Who should be winners and losers?
PUBLISHED: 18:34 07 April 2007 | UPDATED: 10:13 14 September 2010
So, who do we really want to go up and down at the end of the season? With Norwich City 99.9 per cent certain to be playing Championship football again next season, it's time to consider which six clubs they are likely to lose on the fixture list - and which six they will gain.
So, who do we really want to go up and down at the end of the season?
With Norwich City 99.9 per cent certain to be playing Championship football again next season, it's time to consider which six clubs they are likely to lose on the fixture list - and which six they will gain.
I suppose it depends on what your priorities are if you are one of those diehard Canary followers planning to attend all or most of next season's away games.
Is it for you a case of the shorter the trip, the better? If so, you may be banking on relegation from the Premiership for three out of Watford, West Ham, Charlton and Fulham, an unlikely survival double in the Championship for Southend and Luton, plus promotion from League One for Nottingham Forest. And you won't mind getting rid of long treks to Sunderland, Preston or Cardiff at the top end of the Championship - though losing all three represents a very unlikely promotion treble, it must be said.
You may be seduced by the opportunity to add new grounds to your list of conquests, in which case a rare chance to see the Canaries in action at Scunthorpe, Yeovil or Swansea may have special appeal.
Or do you have strong enough affection or dislike for certain teams for your preference to be governed purely by footballing matters, regardless of the considerations of travelling distance or facilities?
Whether you are swayed by geography, architecture or a particular regard or disregard for a certain club, it seems fairly certain, barring some extraordinary results, that Glanford Park, Scunthorpe, and Vicarage Road, Watford, will feature on City's travel itinerary next season.
While I would love to have seen Watford survive in the top flight, both for the ex-Canary connection of Adrian Boothroyd and Malky Mackay and as a way of offering hope to Championship clubs of a similar size, they now look doomed.
Vicarage Road is also a ground with happy associations for Norwich fans. The Division Two championship celebrations of 1972 and the promotion party of 2004 - the first match after City's Premiership place was confirmed - will go down as two of the more memorable away days in club history. And it's a fairly straightforward trip.
The Canaries have not met Scunthorpe in a competitive fixture since January 1964, when they drew 2-2 at The Old Show Ground. They have never kept a clean sheet in nine meetings with The Iron, winning just two. With Nigel Adkins' team 11 points clear at the top of League One this morning, next season will surely give City the opportunity to improve on that record.
If I were a betting man, I would go for Bristol City and Forest to join Scunthorpe in the Championship - and there are certainly worse grounds and cities to visit.
As to who comes down with Watford, West Ham's run-in looks very tough for a team looking to close a five-point gap in the space of seven matches, though if, by the time you read this, they have inflicted Arsenal's first home defeat of the season, don't rule out an Upton Park miracle.
With Charlton the form team at the bottom and Sheffield United yet to play the three Ws at home, I would be a little nervous as a Wigan or Fulham fan.
As for the Championship, one wonders which of this season's opponents City can cross off the list for 2007-08.
At the top end of the table, the possible departure of Derby and Sunderland would deprive City followers of two of the better stadia to visit, but balance that with the fact that Sunderland is a bit of a trek and I don't see too many complaints.
Birmingham or West Bromwich Albion could be leaving us, which means at least one less trip to England's second city, but I'd be amazed if Wolves went up after their 6-0 humiliation by Southampton on home soil. If ever a team is in a false position then, on the evidence of their two meetings with the Canaries, it's the men from Molineux.
The bottom three may well be more clear-cut by Monday night.
Sad to say, after just one season, Southend appear to be slip, sliding away after the manner of yesterday's 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Colchester - or, should we say, Jamie Cureton.
Luton, too, have their work cut out. Before today's visit of Southampton, the Hatters had taken just one point from seven games, courtesy of a goalless draw at Burnley last week. It's an ominous run of form.
Roots Hall and Kenilworth Road, along with Colchester's Layer Road, may be the Championship's most basic grounds - and that's putting it politely - but it would be a shame to lose two of the shortest trips and a couple of fringe local derbies into the bargain.
Not that any of the teams at the wrong end of the table present too arduous a journey - Hull's imposing KC Stadium is certainly worth another visit even if the arena is more impressive than the team.
Unless Burnley disintegrate further - highly unlikely now that they have signed Paul McVeigh - and the trip to Turf Moor can be crossed off the list, there are no marathon journeys to be lost. The 675-mile round trip to Plymouth is here to stay for at least another year and, after this season's performance by the Canaries, that particular excursion surely couldn't be any worse.