree on, usually whose round it is, there was more agreement than usual in the air.

It was horrible.

People who didn’t know each other became brothers in arms, prophets of doom predicting our impending relegation to the Championship. Even those that I’d come to rely on as fellow optimists had seeds of doubt sown, it was as if Agbonlahor had finally pulled the comfort blanket from under them. Folk I’d never noticed before now wanted to talk to me, perhaps in some forlorn hope that a problem shared really is a problem halved, folk who are normally reserved were calling for the managers head, players that hadn’t been seen since the Luton debacle were now the answer. At the time it frustrated me, no, I’ll be honest, it made me bloody angry. We were 15th and as far as I was aware, if we finished 15th, that would be good enough – unsurprisingly, this was met with scorn, the questioning of my parentage and my sanity. Of course I understand as well as the next person standing in their seat that we’ve been on a torrid run and turned in some abject performances, but Villa wasn’t one. It was disappointing. Disappointing to lose, disappointing to lose to a late goal, disappointing to lose to a goal so simple but mostly it was disappointing to lose to him.

Nobody was going to say it, nobody was going to admit it, probably not even to themselves, but the reason emotion was running so high wasn’t the defeat, it wasn’t the performance, yes, the league table proved we weren’t safe, but we were still 6th from bottom with 2 to play! It was possible but improbable that we were going down. The vitriol, however, was fuelled by who we lost to. He’d stirred it up with comments to the press and as we were subjected to more classless fist-pumping and gesticulating, it fanned the flames of defeat.

Not a single Canaries fan will have gone home happy that night but with the benefit of hindsight I don’t think that many of those advocating a change of manager honestly thought it would be genuinely beneficial with two games remaining. Having said that plenty still believe that such a change would be ultimately beneficial and would welcome a change in the summer. Whether that is true or not has been debated enough in recent weeks and with safety (and therefore Hughton’s brief) accomplished beyond any doubt, any change now would be surprising.

That safety was achieved with a breath of air so fresh at Carrow Road that even 20,000 fanned “clappers” couldn’t pollute it. Norwich played with a freedom and a fluency that belied their supposed predicament, assured and crisp in the pass, committed in the tackle, pressure being applied to the ball quickly in advanced positions. It was rousing stuff and the crowd responded. If we were a nervous nil-nil, we went to a relieved but anxious 1-0. A “This is Norwich, don’t count your chickens yet..” 2-0 was almost immediately replaced by the satisfaction that the job was done at 3-0. By the time the impressive Jonny Howson (the same player I couldn’t believe was anywhere near the starting line up a few short weeks ago) smashed in the spectacular 4th after a sweet interchange with the cameo-making Becchio, there was a return to the feel good factor, something that had been missing for too long. Its return is very welcome.

And so I wandered off to meet the gang for the post-match pint.

The atmosphere couldn’t have been more different, the folk that are usually reserved were, well, reserved, quietly analysing what they had just seen, looking forward to next season, asking why we couldn’t play like that every week. Some of Mr Hughton’s more vocal detractors were of the opinion that one swallow doesn’t make a summer, asking why we couldn’t play like that every week. Some of his backers exuded a hint of “I told you so” while wondering why we couldn’t play like that every week.

The truth is, we won’t be allowed to play like that very often. For as well as we played, West Brom were awful. That’s not Norwich City’s problem and we certainly contributed to how bad they looked but pretty much every aspect of their game was below par, indeed Lukaku and Long looked about as dangerous as a spherical sponge and as for the goalkeeping, well....

However, that shouldn’t detract from the professional way we went about doing our job. Nor should a bad run of form detract from the professional way Chris Hughton has gone about doing his. Norwich City earned their place in next seasons Premier League, not on Sunday, throughout the season. The team that earned that are Chris Hughton’s Norwich City. If we’re there, at the very least he deserves to be there too, if we believe RVW and Mr McNally, we’re in for an exciting summer on the transfer front. When we return in August, the slate is clean, we all start on 0 and the journey starts again. I hope that counts for Chris Hughton too.

One thing that isn’t open to question is how much sweeter my post match pint tasted this week.

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