Chris Goreham: The Championship is about to get slightly less relentless...and that might suit City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There’s some good news ahead for Norwich City but some bad news for those who like to talk about the Championship in clichés.
The relentless nature of the division is often summed up by the phrase “It’s Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday” but the truth is that City’s schedule is about to calm down considerably. Get the next Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday out of the way and the midweek matches begin to dry up for the Canaries.
Having got so used to seeing matches under Tuesday night lights it’s remarkable to see that, after next week’s trip to Nottingham Forest, there are just three more midweek evening matches left on the fixture list for the rest of the season.
Norwich go to Wolves on Wednesday, Februray 21, host Forest on Tuesday, March 6 and are due to go all the way to Sunderland on a Tuesday night (thanks for that, fixture computer) in April and that really is it. There are a couple of pinch points around Christmas and Easter when the diary starts to fill up again and the possibility that FA Cup runs for either Norwich or their Championship opponents could force a bit of a rejig in the new year but the bulk of those Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday weeks are already behind us.
Norwich City’s first 20 matches of this season were crammed into the first three months.
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The last 30 Championship games plus however many (or few) FA Cup ties we are treated to will be spread out over six months between now and May. As someone who is keen to look up and not down I am billing this lop-sided nature of the fixture list as a factor that could change the Canaries’ season for the better.
For this theory to have any legs we must accept the perceived wisdom that the erratic nature of Norwich’s form since August has been partly down to the workload on the players and the tiredness that averaging two games every week has caused within Daniel Farke’s new look squad.
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I am well aware that a fair proportion of people reading this are either thinking or even saying to the nearest person “poor old professional footballers, eh? Getting tired after being paid all that money for playing twice a week, they don’t know they’re born” or something similar.
The response to that is to politely point out that if performing to a high level on a football pitch once every three days was that easy we would all be doing it rather than watching others have a go.
The schedule in this country really is more demanding than elsewhere.
In Germany, on the odd occasion they have a round of midweek league fixtures they refer to it as “die English Woch” which, even without a German GCSE, I can translate as “the English Week”. That tells you something about what they think of us and the tightly packed sardine-like schedule that we insist upon inflicting on our teams.
So Daniel Farke has some important players like Alex Pritchard and Nelson Oliveira battling back to full fitness to help share the burden on some of his overloaded players and it comes at a time when the number of English Wochs he has to prepare for are about to reduce dramatically.
The upturn in fortunes after the international break that saw August become September also suggests that giving this head coach more time on the training pitch without the pressure of match after match may be a further benefit to his squad.
So, on paper, things look promising but anyone can beat anyone in this league. Oh, there’s another one of those Championship clichés.
When Roeder rode to the rescue...
Would you believe it’s now 10 years since a certain former manager rode to Norwich City’s rescue?
The recent 2-1 defeat by Bolton came a decade to the day after Glenn Roeder’s first match in the Carrow Road dugout. That was a pulsating 2-2 draw with Ipswich when a Norwich City side that was bottom of the Championship came from 2-0 down to force a draw against a Town side in the midst of a takeover from the multi-millionaire Marcus Evans which seemed to promise so much.
Roeder is now seen as something of a pantomime villain by Norwich City fans, something which he brought upon himself, but it’s often forgotten what a tremendous job he did that season. The point against Ipswich on November 4 2007 was only City’s ninth of the campaign. To put that into context, Sunderland are currently bottom of the table with 10 points.
Roeder would have to wait a further three matches for his first win but he steadied the ship to the extent that Norwich finished three points and five places clear of the relegation zone. Leicester City went down from the Championship that season, whatever happened to them?
It only prolonged the inevitable and Norwich were relegated the next season when the effect of Roeder’s strict style and his habit of filling his squad full of loan signings wore off but his 15 months in charge were nothing if not eventful. He would cross swords with reporters, supporters and release fan’s favourite Darren Huckerby at the end of that first season without giving him a chance to wave a proper goodbye to Carrow Road.
Much has happened since the Roeder regime. So many ups and downs in fact that 10 years of football has brought us almost back to where we started, with a squad that is finding its feet in the Championship once more and is just four league places higher than where that patched up bunch of loan signings finished in 2007/08.
It may seem like a distant memory now but if there is one legacy that Glenn Roeder did leave in Norfolk it was that he made the decision to sign Wes Hoolahan from Blackpool in 2008. I think we can all agree that he got that one right.