Opening-day bother isn't always such a bad thing for the Canaries
PUBLISHED: 09:08 03 August 2018 | UPDATED: 09:09 03 August 2018
Today is like Christmas Eve for football fans, the day before the big day, as club football returns centre stage across the country.
Admittedly this season there may not be quite as much excitement, given the World Cup finished less than three weeks ago, but the slow burn of pre-season ensures everyone is up for the opening day.
It’s a time when optimism can run wild, when dreams of success in nine months’ time can add to the excitement and as Norwich City supporters know all too well, it can have a huge bearing on the rest of the campaign.
In the past decade the Canaries have taken just six points from a possible 30, a fairly miserable record.
Of course, each campaign brings a new set of players and in that time City have also had six different managers, so it’s unlikely to have a knock-on effect year after year. Yet there is something about Norwich City and opening days.
Yes, I’ve managed to get this far without mentioning it: the 7-1 horror show against Colchester in 2009.
It’s a day that will never be forgotten. All the hope after an unbeaten pre-season under Bryan Gunn sapped in a shocking Carrow Road performance which resulted in two ‘fans’ running on the pitch and throwing their season tickets in the club legend’s direction.
We all know what happened next, Paul Lambert’s revolution leading the club on back-to-back promotions to the Premier League with Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan at its forefront.
That Michael Theoklitos nightmare goes to show that the first fixture of the season does not make or break a campaign. In the Championship there are another 45 games in which to fix things.
The following season showed that again. A televised Friday night 3-2 loss to Watford didn’t prevent Lambert’s squad from going on to Championship promotion.
Likewise, the 5-0 thrashing at Fulham on the opening day of the 2012 Premier League season didn’t stop Chris Hughton leading City to 11 in the top flight, the club’s highest finish since 1993.
The Canaries often seem to be in the thick of the opening-day drama one way or another though.
In 2013 big-money new signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel rose highest to head home an equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Carrow Road in the Premier League. It turned out to be the Ducth striker’s only league goal and it emerged that Elliot Bennett had suffered a serious knee injury which ruled him out for the season.
The following year it was Martin Olsson being sent off by Simon Hooper – remember him – during a 1-0 Championship loss at Wolves. The left-back pushed the official after being shown his second yellow card and earned himself a further three-game ban.
Back in the Premier League and it was that man Hooper again in 2015, controversially ruling out a Cameron Jerome overhead kick which would have brought City level at Carrow Road having been 2-0 down, in a 3-1 loss.
The shining beacon among the opening-day gloom of the last decade came at Blackburn in 2016, when a Jacob Murphy bullet lit up a 4-1 victory.
This time it’s Birmingham, a team the Canaries have played just once before on the first day of a season – and if you like good omens, it was a 2-1 victory at St Andrew’s in the second tier in 1968, 50 years ago.
The best opening-day game has to be from 1992 though, when Mike Walker’s team roared back from 2-0 down with four goals inside 14 second-half minutes at Arsenal, to grab the spotlight on the very first day of the Premier League era.
That season worked out rather well, so while the first game can provide cause to reassess, it can also set the tone for what’s to come when things do go well.
It’s time to get some answers.
Norwich will finish: 10th – Closer to the play-off mix, hopefully
Key player: Jordan Rhodes – City clearly need a regular goal-scorer
Stoke City, with Derby runners-up
Play-offs: Middlesbrough, Forest, West Brom, Bristol City
OPENING DAYS – THE LAST 10 YEARS
2017 D1-1 Fulham (a)
2016 W4-1 Blackburn (a)
2015 L3-1 C Palace (h)
2014 L1-0 Wolves (a)
2013 D2-2 Everton (h)
2012 L5-0 Fulham (a)
2011 D1-1 Wigan (a)
2010 L3-2 Watford (h)
2009 L7-1 Colchester Utd (h)
2008 L2-0 Coventry (a)
P10 W1 D3 L6 F12 A26 Pts6