Football: Modest men find route to success

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The Independent Online
Norwich City 2

Blackburn Rovers 1

THE joke doing the rounds in those places where supporters gather to discuss the events of the day was that the home team had raised their game immeasurably, just in case Jack Walker was contemplating putting another huge cheque Norwich's way. In this argument, between those who buy big and those who successfully sell, it was not money that talked the loudest.

On Tuesday a bunch of part-time footballers had put paid to Blackburn's dreams of European glory. At Carrow Road it was the full-time species that put a dent in their Premiership ambitions by inflicting a first League defeat through honest endeavour. So hard did Norwich work for their victory that not even Kenny Dalglish could begrudge them two goals which were more Jim Bowen than Mark.

After Chris Sutton had taken only four minutes to mark his first return to his first club with the Premiership's first goal, and his ninth in 11 games, the yellow sleeves went up as one and a monumental effort began.

It is a quality that Walker, a self- made millionaire, appreciated only too well and so, when he pulled Robert Chase aside over drinks in the boardroom, it was not to inquire if he would take pounds 3m for Darren Eadie or pounds 4m for John Polston, but to acknowledge that on the day the Norwich chairman had the better footballers in his side, and at only a fraction of the price paid by the Blackburn philanthropist.

Norwich are great believers in the maxim that, while there exists a narrow strata of elite footballers, the vast bulk of the Saturday workforce is separated only by ambition, determination and hard work. Sutton and Alan Shearer fall into the first category but, despite the valuation- differential, Norwich lost nothing on an individual comparison. How Dalglish must have wished for a creative talent of Ian Crook's dimension in his midfield, or for a decisive defender like John Polston has been throughout this campaign.

While Dalglish was right to claim that Rovers had played reasonably well, there has to be concern at the goals conceded by what hitherto was the Premiership's tightest ship. Colin Hendry dallied when he should have been positive when Bowen's header dropped into his six-yard box and while Jon Newsome, part of the reconstruction wrought by Sutton's pounds 5m, has many qualities with his back to goal, he ought not to be allowed to pass both Tim Sherwood and Hendry in a run that preceded a comical mis- hit which fooled Tim Flowers.

The Norwich manager, John Deehan, was amply rewarded for his decision to attack Blackburn with two wingers, and repaid handsomely by Darren Eadie who, on his first start of the season, filled the spaces afforded him by Blackburn's second-half push with verve and eye- catching speed.

Sutton's goal was a fine example of quick-thinking, strong-running and of the value of a cool head to beat the advancing Bryan Gunn. While others have tried to rubbish his towering valuation - even to the extend of criticising the length of his shorts - the supporters he left behind, and who gave him a warm reception back, are in no doubt as to the wisdom of Walker's investment. When, late on, they chorused with some glee, 'What a waste of money', it was not with Sutton in mind.

Goals: Sutton (5) 0-1; Bowen (31) 1-1, Newsome (56) 2-1.

Norwich City (4-4-2): Gunn; Bradshaw, Newsome, Polston, Bowen; Adams, (Goss, 89), Crook, Milligan, Eadie; Newman, Ekoku (Robins, 75). Substitute not used: Marshall (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Warhurst, Berg, Hendry, Le Saux; Ripley, Atkins, Sherwood (Slater, 64), Wilcox; Shearer, Sutton. Substitutes not used: Pearce, Mimms (gk).

Referee: P Jones (Quorn).