Norwich City Championship fixtures 2017-18: Five things we learned from Canaries’ schedule
PUBLISHED: 15:51 21 June 2017 | UPDATED: 11:15 26 June 2017
It may be a case of playing every club twice but things are never so straightforward – MICHAEL BAILEY points to five things we have learned now we know Norwich City’s order of Championship play next season.
1 – It’s all about the ghosts of Fulham past
So what will Chris Hughton, Neil Adams and Daniel Farke all have in common come August 6? That’s right – their spells in charge of Norwich City will have started at Craven Cottage. It’s a remarkable coincidence that has afflicted three of the Canaries’ four most recent appointments – and especially given the fact City haven’t won at Fulham since 1986.
It offers a handy dial-down on any pre-season expectations getting out of hand, as City fans know full well what it’s been like in west London recently: the 6-0 Premier League relegation humiliation of 2005; Hughton’s 5-0 Premier League opening day stuffing in his first game in charge; even the second-half collapse last season that shook Alex Neil’s reign to the core.
Mind you, if Farke can avoid any of City’s usual Craven Cottage pitfalls – never mind actually win there – then City fans will find themselves buying into his project pretty quickly.
2 – The computer has really excelled this time
Ah yes, the Tuesday-Saturday rigours of a Championship season. Well in actual fact, it’s eight proper midweek league games over the course of the campaign – and they are indeed split evenly between home and away.
Coming to Carrow Road between working days will be the supporters of QPR, Burton, Wolves and Nottingham Forest – all of whom will no doubt feel they’ve been handed a long old poke, but that’s just because most other places will feel closer.
Norwich fans also have to make the return trips to Forest and Wolves in midweek, so there will be some solidarity.
Yet with the freedom to choose between City’s other 21 opponents for their remaining two midweek away trips, the EFL fixture computer plucked out Middlesbrough and Sunderland. Only Cardiff is a longer trip than to the Stadium of Light, with only Preston and Bristol City further away than Riverside Stadium.
It may be that clubs and the EFL want derbies and well-attended games on Saturdays to maximise attendances and revenues.
In that case, it’s the fans who get screwed over with such carefully selected midweek trips.
3 – A little longer to wait for derby delight
In the last two seasons East Anglia’s great rivals have shared a division, it’s all come a little too soon.
Maybe it was the lukewarm atmosphere at Portman Road or the malaise that Town are still having to fob off, but a first derby date scheduled for August tended to leave a blunt encounter.
Not that it stopped City from avoiding defeat – and in the first of those two clashes, picking up a routine 1-0 win.
This time around, the two sides meet for the first time in late October, when you would expect both will have a good gauge on how their respective campaigns are shaping up.
It goes without saying the Canaries continue to have the upper hand in recent derby duels, although the two 1-1 draws last season were much more a case of honours even.
Norwich’s task this term will be to return to their superiority, rather than look back and see last year as the start of a downward trend.
4 – It’s a REALLY busy festive period
Daniel Farke made the point of it as early as in his first press conference as Norwich City’s new head coach – that Christmas was going to be a little different being in charge of an English football club.
Well, the fixture list certainly won’t have disappointed him.
Brentford’s arrival at Carrow Road on Saturday, December 23 will signal the start of four games in the space of 10 days.
The Bees’ visit is followed by a Boxing Day trip to Birmingham and another stop off at Burton, before Millwall ring in 2018 at City on New Year’s Day.
At least the FA Cup third round offers some post-festive period respite come the following weekend – at which point we will see how seriously Farke plans to treat his first foray into the world’s greatest domestic cup competition.
5 – March could be when the magic happens
The ebb and flow of the fixture list can look exactly the same when they are released, compared to when you actually reach the point in the schedule you were looking at.
But of course, it can also look completely different once the shape of particular clubs’ seasons start to become clear.
However with the fixture list still fresh on our desks, it’s March that stick out.
With derby spoils recently dealt with for another season, City will travel to Oakwell – where they found the going particularly tough last season – and then host a Nottingham Forest side that by this point, will hope Mark Warburton is working his Brentford magic so they avoid repeating their recent calamitous campaigns.
After that it’s a trip to recently relegated Hull and successive visits from last season’s play-off finalists Reading and play-off semi-finalists Fulham.
Things may not be so straightforward but if City are involved in the promotion shake-up heading into March, it promises to be a make or break month – at least until April and the start of the run-in.
Oh OK, one more. Old habits die hard and all that: 6 – It could be a kind run-in
Sure, everyone has to play each other twice – home and away. So none of this really matters. Only, that’s not really true. Nor should it be treated as such.
In a time where sport pays more and more attention to the smallest of marginal gains, ignoring the nuances of how demanding a fixture list is from fortnight to fortnight only puts your side at a disadvantage.
And of course, one of those key periods is the run-in. Effectively the sole reason for the timing of Chris Hughton’s sacking back in 2014.
City’s final seven games of the campaign, starting with April, aren’t the easiest. Taking points off likely promotion rivals in Aston Villa and Leeds United, plus a rejuvenated Cardiff under Neil Warnock, at Carrow Road look like tricky little obstacles in City’s way if they are already stumbling.
Likewise road trips to Loftus Road, the Stadium of Light, Deepdale and Hillsborough will test the Canaries’ resolve to the core.
City’s 5-1 defeat at Wednesday last season was as low as it got. Sitting here almost 12 months ahead of the date, there is at least a tasty carrot dangling in front of everyone to sign off in style by putting that one wrong right.