Football: City stay on the ball: Norman Fox finds the Canaries in tune with a song for Europe

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The Independent Online
FRANZ BECKENBAUER glanced outside. The fog had descended, slightly muffling the noisy, elated Norwich fans who were still gathered at the unpretentious front door of Carrow Road, giving their players one last encore after beating the mighty, three-times European Cup winners Bayern Munich. 'A pity this weather didn't come sooner,' he said. 'Maybe it did. Some of us disappeared tonight. We've played two bad matches in this season and both of them were against Norwich.'

The eminent voice of German football and vice-president of Bayern quickly remembered his reputation for diplomacy and added: 'But Norwich made it very, very difficult . . . if they can do that against us, they can believe in themselves to do even better.' Erich Ribbeck, Bayern's coach, made no such concession to diplomacy. 'We took only one of our 10 chances and they took three of their four. They knew how to interrupt our game.'

Mike Walker, the up-the- hard-way Norwich manager, heard what Ribbeck had to say and asked what Norwich had to do to get praise when it was deserved. 'Now don't tell me that Bayern are not the side they were; they're a good side, a very good side.' Walker had woken on Wednesday morning feeling more nervous than he had anticipated. 'It lasted all day till I got with the lads in the dressing room. It wasn't just that this was the biggest day in the history of Norwich FC, but I felt that now the pressure was all on us. Over there nobody expected us to do much, so it almost came easier. How could we give up the lead in front of our own fans?' They almost did.

After conceding a goal in only the fourth minute, Norwich needed Walker's tactical nous to switch to a more attacking style at half-time, ensuring that Bayern's patient pressure during the second would fail and leave them lobbing aimless balls forward and Lothar Matthaus (wasted as a sweeper) arguing with the referee. Matthaus left the ground with one passing shot (one more than he had in the match): 'I'm just angry with us.' Such faint praise for Norwich, but they are used to that. Bayern may not have been outplayed but they were outwitted and outgunned.

The victory was well founded on the goal-snatching talent of Jeremy Goss, the style of Ian Crook, the tactical awareness of Walker, tenacious teamwork and a buttress of crowd support.

Will beating Bayern change Norwich? Unlikely. Other crowds sing rude, taunting songs and support teams with macho nicknames like the 'Red Devils'. But the Red Devils got stuffed by a team from Turkey while the Canaries chirped on. At Carrow Road they still sing 'On The Ball, City'. Like Pompey's chimes, it dates them somewhere in the Fifties when they thought their best days happened and would probably never be repeated. Not any more.

Walker adamantly refused to be drawn into talking about heroes (he is of the old school, believing that kicking a ball into a net does not equate with saving a life), but Goss was treated like one on Wednesday night. Goss recalled that last summer, when he was out of contract, he asked the Professional Footballers' Association to see if anyone was interested in him. 'I was told that I would be joining a list of about 300 players and I thought, where else am I going to get Premier League and European football? So I stayed.'

The question Norwich's victory left unanswered was how come a team costing comparatively little and led by a manager and a goalscorer who not long ago might have joined the dole queue could upstage Manchester United and Aston Villa? 'The one thing I knew we must not do was try to play defensively, so I said we should set out believing it was 0-0,' Walker said. Nevertheless, he began with a five-man defence which still left gaps and a denuded midfield, leading to Bayern's early goal. But unlike United, Norwich looked hard at their problems, pushed forward, reinforced the areas where they had been vulnerable and frustrated their illustrious opponents.

Jan Wouters, Bayern's Dutch national team captain, called it a typically English performance. Far from it; Norwich adapted their game for the different demands of Europe. If only the last England team he faced had done the same.