Publication:

The Mail on Sunday - 2021-11-21

Data:

Dean has Canaries singing

Football

By Kieran Gill AT CARROW ROAD

HE was fired by Aston Villa, cycled round Central Park, visited the Empire State Building, took a look at the Statue of Liberty, got hired by Norwich and then picked up three Premier League points. What a fortnight for Dean Smith. He knew there would be turbulence, and not only because of that jaunt to New York amid his eight days of unemployment. This job, of trying to swap Norwich’s losing habit for a winning one, was never going to be smooth. That much was evident when Southampton took the lead inside four minutes. The statistics said Norwich had lost their last 33 Premier League matches in which they conceded the opening goal. Not this time. Goals from Teemu Pukki and Grant Hanley completed the turnaround, ensuring a dream start for Smith and his assistant Craig Shakespeare. Maybe, just maybe, they can survive. ‘We’ve only had two training sessions with them,’ said Smith, sacked two weeks ago today by Villa. ‘This is something to build on. We were the better team in the second half. ‘Win, lose or draw, when anybody leaves this stadium, they need to say that was a tough game. We know now that if we get these supporters onside, this can be a really tough place to come.’ It was a 1-0 loss to Southampton which turned out to be the final nail in the coffin for Smith as Villa manager. That involved the Saints scoring inside four minutes also. This time, Smith got a response out of his side, with Ralph Hasenhuttl annoyed by his Southampton team’s inability to make their chances count. ‘We had a fantastic first half,’ Hasenhuttl said, ‘and we must kill them. We must score more than only once. ‘Finally it was clear the longer the game goes on, it’s open, with the crowd, the energy with the new manager, they put you on the back foot.’ Before kick-off, the players walked out of the tunnel but Smith held back, awaiting his introduction. ‘Canary fans,’ the announcer shouted via the PA, ‘please welcome our new coach.’ Smith received a rousing ovation. Smiles were wiped from faces, however, when Adams opened the scoring. The ball was under his feet and he had Hanley all over him, but he managed to get his shot away. It trickled into the bottom right corner, beyond an annoyed Tim Krul. Southampton’s giddy supporters started to sing: ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning.’ This wasn’t in the script for Norwich, but the smiles were soon back. In the seventh minute, Max Aarons crossed the ball, Pukki met it and, from an acute angle, headed it past Alex McCarthy. Norwich were back in it, but Southampton were on top. James WardProwse had a go, as did Mohamed Elyounoussi and a few others. It was like watching target practice. Whenever Norwich won the ball in their defensive third, they were lumping it long towards a stranded Pukki, who was getting gobbled up by Jan Bednarek and Mohammed Salisu. It meant Smith’s side spent most of this match out of possession. It remained 1-1 at the break, but Southampton could have had three or four. Smith knew that and so replaced Todd Cantwell with Joshua Sargent. It gave Norwich a greater presence in the final third, as Milot Rashica tested McCarthy then Sargent saw a chance deflect wide. Suddenly they were shooting and it was Southampton who couldn’t get out of their own half. In the 79th minute, Carrow Road erupted. Gilmour took a corner from the left, and Hanley headed home. Smith is the first Norwich manager to win his opening Premier League game since Mike Walker in 1992. His team are off the bottom of the table and are looking up rather than down.

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