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The words 'excited' and 'Hull' are rarely to be found in the same sentence - unless the words in between are 'to be leaving' - but when I was despatched to the KC Stadium to cover Hull v Norwich for my part-time employers, I was a tad excited. And not just because anything had to be better than last week's trip to Middlesbrough. Or any trip to Middlesbrough.
I was a tad excited because I've been banging a big yellow drum drum marked 'Norwich' ever since they agreed a deal to sign Ricky van Wolfswinkel. I wrote on these pages this summer that the Canaries were showing an incredibly admirable kind of ambition by paying relatively big money for players like Van Wolfswinkel, Leroy Fer, Nathan Redmond and Gary Hooper - players who were yet to reach their peak with the capacity for entertainment now and sell-on value later. I then spent a couple of days in Norfolk and quite possibly out-enthusiasmed a Norwich fan about Norwich. So I was interested and, yes, excited to see them play in the flesh.
They were rotten.
Alarm bells rung when the teamsheets came out and Norwich had named four central midfielders - Bradley Johnson, Jonny Howson, Fer and Alex Tettey - while last season's most creative players Wes Hoolahan and Robert Snodgrass were on the bench. I had written that Norwich's signings were those of a club who 'have been in the Premier League for two years and are acting like a club who expect to be there a lot longer' but Chris Hughton picked a team as if they were relegation candidates trying to nick a point on the road. That might have been the right side to pick for a trip to Eastlands or Old Trafford but this was Hull; the signings might have been ambitious but the approach certainly was not.
Unsurprisingly, Norwich played like a side packed full of central midfielders, with Tettey, Fer and Johnson failing to create a single chance between them. Nathan Redmond was the only player who looked vaguely interested in attempting anything exciting - though that mostly consisted of cutting inside and unleashing a wild drive when he realised that the rest of his teammates were standing in a line to his right. Nobody got close enough to Van Wolfswinkel, who showed with his total of 12 touches against Everton last week that he is essentially a finisher. He looked isolated because he was isolated.
Even when Hull had a man sent off, Norwich looked no closer to scoring. They resorted to long-range shots because they lacked the guile to break down Hull's two stubborn banks of four. Snodgrass, Hoolahan and new signing Johan Elmander were eventually on the pitch and still the Canaries created only one clear-cut chance which forced Hull keeper Allan McGregor into a terrific save.
Norwich are not the first and they will not be the last side to fail against ten men, especially when those ten men are incredibly well organised in pursuit of what is likely to be a rare Premier League win. It is not their eventual failure that is so disappointing, but rather their negative approach to what should have been a very winnable game.
Hull boss Steve Bruce talked in glowing terms about Norwich in the run-up to this match - citing their two-year top-flight stay and increased ambition as a model to be followed at the KC Stadium. The problem on Saturday was that Hughton approached the game as if they were equals.