A City expects

PUBLISHED: 10:55 05 August 2006 | UPDATED: 09:33 14 September 2010

CHRIS LAKEY

Nigel Worthington reaches one of the most crucial points of his five-and-a-half year reign as Norwich City manager this afternoon. The Canaries manager sends his team out at the cauldron that is Elland Road knowing that victory could provide City with the perfect platform for one of the most difficult Championship challenges ever - while defeat could be just the first grasp of a slippery pole to mid-table obscurity.

By CHRIS LAKEY

Nigel Worthington reaches one of the most crucial points of his five-and-a-half year reign as Norwich City manager this afternoon.

The Canaries manager sends his team out at the cauldron that is Elland Road knowing that victory could provide City with the perfect platform for one of the most difficult Championship challenges ever - while defeat could be just the first grasp of a slippery pole to mid-table obscurity.

The fans won't stand for another season of mediocrity that provoked almost unprecedented scenes of unrest among City's divided fans - and the bookies are well aware of the unrest, quoting Worthington as fourth favourite, at 9-1, to be the first Championship boss to be axed this season.

But spare a thought for his opposite number this afternoon, Kevin Blackwell who, according to Sky Bet, is 9-2 favourite to be first to collect his P45.

Clearly, neither manager can afford to slip up, but Norwich have plenty of room for improvement, and go into the game on the back of a good pre-season, with an almost fully-fit squad and armfuls of guarded optimism.

The doubting Thomases will point to a year ago when City opened their campaign with three homes games - against Coventry, Crewe and Crystal Palace - and managed to rustle up the grand total of just three points.

It became a benchmark for the season ahead - and a war cry for the current campaign.

“It is always important to get off to a good start so that you are not playing catch-up and last year I think the three home games at the start of the season, when people were expecting nine points out of nine, seven out of nine and we finished up with three points, it was disappointment straight away and that doesn't help the situation,” said Worthington. “So we have got Leeds away, Preston at home and Luton at home, all games you are capable of getting points out of - hard games, but that's the league we are in.”

Worthington has enthused about City's build-up to the season, with only a home defeat by Premiership Newcastle blotting the copybook. Now the proof will be in front of 30,000-plus fans at Elland Road, the majority of them baying for City's scalp.

“We are in good shape, it will be a good contest,” said Worthington. “I think it is a great game for the opener of the season and I am looking forward to it very much. If we can go there and perform how we have in training and work how we have worked in training, we can do well.”

Another portent is the way City performed at the same ground last season when, having led 2-1 and looking good value for three points, they were denied by a 90th-minute equaliser.

“That type of performance, the second half performance over the course of 90 minutes, would be very, very pleasing, very good,” said Worthington. “If we can go and do that again for the duration, that would be good, you'd come out of Elland Road with a good result.

“The crowd will be big, they will be up for it - first day of the season, players will be up for it and we have got to make sure we are ready.

“We are very focussed on ourselves and what we do and hopefully we can go about our business and do a good job.”

If one of the managers fail, the axe will just get sharper.

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