Smith weighs up selection dilemma for Charlton

Dean Smith wants a return to the intensity and quality Norwich City produced recently against Manchester United

Dean Smith wants a return to the intensity and quality Norwich City produced recently against Manchester United - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

The FA Cup evokes warm childhood memories for Dean Smith but there is a pragmatic reason he wants Norwich City to get past Charlton in Sunday's third round. 

Smith is keen to inject some renewed belief for the Premier League battles ahead, following an injury and illness-hit festive spell that deepened the gloom around the Canaries’ survival prospects. 

“Sometimes you get a chance to reflect and two words have sprung to mind, perspective and context,” he said. “It's been a real tough Christmas period. We played well against Manchester United and then we've had three poor results. 

"Three games ago we're walking off the pitch against United and I bumped into Norwich fans who were saying that was as well as they had seen the team play for a long time. 

"Unfortunately since then we have been decimated, so hopefully the players that are coming back now can re-ignite our season, and certainly start the year well. 

“I look at a club like Liverpool last year and they lost Alisson, Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez and slipped out of the top four for a period.

"We've had about 10 players out, and seven or eight of them are typical starters since they've been at the club. It's disappointing but sometimes you have to put it into perspective.  

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“You look at the last year as a whole and I think nine months of the 12 were very good. The club got promoted, when I arrived we had an unbeaten November and we followed that with a poor December, but there are reasons for that. My job is to build the players back up.” 

Tim Krul is available for FA Cup duty after being diagnosed with Covid for a second time prior to the festive period.

Tim Krul is available for FA Cup duty after being diagnosed with Covid for a second time prior to the festive period. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Smith was able to deliver an upbeat fitness bulletin on Friday to offer some welcome selection posers at The Valley. Captain Grant Hanley, Milot Rashica, Todd Cantwell, Tim Krul, Teemu Pukki and Max Aarons have all returned to training. 

That leaves Andrew Omobamidele (back), Lukas Rupp (hamstring) and Mathias Normann (pelvic surgery) on the casualty list, along with Christoph Zimmermann. 

“It's a little bit easier for us to prepare for this one because we haven’t played since December 28,” said Smith. “Normally by this stage of the festive period you have played four or five games.

"We've got players coming back from illness and injury who are putting themselves in contention. It's looking a lot healthier.   

“Mathias is going to be a little bit longer. We've not got any return to training date with him at the moment. But again, he's on track. He hasn't got the pain that he had before so the operation’s obviously done the trick and it's a case of just building up slowly. 

"Andrew has had a scan and I think there's some improvement, but it's a slow burner. He's going to have to do some running first to build up his fitness.” 

Dean Smith is targeting an FA Cup tonic for Norwich City

Dean Smith is targeting an FA Cup tonic for Norwich City - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited

Smith knows the upside of cup progress. 

“I like winning football games, and the FA Cup is our chance to win a football game against Charlton,” he said. “We'll give them the respect they deserve, but we have to concentrate on ourselves and going on a cup run can give any team a boost. 

“I'm a bit of a traditionalist so I like the FA Cup. I always look forward to it because I grew up watching the FA Cup when it was the be all and end all of everything. From about 9am on FA Cup final day you would watch the whole build up to the game. 

"You only have three opportunities to win something during the season, the League Cup, the FA Cup and the Premier League. It is very unlikely for us to be challenging for the Premier League title so why not go all out to try and do well in the FA Cup?

"It'll be a very mixed team because we've got a lot of players coming back who can play, and we’re very much looking forward to the challenge.”