By Matt Rowson
In the steady calm of reflection, perhaps the general sentiment is understandable. After all, goal celebrations are becoming akin to trademarks, as distinctive as a signature and as much part of a footballer's repertoire as the golf handicap and the Celine Dion CD. Picture a man with one arm aloft, head slightly bowed in full sprint and you see Alan Shearer. Arms outstretched, tongue down over the chin, Henrik Larsson. Swallow dive, arms outstretched, onto your stomach, Jurgen Klinsmann. Shirt pulled up over the head, Fabrizio Ravanelli. Charge towards the visiting support to big it up within a determined fist's reach after scoring a fairly spawny last-minute winner despite a general lack of aggro or animosity throughout the game, Lee Marshall. Obviously.
But given the vast range of unpatented celebratory rituals within most intelligent human being's range of creative thought, it's difficult to see why Marshall plumped for this one. His post-match claim was apparently that it was only by accident that he ended up in front of the visiting fans having been caught up by the excitement of the moment. The validity of this suggestion is brought into question by the fact that he had his back to us when he scored, that after a hundred games for City, presumably halfish of them at Carrow Road, he really ought to know one side of the stadium from another, and from the fists and sneers rather stupidly and most deliberately aimed in our direction. Why, why, why? How many football fans would cherish celebrating scoring a goal in front of their own support? "Better than sex", if Chris Waddle's any judge. Don't answer that.
Marshall was reported to the local constabulary after the game but not, as has been claimed, for inciting the crowd. Rather on the suggestion that anybody so mind-bogglingly stupid is clearly a threat to themselves and to the general public. As an experiment, I would be interested to shut Marshall, Barry Venison and the fool who interrupted Stan Cullis' minute's silence at St.Andrews with a slurred repeat of "you'll nehva be-a Bluenowse" into some sort of padded cell. As an initiative test, you'd set them the task of trying to get out in the quickest time possible. You'd need to leave the door open, of course. And take food in when they got hungry.
In the six weeks since our Carrow Road encounter City have been on reasonable form and have moved into the top half of the table. Despite the number of clubs between themselves and the dropzone, however, eleven points is hardly cast-iron safety at this stage of the season as Nigel Worthington was at pains to point out on Saturday. Losing to Huddersfield, as we know, takes some doing, and the fact that City had one fairly pathetic attempt on target in the ninety minutes suggested to their manager a side that thinks the job is done.
In any case, assuming City do avoid the drop, it won't be on the strength of their away form... the last eleven league games away from Carrow Road have yielded a pitiful five points. The ten points that our modest form has yielded over the same period should put that in context. Saturday saw Huddersfield's first win in eight games.
In goal for City will be Andy Marshall, whose contract is up in the summer. Marshall has been linked with a move with Bolton, struggling in the absence of both Jaaskelainen and Banks, reportedly interested. In any case, deputy Robert Green is thought to be a more commanding long-term prospect.
Worthington has persisted with a 3-4-3 formation that has been reasonably successful. The three at the back are likely to be Matt Jackson, who has recently signed a two year contract after protracted negotiations, the pacey Craig Fleming, who missed our last meeting through injury, and the robust Malky Mackay. Other defensive options include former Arsenal reserve Brian McGovern and youth product Darren Kenton, but Steve Walsh has been released and Fernando Derveld, on loan at West Brom, also looks to be on his way.
In midfield, Dane Steen Niedergaard turned the game for City on his introduction six weeks ago. Daryl Sutch seems to hang around in the team without being noticed (and possibly for that reason). Welsh winger Chris Llewellyn is beginning to find the consistency that has previously eluded him. Our mate Lee will be back in the fold by Saturday as he completes a two-match ban (reports that he picked up the critical booking when the ref refused to believe that he couldn't remember his own name remain unconfirmed). The versatile Daryl Russel is available as his sending off in City's latest brawl, this time with Palace, was overturned. Adrian Forbes provides a wide option, whilst Frenchmen Jean-Yves de Blasiis and the talented but unvalued Cedric Anselin wait in the wings. Phil Mulryne is out for the season, whilst Dutchman Raymond de Waard has been released.
Up front, Iwan Roberts remains the main goal threat... recent additions to his tally have taken him past the two hundred career goal mark - a tally, of course, that began with a winning goal against Manchester United at the Vic. Zema Abbey won friends quickly on his arrival from Cambridge but his form has lately tailed off a little. Not so the popular Irishman Paul McVeigh, whose slight build and manoeuvrability complement the brawn of his striking partners. McVeigh's form seems to prohibit a return for Alex Notman, even if he should recover from a chest infection, whilst Adrian Coote is the obvious backup for either of the bigger forwards. Gaetano Giallanza remains on the injured list and is unlikely to reappear before Christmas, whilst Paul Dalglish appears to be a very last resort up front.
The one possibility that has not been covered in explaining Marshall's behaviour is that he harbours a degree of resentment having seen a "winning goal" in the Carrow Road fixture two years ago disallowed. That his shove on Steve Palmer was unsubtle enough to be obvious from the other side of the stadium will have passed him by. In any case, Watford fans will need far shorter memories to mete out their own welcome on Saturday. It will be interesting to see whether Marshall's new trademark makes another appearance in the future...particularly when Millwall visit Carrow Road next season.