Smith puts tribal loyalties on hold ahead of Blues cup clash

Max Aarons was sent flying by Tom Naylor in Norwich City's Championship draw against Wigan.

Max Aarons was sent flying by Tom Naylor in Norwich City's Championship draw against Wigan. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

Dean Smith’s tribal loyalties pale with getting Norwich City up and running, at Birmingham City’s expense, in Tuesday’s League Cup, first round tie at Carrow Road. 

The boyhood Aston Villa fan, and former head coach, revealed on Monday he had a decent record against his ‘Second City’ rivals. 

That is likely to ensure a hot reception from the travelling support, but Smith’s primary motivation is plotting a win for the Canaries at the third attempt. 

City laboured to an opening day Championship defeat at Cardiff, and failed to find the cutting edge to convert their overwhelming dominance of the ball and territory in Saturday’s 1-1 stalemate against Wigan. 

Smith, however, is looking at the bigger picture as he pledged to ring the changes with cup progress at stake. 

“It’s not a difficult balancing act. Not at all,” he said, when pressed whether a winless start to the new season would alter his selection criteria. “It's a squad game. We've just finished a pre-season programme where we've been mixing all the players up to get minutes. Players are still looking to find their rhythm.

"We have to rotate, especially this part of the season, because we need everybody pushing for places. The only way you can do that is keeping them match fit.  

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“We feel that the squad is more than capable of winning football games. We want to get through to the next round and Birmingham will give us a tough challenge. But it's one that we relish. For me, it's about the quality within the group. In the first game, we didn't show the quality in the final third.

"We were more than good enough to go and win the game on Saturday, and those wins will come. I have no worries. I've always said they are based on performances; if you get the performance level right, you get wins. We're not very far away from that. That's for sure.” 

Norwich City head coach Dean Smith is confident wins will come if they build on the Wigan performance

Norwich City head coach Dean Smith is confident wins will come if they build on the Wigan performance - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Smith was still irked on Monday by matters outside his control - namely Tom Naylor’s forceful flying challenge in the Wigan penalty area that tipped up Max Aarons. 

The City boss labelled the decision not to award the hosts a late penalty as ‘ludicrous’ at the weekend, and Smith revealed he had now demanded an explanation from the match officials. 

“I've filled in my match report for the referee and I've asked for feedback from the incident because that's not good enough,” he said. “It worries me that the referee saw that and didn't do anything and thought it was a legal challenge. I suppose that everybody talks about he got the ball, but he's got the top of the ball and gone over the top.  

“After the game I made the point you couldn't tackle like that 25 years ago, so you shouldn’t be able to tackle like it now. There shouldn't be a difference between the Premier League and the rest because it's the same sport. It's the same laws. It's a reckless challenge.

"The defender has a straight leg, is out of control, and goes over the top of the ball. You only have to look at Max’s shin. The fact he is actually striking the ball and hasn't got his foot planted is probably what saves him from a really serious injury.” 

Norwich City loanee Przemyslaw Placheta scored a Championship winner for Birmingham City last week

Norwich City loanee Przemyslaw Placheta scored a Championship winner for Birmingham City last week - Credit: PA

Smith predicts a similar reshuffle from Birmingham rival John Eustace, after a solid four points from their opening two league tests – in part due to a match-winner against Huddersfield from Norwich loanee Przemyslaw Placheta. 

"I've got quite a decent record against Birmingham, so I'm quite happy with that," he said. "They've had a good start. I watched that game and they were very good for the first 50 minutes, before Huddersfield came into it. They got a battling point at Luton in the first game. I expect them to change quite a lot of players as well.

“I felt like we got up and running on Saturday, despite not winning the game. The performance level was good. Their goal took the stuffing out of us a little bit within the stadium but I thought, second half from the off, it was all out attack. You only had to look at the team that was on the pitch at the end of the game.

"We've got Kenny (McLean) at right back and six attacking players on, so we were going full out to win. We didn't look in any stress of losing. That was a big bonus for us. Now we are aiming to move forward.” 

Placheta is ineligible to face his parent club but Smith did confirm Aston Villa have given permission for recent loan signing Aaron Ramsey to feature in the cup for the Canaries, following his season long loan move. 

City were still awaiting clearance from the FA on Monday for the England Under-19 European Championship winner.