At the beginning of the season when all the focus was on the bigger clubs and their chances of promotion, Novara prepared themselves for their first season in Serie B in 33 years. Having won the Serie C1 championship, finishing nine points clear of Cremonese, it was a huge achievement for a club that had languished in the lower divisions of Italian football for what their supporters must have felt was a lifetime.
The city of Novara lies in north-west Italy and is the capital of the province of Novara in Piedmont. The club was formed in 1908 and has had some experience of Serie A, although you have to go back to the 1955/56 season to have witnessed this.
The Stadio Silvio Piola holds a modest 8,810 supporters and is named after Silvio Piola, the highest goalscorer in Serie A history. He netted 274 times in 537 appearances between 1930 and 1954 for Pro Vercelli, Lazio, Torino, Juventus and finally Novara, where he ended his career. He also scored 30 goals in 34 matches for the national team, helping the Azzuri to win the 1938 World Cup.
The days that Novara could boast such a player are long gone but their proud past never lies too far away in the minds of the fans. The club now has its own star name in ex-Inter player Nicola Ventola, who is the most recognisable man on the books, whilst this season Argentine Pablo Andres Gonzalez is the man on the scoring charts.
Novara, coached by Attilio Tessa, started the campaign away at Padova and early fears that they would struggle in this division seemed to bear fruit when on only nine minutes Davide Succi headed the home side in front. However, Novara showed fight and on 24 minutes they earned themselves a penalty which was coolly stroked in by Simone Motta. A 1-1 draw away from home was a good result and their supporters could travel home happy.
Next up was a home game against Triestina, another match they were expected to lose. However, Gonzalez and Cristian Bertani were the heroes for Novara as their goals secured a fine victory in front of their adoring fans at the Stadio Silvio Piola.
Week three saw a tough trip to the Pier Cesare Tombolato to face Cittadella. Against the run of play it was the away side who took the lead with a superb half-volley from Gonzalez. Once again little Novara had taken the game to the opposition and managed to stun their opponents.
The home side then won a penalty for shirt-pulling in the 62nd minute and Tommaso Bellazzini stepped up but his spot kick was superbly saved by former Torino goalkeeper Alberto Maria Fontana. Novara must have been in wonderland at this point but it was to get even better when on 73 minutes Bertani picked up the ball from deep and embarked on a spectacularly mazy run that culminated with an ice-cool finish, prompting wild celebrations, although Cittadella goalkeeper Andrea Pierobon should have done better.
This stylish 2-0 victory means seven points on the board already and it takes Novara to second in the table. Although still very early in the season there are many positives about their performances. In Gonzales and Bertani they have vital match-winners, and at the other end a defence which has already kept two clean sheets. Goalkeeper Fontana is on form and they have taken four points on the road.
However, a big test awaits this weekend in the form of a home clash with local rivals Torino. i Granata lie surprisingly at the bottom of the table but remain a hot tip for promotion this season. A victory here would fill the Novara players and fans alike with floods of confidence and add even more points on the board.
It’s early days and despite a strong start Novara’s fans aren’t likely to get carried away just yet. Promotion to Serie A is a pipe dream and for now the club’s priority is to enjoy every point and acknowledge that consolidation remains the goal. Nevertheless, as long as the feel-good factor remains in the camp, “surprise package” may soon become a welcome label.