Ian Clarke: International break must be used wisely again by Daniel Farke
I normally dislike international breaks.
As I’m more of a club over country man than I’ve ever been, I miss weeks when we don’t have our fix of domestic action.
Friendlies between nations tend to be meaningless and dull. There’s a depressingly familiar pattern for England of gliding through World Cup and Euro qualifiers to reach the knockout tournaments, where we get over-excited before the inevitable deflation of being bundled out.
This time around, there is at least the attraction of seeing how Angus Gunn and James Maddison get on with England’s Young Lions while we can also cheer Wes and Michael McGovern in their World Cup play-offs.
However, far more than what we can get out of the international matches is the benefit this down time could have for the Canaries after a brutal period of the season.
After the high of the derby win at Portman Road and the plucky exit at Emirates which was such a great night for the yellow and green army, the optimism has been dripping away.
Three straight defeats has been our worst run in the league of the campaign. The traits of confidence, assuredness and solidity have been replaced by tiredness, fragility and bluntness up front.
It’s not long ago that I thought that the Championship table was very bunched and City were well and truly in the mix.
A lot has changed in the last two weeks.
All of a sudden Norwich are in the 13th place, 13 points behind Wolves.
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I was so impressed with the Midlanders when they won at Carrow Road. They were as complete a Championship outfit as I’ve seen for a long time. They were strong, organised, cohesive, clinical and ruthless.
Anyone who finishes above them will be in the top flight next year.
Sheffield United, Cardiff and Bristol City are also pulling away a bit. They are unlikely to all keep up that upward mobility, but have momentum heading in to the break.
The fact is that City are still only four points from the play-offs.
If Daniel Farke’s men can get back on a decent run when the action resumes, we can still dream. Overall I still have plenty of hope about the future for City.
My main concern is the current squad’s ability to cope with the relentless nature of the Championship.
From the Barnsley game on Saturday week to new year’s day, Norwich have 10 games, including four over the festive period.
This is the last break of any real note that the players - apart from those five on international duty - have this season.
Farke has so much to think about and put into place in those nine days.
The obvious one is ending the losing streak. Arsenal was seen as a brave loss, Derby was a result of tiredness, Wolves was due being outclassed and Bolton was down to slipping back to bad old ways.
Somehow the head coach has to work a positive result and reverse the cycle.
I know the argument about it not really being important about whether points come home or away but City simply have to start performing at Carrow Road. Two wins from eight games at NR1 and only six goals scored is simply not good enough. The vast majority of supporters only see home games and they have to be served better.
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We need to see tempo, more creativity and plans B and C when teams park the bus.
Everyone needs to take their responsibility for scoring goals. But it has to be the primary job of our strikers.
Cameron Jerome has had a great career and the fact he’s netted in one of the top two divisions for the last 13 years is impressive.
However, he now looks well past his best to me. The body language as well as the stats this year say so much.
I’m also worried about Nelson Oliveira.
If the Portuguese dentist can work his magic and get to the bottom of the striker’s underlying problem, that will be massive. An in-form Oliveira will give City just the tonic they need.
On a medical front, I can’t stress how key it is for Alex Tetty and Alex Pritchard to be back. There’s an old saying about not knowing how important someone is until they’re not there and that is so apt with that duo.
Think about a City team with Tettey and Tom Trybull in front of a refreshed backline, with Pritchard and Maddison and a fit and firing Oliveira.
That side is certainly good enough to compete with the best in this league.
So much will depend on what happens in these coming days when a ball isn’t kicked in anger. OTBC.
Support must never be taken for granted
My wife and I are in the middle of having a big clear out in our house.
We’re not moving - but we’re sorting as if we’re going to.
The loft - which at one point even Wes Hoolahan would have had trouble getting through - is now as empty as Portman Road on a match day.
We’ve become regulars at our local tip and so much clutter we’ve hoarded for years has gone. One of the enjoyable parts of the long process has been to go through box after box of Canary memorabilia.
Old shirts, scarves, flags, programmes, newspaper cuttings, magazines...40 years’ worth in boxes (and fear not they have been preserved!)
I love looking back at City memories and it reminds me of the amazing rollercoaster of being a football fan.
One really striking thing is to look at attendances during the glory days when we were flying high in the top flight and in Europe (when at times there were as few as 15,000 inside the ground) compared with now.
The loyalty is incredible and the top brass must never forget it.
All the best Alan
I’d like to wish Alan Irvine all the very best if, as expected, he is named assistant manager at West Ham.
It’s only a few months since the 59-year-old Scot left Carrow Road and he is now set to get back in football as part of David Moyes’ management team.
The duo worked together at Preston and are reunited at the London Stadium.
They certainly have a tough job in store. The Hammers are really struggling and find themselves in the Premier League relegation zone.
It was inevitable that Slavan Bilic was going to leave. Moyes has certainly not been universally welcomed by West Ham fans as his recent management record is so poor.
He can certainly call on Irvine’s vast experience and he impressed City fans during his time here.
Irvine struck me as a really decent guy who knows football backwards, is an excellent coach and has huge respect from players.
Football doesn’t always treat good blokes well. I hope that will be different for Irvine.