Chris Goreham: Forgive me for getting rather excited about Norwich City’s FA Cup ‘run’
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It may be too early to put the current Norwich City squad into the same bracket as the famous 59’ers but having been so starved of FA Cup success in recent seasons it’s hard not to count taking Chelsea to a replay as a cup run.
A goalless draw without a single shot on target doesn’t immediately suggest that the Canaries had been sprinkled with FA Cup magic dust but beggars cannot be choosers – this was City’s best result in the competition for five years. That is how long it is since they last won an FA Cup tie.
To put that into context, the 3-0 third round victory at Peterborough United in January 2013 was so comfortable it was achieved with the great Harry Kane as an unused substitute. Except he wasn’t the great Harry Kane then, he was an untried on-loan youngster who was actually taken off at half-time in round four as City stumbled out of the competition at Carrow Road to non-league Luton Town. That’s where these five years of hurt, to paraphrase Baddiel and Skinner, began.
A meek third round replay defeat at the hands of Fulham the next year increased the bad feeling towards Chris Hughton but he stayed in charge for a further three months which is more than can be said for Neil Adams who paid for crashing out at Preston in round three in 2015 by losing his job.
His replacement Alex Neil rested several players for the visit of Manchester City and Sergio Aguero 12 months later, preferring to gear his squad up for huge Premier League relegation six-pointers at Stoke and Bournemouth. They turned out to be relegation zero-pointers.
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Last season Norwich also took a Premier League team to a replay at this stage but fewer than 12,500 fans turned up for the 2-2 draw with Southampton at Carrow Road which was blighted by City’s poor Championship form and some creative ticket pricing blamed on CEO Jex Moxey who departed the club just a few weeks later.
Virgil van Dijk scored in that game for Saints, I wonder what happened to him?
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The replay was so unfancied that City lost it 1-0 to a late goal from Shane Long and gave young midfielder Ray Grant his only four minutes of first team football from the bench.
So pardon me for feeling a sense of pride in seeing Norwich City hold the reigning Premier League champions to a 0-0 draw.
Chelsea made changes but Willian, David Luiz and Gary Cahill have had no problems winning at Carrow Road in the past and that was when Norwich were in the top flight.
Much like the win over Millwall on New Year’s Day, it wasn’t a performance to silence all of the doubts which grew alarmingly during an uninspiring end to 2017 but it did at least suggest enough spirit, character and determination exists within the squad to go along with the talent that could carry them towards a more promising second half of the campaign. The standard has been set and fans will accept the odd defeat if genuine progress on the pitch is in evidence.
The Chelsea replay will have to be slotted in amongst a challenging run of games which includes promotion chasers like Bristol City, Sheffield United and Middlesbrough.
It may be that Carrow Road on a cold Saturday night was Norwich’s best chance to actually beat Antonio Conte’s team and that a second meeting will be a Stamford Bridge too far.
We can’t have Norwich playing three FA Cup matches in the same season can we? If it happens I may be excited enough to make my own tinfoil version of the trophy.
Costa del Burton
Café culture is meant to be glamorous.
At least that’s the vision we were sold by Jennifer Aniston and her Friends in their endlessly repeated sitcom.
The creators may have helped to inspire a coffee shop boom that has seen terms like ‘flat white’ become an acceptable part of the English language but you never feel further away from Central Perk than when you are queuing for a hot drink on an industrial estate in Burton upon Trent.
They can take away our mustard but that doesn’t mean Phoebe or Rachel would enjoy an afternoon out there.
It turns out that it can be an unlikely place to spot a celebrity though.
As we killed time before making the short walk to the Pirelli Stadium ahead of Norwich City’s 0-0 draw with Burton Albion we spotted a familiar face hiding behind a laptop at one of the tables.
The Millwall manager Neil Harris was in town to scout the Canaries ahead of his own side’s visit to Carrow Road just 48-hours later.
Despite sitting in a café full of Norwich City fans, Harris was watching videos of some of Daniel Farke’s side’s recent matches as he plotted their downfall.
I hope he enjoyed the coffee because the trip wasn’t really worth it. The match was forgettable and Norwich rotated their squad to such an extent that the Millwall manager may just as well have watched a different team and saved himself the trip.
In the end it was City who looked like they had benefitted from a caffeine hit at half-time as they came from a goal down to beat Harris’ Lions.
As a true BBC-man I have been careful not to name the well-known high street coffee chain that Neil Harris likes to frequent for fear of advertising. Sufficed to say it shares a name with someone who used to play top flight football in England. No, not the former Nottingham Forest attacker Phil Starbuck, think Chelsea and Spain.
With so many miles to travel in the name of following Norwich City in the Championship these coffee establishments often fuel the BBC Radio Norfolk coverage.
Any idea that café culture can be glamorous fades with each motorway service station stop.