In their second season back in the Premier League after promotion in 2011, Norwich City achieved solid mid-table stability again, finishing in 11th position. There were some notable results too in what was Chris Hughton’s first season as manager at Carrow Road which included home victories over Arsenal and Manchester United.
Norwich also enjoyed a 10-match unbeaten run in the autumn which remains their best-ever unbeaten sequence in their Premier League history.
A new man at the managerial helm
After an excellent 12th place finish in their first campaign back among the elite in 2011-2012, Norwich City suffered a blow when Paul Lambert acrimoniously quit the club to take over as manager of Aston Villa. He would be replaced by Chris Hughton, who had previously managed Newcastle United in the Premier League and steered Birmingham City to the play-offs in the Championship in the previous season.
Hughton managed to keep all of the Canaries’ key players from the previous campaign which included skipper Grant Holt, goalkeeper John Ruddy and creative asset Wes Hoolahan. He added to the squad too with the acquisition of seven players including Robert Snodgrass from Leeds United, full-back Steven Whittaker after Rangers’ financial collapse and Sebastien Bassong from Tottenham Hotspur.
On transfer deadline day, Hughton made two further loan additions. Javier Garrido came in from Lazio having previously auditioned in the Premier League at Manchester City and a certain striker called Harry Kane arrived from Tottenham Hotspur and would make his top-flight debut for Norwich. This move didn’t work out though and Kane was recalled by Spurs in the January transfer window.
It was always going to take some time for Hughton to stamp his authority on his new squad and it showed in the early weeks of the campaign. Norwich actually went through the first two months of the campaign winless.
Things didn’t start well with a heavy 5-0 reverse away at Fulham on the opening day of the season and Liverpool FC also scored five at Carrow Road at the end of September. For the second consecutive season, Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick in East Anglia. The 5-2 defeat meant after six matches, Norwich had just three points from three draws and three defeats.
The turning point in the season for the Norfolk club came on 20th October. A first victory of the season was recorded and it came against mighty Arsenal. Holt scored the only goal of the game after 19 minutes and the home side held on for their second clean sheet of the campaign and a first victory against the Gunners since August 1992.
It was the catalyst for an impressive sequence of results for Hughton and his team.
The perfect 10
Norwich’s second game of their 10-match unbeaten run came at Villa Park and a stoic 1-1 draw with Aston Villa in a first reunion with their former boss Lambert. Michael Turner scored an equaliser with 11 minutes to go in what was his first season at the club after moving from Sunderland in the summer. Lambert would have the last laugh though with Villa going on to win the return fixture later in the season and also knock the Canaries out 4-1 in the League Cup quarter-finals.
An unbeaten November followed, despite only four goals being scored. Bradley Johnson’s 44th minute goal sunk Stoke City and two weeks later came the best moment of the campaign when Anthony Pilkington’s header beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United 1-0. Either side of a stale goalless draw at Reading and Norwich had kept four clean sheets in their last five games – an impressive return given how leaky they had been defensively in the season’s early weeks.
Bassong would go on to be crowned Player of the Season and the Cameroonian enjoyed a goalscoring run in this sequence. He scored a 90th minute equaliser at Goodison Park for a 1-1 draw and also netted in a 2-1 home win over Sunderland and in a highly enthralling 4-3 triumph away at Swansea City. Going into the 2012 festive programme, Norwich were sitting in an impressive eighth place in the Premier League table.
17th DECEMBER 2012 TABLE
|7||West Bromwich Albion||17||8||3||6||24||21||+3||27|
|11||West Ham United||17||6||5||6||21||20||+1||23|
Finishing with a flourish at City
The lengthy run of excellent form came to an end just before Christmas with a 2-1 defeat away at West Bromwich Albion. That became a much more worrying run of form with a nine-game winless sequence which included a zero-point return from the festive period and a 5-0 beating at Anfield against Liverpool FC in January.
Norwich beat Everton 2-1 with a late winner from Holt in late February to stop the rot and despite recording only another three wins from 11 games, Hughton’s side were never in any danger from the fear of relegation.
They finished on a high with back-to-back victories over West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City, scoring seven goals in these matches. The 4-0 triumph over the Baggies was actually the club’s biggest margin of victory in the 2012-2013 season. Holt scored in this game and in the 3-2 triumph at The Etihad to finish top scorer for the club yet again – this time with eight strikes.
An 11th place finish was encouraging despite a worse points tally than in 2011-2012 and with further investment promised, Norwich were looking up rather than down going into the summer of 2013.
FINAL 2012-2013 TABLE – 11th to 16th