City driven by collective determination for successIn the latest edition of his monthly blog, Senior Club Journalist Ben Mouncerexplores the winning mentality of the Canaries under Alex Neil
For the first time in four matches, there will a different name on the list when Gary Holt and Russell Martin hand over Norwich City’s teamsheet to officials at 2pm on Saturday.
It’s simple to jump to the conclusion that Bradley Johnson’s absence through suspension will hurt the Canaries.
This is, after all, the man without whose goals City would have drawn 0-0 in both games over the Easter weekend, picked up four fewer points and now be sat outside the top two in the Sky Bet Championship.
A man who at regular junctures has taken ailing matches by the scruff of the neck and turned fortune in his team’s favour through a one-man Canary crusade.
Gauging the feeling on social media, it would be a surprise to nobody to see his name carved on the Barry Butler Memorial trophy as the 2014-15 Player of the Season.
But the rapidity of Norwich’s rise is down to a collective determination that exists beyond the eleven men selected on the pitch.
This is a mentality that was quickly and successfully pressed home by Alex Neil as soon as the ex-Hamilton boss walked through the door at Colney in January.
It’s been the cornerstone of his remarkable reign, the managerial dogma by which he is defined, the catalyst behind his squad’s unrelenting push for the Premier League.
Each player at the Club, whether heavily involved or not, has been energised with a winning spirit. It’s as though the sharp incline that is triggered when any new leader arrives has just gone on and on, that spirit engulfing everyone in its path.
Nathan Redmond hasn’t started a match since the middle of March but look carefully at photos of Johnson’s opener against Sheffield Wednesday and there he is, raising his arms triumphantly on the sideline, not unlike the joyful supporters behind him.
Martin penned his new contract on Thursday and commented: “I seriously believe we'll be in the Premier League next season.”
This struck me, not because of what the skipper said but the way he delivered it. It was no empty platitude, but a firm and honest statement from a man who knows exactly what it takes to get out of this division.
We have a Norwich City team combining quality with conviction, but the job isn’t done yet.
There have been times in the past when the prospect of two away trips in the space of four days will have had supporters hoping only for damage limitation.
On the back of eight matches without defeat on the road, however, things have changed. Bolton and Leeds, and then Middlesbrough, will be season-defining contests, of that there is no doubt. After these seven days, things are likely to be a lot clearer.
More challenges lie ahead, but rest assured this toughened team will be ready.
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