David Freezer: A fresh start at Carrow Road is vital for City – on and off the pitch
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Home form was the Achilles heel of Daniel Farke’s first season in charge of City but his team have an ideal opportunity to make a statement of intent this afternoon.
West Brom’s visit – fresh from eight years in the Premier League – neatly reflects last season’s home game against Sunderland, who had also just slipped back to the Championship.
You won’t need reminding that game finished in a deflating 3-1 defeat with Lewis Grabban coming back to haunt Canaries fans with two goals.
Amid the excitement of seeing the Farke era kick-off, that flat performance – against a team which eventually went on to be relegated – became symptomatic of sorry home form.
A return of 32 points at Carrow Road – winning eight and drawing eight – was the lowest total from a second tier season since the relegation campaign of 2008-09.
Today brings the first home game since that emotional farewell for Wes Hoolahan, all the way back on April 28. The Irishman’s destiny-driven deflection that afternoon is the one that will be remembered but the winner during the 2-1 victory over Leeds was important.
Josh Murphy’s goal made it a paltry 25 home goals for the entirety of Farke’s first season, narrowly avoiding matching an unwanted club record of the fewest home goals in a second-tier campaign, of 24 scored during 1968-69 – although that was across 21 games rather than 23.
There is absolutely no doubt that has to improve and both Farke and Stuart Webber have not hidden from that fact in interviews already.
There were four 0-0 draws at home, as many as there had been in the last five seasons at this level for the club. If this new-look squad are to truly get the Canaries faithful behind them, victory over the Baggies would be an ideal starting point.
We are talking about a home crowd among the most loyal in the country, consistently filling the stadium. Keep them happy on a more regular basis and Farke will find the pressure eases on him significantly.
For all the talk of transition and the books being balanced, it is ensuring that 25,000 fans can turn up with a belief in their team that will matter so much – with three home games this month, four if you count Tuesday’s cup game against Stevenage.
Talking of Carrow Road matters, I enjoyed flicking through the results of City’s fan survey which were published this week.
Among the questions asked were issues surrounding safe standing and a singing section, both of which seem good ideas to me and which most clubs in the country are now keen on.
That was reflected in the results – from just under 2,500 people who took part – when a chunky majority of 81 percent said they would support safe standing and 61pc backed a singing section.
However, I couldn’t help laughing at the response to the follow-up questions on both subjects.
Would you like to move to the safe standing area? No, said the majority (43pc). Not sure, said another 19pc.
Would you like to move to the singing section? No, said the majority (48pc). Not sure said another 24pc.
As a proud Norfolk boy who has been going to Carrow Road most of my (almost) 32 years on this planet, those unsurprising responses brought a smile to my face.
‘Safe standing? Singing section? That’s a great idea. I’ve been sitting in my seat for 20 years though, I’m not moving!’
Anything to improve the atmosphere has to be welcomed, with Stuart Webber telling us last week that City intend to attack the Barclay in the second half from now on to ensure supporters can help drive the team over the finishing line.
While that may not be especially welcome news for those in the River End, if it can help find a 1pc marginal gain for Farke’s team in the pursuit of better home form then it’s got to be worth a try.
In a similar vein, well done to Along Come Norwich and Barclay End Norwich for organising another friendly fan march ahead of today’s match.
Kicking off from near the Queen of the Iceni on Riverside at 2.15pm, it’s sure to add an extra bit of buzz to this first home game of the campaign.
The march held ahead of the Ipswich game earlier this year was certainly a success, so it’s great to see Canaries supporters doing all they can to give the team their backing.
My City team for today (3-5-2): Krul; Hanley, Zimmermann, Klose; Marshall, Leitner, Trybull, McLean, Stiepermann; Hernandez, Rhodes
Run Norwich was once again a huge success on the streets of the Fine City.
You may remember from last week’s column that colleague Michael Bailey and I faced a dash back from Birmingham, fuelling up with some glamorous service station pasta on route, to get some sleep and be at the start line for 9.30am on Sunday.
Despite having hamstrings tighter than Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and the ankles of former Canaries striker Dean Ashton, I managed to knock a minute off my course PB.
While 57.39 minutes for a 10K may not be particularly fast, joining in with over 5,500 runners on the streets of your home city is a great feeling.
I also had a nice little motivator from City defender Russell Martin ahead of he and Wes Hoolahan starting the race, letting me know he’d be giving me ‘marks out of 10’ with a mischievous smile on behalf of Canaries players past and present.
Of course, being the all-round nice guy Russ is, he also finished with a ‘good luck’ to send me on my way.
Shack is back
Canaries academy product Jason Shackell is still going strong at the age of 34 and has just pitched up in League Two with Lincoln City.
The centre-back joins two fellow City youth players at Sincil Bank, with Harry Toffolo having signed this summer to joins fellow left-back Sam Habergham in the Imps squad.
Shackell can go down as one of the big success stories of the Norwich academy, with 484 senior appearances in English football to his name, signing a one-year deal as his 35th birthday approaches in September.
While 145 of those were for City, across two spells, it will be the first time Shackell has played lower than the second tier having played for clubs including Derby and Burnley.
“I think this is the right move for me,” he said. “I’ve always played Championship or higher, but this club has been quite successful in the last few years.”
With his 500th career game approaching, he can already reflect on a fine career as a Football League regular.