Monday, May 5, 2008

Championship ramblings as the curtains close.

Leicester and Stoke battle it out for survival and promotion.

"Thank F%&* That's over" said this Norwich fan.

Phew... That was my initial thought as we clinched safety at home to QPR in our penultimate game. This weekend's defeat at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday was to be expected and just about summed up our season. First half dominance and a collection of missed chances. The bags were packed and the minds of the players were already rolling down the runway at Norwich airport.

That was not not good enough for the 5,000 fans who went to Sheffield and it certainly was not good enough for Glenn Roeder. The gaffer at Norwich had already made his mind up weeks ago about who would stay and who would go after his first 6 months in charge. This did not stop him from keeping the players locked in the dressing room at Hillsborough for 45 mins as he let them know exactly what he thought about their last 45.

It will be a lively summer for the staff at Norwich and an interesting one for the fans as the front door is set to swing open and shut with more regularity than the managers door at Leicester. Roeder has stated his intent and has the balls to follow through. After Saturdays game he criticized fan favorite Lee Croft and took aim at missed chances and sloppy defending. The future's of 12 players will be decided this week but none more important than that of Lord Huckerby. He could move into Norwich Castle tomorrow if he wanted. He is already a legend. And that is why Roeder could swing his axe on Norfolk's favorite adopted son. That's the kind of move Glenn would make to confirm his status as the top dog at the pound.

I love Glenn's attitude towards each game but his 'one sheriff town' attitude could blind his decision when it comes to handing Hucks the contract he deserves. Starting eleven or not there is no player in a yellow shirt who can turn a game in one run or one who has the desire to win more than Darren Huckerby. I will be holding my breath this week as Hucks learns of his fate.

We started our year with excitement. A new dawn. Peter Grant had spent his money and the first time manager came to Carrow road with a fantastic reputation as a coach.

Unfortunately for us, he couldn't manage the ticket booth for a charity dunking stool featuring Avram Grant.

In came a whole host of Scottish Premier League players. Out went all ability to play football at this level. The new players from the SPL were rated highly north of the border (Brellier and Lappin to name a couple). Grant said he was getting value for money and signing some real talent. Roeder axed all but three.

All I needed to know about the SPL came fast, educated in a 10 game master-less-class. Grant had bitten off more than he could chew and spread his crumbs at the foot of the table. He learned the hard way that the SPL is garbage, poop, pony and highly over rated. The border should be locked to stop other teams from being duped into buying such dross. An army of talentless utility men made to look good by slow football. I apologize profusely to anyone who supports a Scottish team.

Not for the criticism..... but for having to watch such a farce. It's existence is a dereliction to the beautiful game. Only Chelsea bring more shame to the world of the inflated orb. I would rather have a team comprised of the Radio City Rockettes than of SPL players.

And to think how good it looks when you see that Setanta commercial... You know the one, featuring that catchy sound track. SPL players dance across the screen celebrating wonder goals in front of empty stands while you hear...."I think my mind is made start a revolution".... The SPL needs more than a bloody revolution. How about some evolution?

Don't get me wrong -- I really don't have any thing bad to say about GOOD Scottish players. I loved Bryan Gunn and rate David Marshal and Mark Fotheringham highly. Anyway, enough of this. Back to the topic at hand....

How ironic that the Guillotine dropped for Peter Grant at QPR after the City faithful in the School end were treated to one of the poorest performances ever by a Norwich 11. Roeder secured our safety two Saturday's ago..... against that very team. A better QPR in fact. Still Roeder's lack of time or knowledge in the Football League market came back to give us a scare and it went close to the wire. I had more than a twitchy bum for several weeks. In fact it was a full blown rash! Roll on next season.

The fizzy league...Competitive. But is it any good?

This year's Championship season was one to remember. Leicester were relegated with 52 points. Stoke were promoted with 79. Just 29 points from automatic promotion to Yeovil away. Norwich finished the year 15 points from the playoffs and 3 from the drop. Roeder's 1.4 points a game would have had us there if he'd been in charge for the first ten games. So is the closeness of the teams a sign that the league is at a new standard? West Brom are not that much better than Hull yet they are highly rated at this level. Any one could have beaten anyone this year.

Many may suggest that the league is slipping further away from the Premiership and The fact Bristol City are in the playoffs in their first year indicates such a theory. Next season's Premiership table will tell the truth but for now....I think there is validity to both stories.

While Watford, Coventry and Stoke adopted a boring long ball mentality which affected every team and game they participated in, teams like Hull, Bristol City, West Brom and Palace played their way to the top six with some nice football.

There were many Premiership loans on display indicating a lack of opportunity in the top flight for some very talented players:
- Frazer Campbell at Hull (on loan from Manchester United)
- Ishmael Miller from Man City
- Ben Sahar from Chelsea
- Ryan Shawcross from Man United

Just to name a few who had an impact this season. Their loss is the Championship's gain.

Even at Norwich our lineup was improved dramatically by Premiership loans. Ched Evans from Man City scored 10 and Chelsea's under 21 England international Ryan Bertrand impressed. Norwich fans want them both back next year.

While Derby's destruction indicates a weak Championship, Sunderland's survival and Birmingham's close proximity to 3 other Premiership sides entering the last hurrah of the 07/08 season offers hope to Stoke and the Baggies. It is also worth remembering that consolidating a long term future in the Premiership is not just about the quality of the players who carry you up, and it's cruel to judge the Championship using recently promoted teams as your grounding for such a thought. Birmingham and Derby spent an absolute fortune on entirely new line ups. They look nothing like the teams that were celebrating this time last year.

If the answer to the question was to lie at Carrow Road then I would be be firmly on the fence with another itchy bum. We played some awful football this year (improving dramatically under Roeder) but many teams played some great stuff. If you don't believe me then you can watch the playoffs this weekend. The FA Cup also pushes the fence in the direction of improvement. Three of the last four were Championship sides. Either way, the last day was extremely exciting with automatic promotion and relegation all decided in the dying minutes. That makes for a good league right there.

Stoke and West Brom reached the promised land and Leicester slipped into the Abyss known as League 1 for the first time in their history. They spent the most and signed 28 players. Who says money buys happiness?


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