Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City's Championship fixtures
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Stuart Webber wants Canaries' fans to look forward following James Maddison's sale - Paddy Davitt picks out some key signposts following Thursday's release of the Championship fixtures.
1. Tasty. Very tasty - There is nothing like a nearly East Anglian derby duel to whet the appetite for the new season. We know the numbers. Norwich have dominated this fixture for nearly a decade.
Ten games and counting since the Blues could claim the bragging rights. Although the last meeting at Carrow Road was far too close for comfort.
Timm Klose’s thumping stoppage time header shook the stadium to its foundations after Luke Chambers looked to have won it for Mick McCarthy’s men in the 89th minute.
Mick is gone and in his place is a highly-rated, ambitious young operator in Paul Hurst.
The times they are a changin but will Hurst be able to have an immediate impact by the time Norwich pitch up at Portman Road on the weekend of September 1?
One thing is for sure, those home fans will be bang up for it as much as a set of players who must be sick of being reminded they have been second best too often. Daniel Farke’s troops better prepare for an onslaught.
2. Running jump? - You play them all twice at some point, as the old cliche goes. True, but the value of a fast start to harness both momentum and build optimism should not be under-estimated.
Farke was responsible for something of a sluggish bow first time around. That getting-to-know-you phase was both painful and uncomfortable but hardly unexpected for a head coach new to the English game and a radically different squad to the one that finished the previous campaign.
That will not wash this time around. The first five fixtures look anything but easy. Birmingham is always a difficult place to perform and Garry Monk will be keen to set the right tone at St Andrews.
Recently relegated West Brom will rightly be expected to compete at the right end of the table, while Sheffield United and Preston carry their own intriguing sub-plots.
Throw in a Leeds under the stewardship of Marcelo Bielsa and it would take a brave fan to predict the points hauls from that first five.
3. Ring this date - Saturday, November 3. A trip to Hillsborough. Not to put too fine a point on it, Norwich’s last two Championship visits to Sheffield Wednesday have proved chastening affairs.
Two 5-1 hammerings, embarrassing back passes, diabolical defending, Cameron Jerome’s no hld barred post-match barbs and the sight of James Maddison on crutches waving goodbye to the travelling fans.
No, its not been a happy hunting ground it is fair to say but a new day dawns in early November. The Owls appear to be having to adjust to the same financial reality as many in the second tier. City are certainly due a favourable visit.
4. Festive cheer - Home games against Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day and Derby County work well for Norwich’s players and fan base.
No early morning departures, no overnight stays in hotels for the squad and the chance to bank a six-point haul to set the Canaries up for a New Year’s Day trip to Brentford and a positive start to 2019.
That is the theory. Whether it actually pans out, only time will tell. Both East Midlands clubs are making enough noises this summer to suggest they aim to be fighting it out at the right end of the standings.
Frank Lampard’s arrival at Derby has certainly grabbed plenty of headlines and it’s always nice to catch up with Bradley Johnson, but you trust City will be in miserly mood.
5. Cast your bets - If predicting the outcome of games is a fraught business, have a go at where Norwich and Aston Villa might be when they meet on the final day of the regular season at Villa Park on May 5.
Villa’s reported financial woes make it impossible to predict what lies ahead on the pitch for the Claret and Blues. City have steadied that particular ship in far more measured fashion over the past 12 months and three transfer windows.
Maddison’s club record move, following on from the departures of both Josh Murphy and Marley Watkins, ensure there is no prospect of a financial meltdown at Carrow Road. But we await how creative Webber and Farke will be in terms of incomings.
That will dicate whether City pitch up in the Midlands in 11 months or so with something to play for on the final day rather than mid-table obscurity. Do not even think about anything worse. Pessimists, nothing to see here.