Norwich City enter the break for the World Cup in the hunt for the automatic promotions places, but everyone will have the feeling that there is more to come from this current group. 

For all the criticism that Dean Smith has absorbed during the first portion of the season, he has acknowledged that point. Norwich are nowhere near reaching their potential. 

Yet, regardless of what happens against Middlesbrough on Saturday, they will be positioned in amongst the chasing pack in a Championship that is more compact than ever. 

Considering the disastrous Premier League campaign last year and subsequent fall-out, I think Smith and the powers that be will reflect on that positively whilst recognising improvement still needs to happen.  

At the start of this season, I felt that securing a play-off place was the most realistic outcome for this Norwich team given the events of last season. 

But the Championship has been played at a lower standard compared to other years and no side is yet to really grasp it - even though Burnley have threatened to on occasion. 

Vincent Kompany's men are the closest to doing that. They have played the most attractive brand of football in the division. Blackburn, who either win or lose, could be up there. Jon Dahl Tomasson has done a really good job but their season could hinge on whether they are able to hold onto Ben Brereton Diaz. 

Sheffield United are going to be up there. QPR under Michael Beale have done well but are beginning to slip somewhat. Watford are a team who will challenge for the automatics. 

After that, the league is much of a muchness. That should be viewed as an opportunity for Norwich to take. If I was sitting in that dressing room, that is how I would be viewing this situation. 

Norwich will have to source answers to their problems if they are to find extra gears after the break. 

Underpinning all that frustration that so many supporters are feeling is the fact we all feel there is so much more to come from them. 

It is yet to really click in the final third and Smith is still attempting to find his best options to improve the creativity in the team. 

Saturday's win at Rotherham felt like the conundrum of whether Josh Sargent and Teemu Pukki can play together in a front two moved one step closer to being answered, but consistently, Norwich have struggled to be a cohesive attacking unit. 

They've also had to contend with bad injuries, namely at left-back where they have been forced to improvise through Kenny McLean at times in that position, and with Isaac Hayden being sidelined, who is beginning to show his importance. 

There is overcoming the challenge of getting relegated in the manner they did - because confidence was fragile and turning that around was always going to be a slow burner, even if some fans feel the progress hasn't happened quickly enough. 

All of those elements have played a part in why the start maybe hasn't been at the level many would expect given this group's quality. They still aren't quite there, but the last three performances have shown signs of improvement. 

Twenty minutes of the Stoke game was very encouraging, they should have beaten a promotion rival in QPR and Saturday's win at Rotherham was dogged in testing circumstances. 

That is where I currently find myself on Norwich City - things could, and perhaps should, be much better, but it has been far from a disaster. 

There is still an undercurrent from supporters of waiting to pounce every time there is some adversity, or the team picks up a bad result - I'm really against that. It's so unhelpful for everybody. 

This break offers a chance for everybody to take a breath and assess the situation from a more rational position. 

Yet, it does feel like the mood over the break will be dictated by the next result. If Norwich beat Middlesbrough, there will be a calmness, positivity and a willingness to wait to see what happens until after the break.

A defeat will only see the negative emotions coming back to the fore. Questions over Smith's future will resurface and negativity that has subsided in the last week will return and linger over the hiatus. 

Supporters are emotionally involved at every club and are always entitled to their opinions but in football, and at all clubs, everything is always black or white and nothing is ever grey. 

There have been some really positive performances this season and there have been some pretty woeful ones as well. 

If Smith can resolve their creativity and that clicks, then Norwich will go to another level. 

Their squad depth is frightening for the Championship and, slowly, things will vastly improve. 

Even in that position, where everyone feels there is still so much more to come - including Smith - for them to be in the mix for automatic promotion should be viewed as a positive thing. 

In recent seasons, we've seen teams who get relegated from the Premier League dramatically fall away - that hasn't happened to Norwich. But that doesn't constitute a resounding success either. 

Smith now has a period that will feel like another pre-season with the full squad, with the exception of Sargent who looks like he will get a USA call-up, to work with his group on the training pitch. The schedule hasn't allowed him to do that up to this point. 

Norwich fans will want to see a more consistent level of performance and an improved style of play after the break as well. 

Players like Adam Idah and Andrew Omobamidele will return. Hayden will be much fitter. There should be real reasons for optimism. 

Now it gets serious. After the break, we are entering the period that really matters with Norwich having a tough run of fixtures to navigate. They will need to come back firing - but the current position is a secure one. 

The Pink Un: Gabriel Sara has made a positive impression since joining Norwich City.Gabriel Sara has made a positive impression since joining Norwich City. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited)


Beyond a major error on Saturday, Gabriel Sara's performance was much-improved and represented a step forward. 

Whenever you sign for a new club from any part of the world, it doesn't help when you arrive with an injury to overcome. 

In essence, you are then combining your recovery with your acclimatisation period. That's hard enough without then adding a language barrier into the mix as well. 

It naturally takes time to get up to speed with a new country and a new division so it won't have helped that those extra barriers were put in his way. That was always bound to lead to some inconsistency in the first phase of his Norwich career. 

I always felt that fitness was massive to my game. I wasn't the best athlete but if I had my fitness to a high level, then that used to give me great strength and confidence going into games. 

That will be the same for Sara and it will only improve the more game time he is given. 

Transitioning from Brazil to Norfolk was always going to take time and a degree of patience. Dean Smith has adopted a cautious approach in how he has managed him so far this season. 

There is plenty to like about Sara's game - the timing of his runs and awareness of where a cross is going to drop is really impressive. 

He injected a real thrust into Norwich's attacking efforts on Saturday. The misplaced pass that led to the equaliser served as a reminder of how much work he has left to complete. 

But he is beginning to look like the player that Norwich fans thought they had signed.

They spent a significant sum on him and there are signs that this signing may be one that is successful. 

Given the issues they have had in the final third, he will give them a different option. Norwich already have some great players in those areas; Todd Cantwell, Kieran Dowell and Aaron Ramsey to name but three. 

If Sara continues on the trajectory he is currently on - then he can establish himself into a major player for them this season. 

He may well be the difference between Norwich going up automatically or being left to settle for a playoff spot.