No quarter given as friends are reunited
PUBLISHED: 11:23 03 March 2008 | UPDATED: 15:26 10 September 2010
Vicarage Road will always be a special ground for Norwich City fans - of more than one generation. If you aren't old enough to have been among those who charged across the pitch after Ron Saunders' Canaries clinched the Division Two championship with a 1-1 draw at Watford in 1972, the chances are you were among the thousands at the same ground four years ago, when Nigel Worthington's men secured a 2-1 victory in their first match after promotion to the Premiership was confirmed - great occasions both of them.
Vicarage Road will always be a special ground for Norwich City fans - of more than one generation.
If you aren't old enough to have been among those who charged across the pitch after Ron Saunders' Canaries clinched the Division Two championship with a 1-1 draw at Watford in 1972, the chances are you were among the thousands at the same ground four years ago, when Nigel Worthington's men secured a 2-1 victory in their first match after promotion to the Premiership was confirmed - great occasions both of them.
Doubtless many hundreds of supporters experienced both red letter days, and many of them will be back again on Tuesday night for a Coca-Cola Championship meeting between the two sides that is shaping up like one big reunion.
Indeed, when the Hornets and their management team emerge from the tunnel, visiting fans may well be tempted into a variation of that old, familiar chant: “Are you Norwich in disguise?”
It's not exaggerating to say City supporters will know many of the Watford contingent better than they know some of their own team, especially after the rapid turnover of playing staff since Glenn Roeder's arrival at Carrow Road as manager at the end of October, with six loan signings currently being juggled into five of the 16 places in the squad on match day.
Apart from the fact that Watford are managed by City's former assistant academy director, Adrian Boothroyd - the longest-serving manager with his current club in the Championship - and coached by last season's Carrow Road number three, Martin Hunter, the playing squad reads like the guest list for a Canary nostalgia night.
Malky Mackay, one of the heroes of that afternoon of celebration in 2004, is one of the Hornets' first team coaches and has not quite hung up his boots yet at 36, though his one appearance this season was in the dismal 4-1 FA Cup home defeat by Wolves.
One of his former Norwich defensive colleagues, ex-skipper Matt Jackson, also 36, moved to Vicarage Road from Wigan last July, though he has been sparingly used so far and had a spell on loan at Blackpool.
Midfielder Damien Francis, who scored City's opening goal in that 2004 match, is battling for a place in Watford's midfield after missing much of the season through injury.
And in the centre of defence there is the considerable physical presence of one-time Norwich triallist Danny Shittu, who was on duty with Nigeria in the African Nations Cup in January, and long throw specialist Leigh Bromby, a former City loan defender who moved to Watford from Sheffield United on the last day of the January transfer window.
Bromby's signing came after yet another ex-Canary loan centre-half, Calum Davenport, broke a bone in his neck on his Watford debut in the televised game against Charlton in January, and had to return to West Ham.
But there is one more reunion that should not be overlooked on Tuesday night - and that is Roeder's return to the club he managed for nearly three years in the 1990s, soon after he also served three seasons as a Watford player.
In his second season as Watford boss, 1994-95, they finished just one place and two points outside the Division One play-offs, but he was sacked in February 1996 as the side were struggling at the bottom of the table.
As a manager who clearly believes he was unlucky to lose his job at Newcastle and West Ham, it is not a huge leap to suggest he would love to put one over another of his former clubs on Tuesday night, not least as the Hornets inflicted the one and only home defeat of his City reign, ahead of today's fixture against Blackpool.
The Norwich side likely to take the field on Tuesday will bear little resemblance to the eleven who were overpowered back on November 6.
Julien Brellier has gone to FC Sion in Switzerland, loan signings Martin Taylor and Jimmy Smith have returned to their respective clubs, John Hartson has retired, Simon Lappin is on loan at Motherwell, Luke Chadwick has a long-term shoulder injury, and one of the three substitutes used that night, Chris Brown, has since moved to Preston for £400,000.
Though the game came just two days after a mentally and physically draining local derby against Ipswich, that 3-1 defeat by Watford must have opened Roeder's eyes to the size of the task ahead - the scale of which was confirmed four days later by an even more depressing reverse at Plymouth.
He will be confident the side he has assembled since then will give a much better account of themselves and, with Watford going into today's game at Burnley in third place in the Championship, 15 points ahead of the Canaries, they will certainly need to.
Both clubs took a short break overseas this week, with Norwich at the La Quinta complex in southern Spain and Watford travelling to Dubai.
While Roeder was not keen to talk in detail about City's Spanish trip after they returned, Boothroyd summed up the benefits of training abroad when he said: “It's good to get away and have a bit of serenity and calm.
“It just helps you clear your mind to think about what might happen and to be prepared for it when it does.”
Boothroyd clearly believes his team can stay on course for promotion for the second time in three seasons, but City have yet to be doubled by any side in the Championship this term, and Roeder will not want his old club to be the first.