He was fired by Aston Villa, cycled round Central Park, visited the Empire State Building, took a look at the Statue of Liberty, 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 at Carrow Road. The statistics said Norwich had lost their last 33 Premier League matches in which they conceded the opening goal.
Dean Smith started his tenure at Carrow Road with a precious win against Southampton
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, after all.
‘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.
Norwich captain Grant Hanley scored the winner as the Canaries came from behind to beat Southampton 2-1 at Carrow Road
Che Adams put Southampton ahead with his second goal in three Premier League games
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Norwich (4-3-3): Krul 7; Aarons 7, Hanley 7, Gibson 7, Williams 7; Gilmour 8 (Rupp 87), Normann 7, McLean 7; Rashica 7 (Tzolis 90), Pukki 7.5, Cantwell 6 (Sargent 45, 7)
Subs not used: Gunn, Placheta, Lees-Melou, Giannoulis, Idah, Omobamidele
Scorers: Pukki (7)
Booked: Williams, Krul, Normann
Manager: Dean Smith 7
Southampton (4-4-2): McCarthy 5; Livramento 6.5, Salisu 6, Bednarek 6, Walker-Peters 6.5; Diallo 6, Ward-Prowse 6, Romeu 6 (Lyanco 73, 6), Elyounoussi 6 (Broja 57, 6); Armstrong 6, Adams 6 (Walcott 62, 6)
Subs not used: Forster, Long, Perraud, Smallbone, Tella, Valery
Scorers: Adams (4)
Booked: Bednarek, Walker-Peters
Manager: Ralph Hasenhuttl 6
Referee: Martin Atkinson 6
Yet this time, Smith got a response out of his side, with Ralph Hasenhuttl left annoyed at his 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, and so did Hasenhuttl in his three-piece pinstripe suit, but Smith didn’t. He held back in the tunnel, awaiting his introduction. ‘Canary fans,’ the announcer shouted from the speakers, ‘please welcome our new coach.’
Smith received a rousing ovation from his new support. Smiles were wiped from faces in the fourth minute, however, when Adams opened the scoring for Southampton.
The ball was under Adams’ 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 then the smiles were brought back. In the seventh minute, Max Aarons crossed to the near post. Pukki met it and, making a mockery of the acute angle, headed past Alex McCarthy.
Norwich were back in it, but Southampton were the ones on top. James Ward-Prowse had a go, as did Mohamed Elyounoussi and a few others. It was like watching target practice, with Smith soon learning why his new side rank so high in the Premier League’s shots faced table.
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 Mohamed Salisu. It meant Smith’s side were spending most of this match out of possession.
Teemu Pukki scored his fourth Premier League goal of the season to draw Norwich level
The Finnish striker has now scored in two consecutive Premier League games
As half time approached, the shot count read one for Norwich – the one they’d scored – and 10 for Southampton. Their 11th arrived when Hanley carelessly lost possession. Adams unleashed, but Krul superbly stopped him from making it 2-1 with an outstretched right hand.
It remained 1-1 at the break, but Southampton could have had three or four goals. Smith knew that, too, and so replaced Todd Cantwell with Joshua Sargent for the second half.
It gave Norwich a greater presence in the final third, as Milot Rashica tested McCarthy after a nice turn on the ball then Sargent saw another chance deflect wide. Suddenly they were shooting and it was Southampton who couldn’t get out of their own half.
In the 76th minute, a counter-attack led by Pukki ended with McCarthy having to push his effort wide. In the 79th, Carrow Road erupted. Gilmour took a corner from the left, and Hanley headed home, making it 2-1.
Smith was on the verge of becoming the first Norwich manager to win his opening Premier League game since Mike Walker in 1992. Southampton wanted to spoil the party, of course, and Theo Walcott should have done just when directing a free header goalward.
Thankfully for Smith, he missed the target, and Norwich were winners. They’re off the bottom of the table and are looking up rather than down under their new boss.