City can make play offs, says Iwan
Paddy Davitt Norwich can gatecrash the Championship play offs - according to one of the heroes of their last great play off push.
Norwich can gatecrash the Championship play offs - according to one of the heroes of their last great play off push.
Carrow Road legend Iwan Roberts plundered 14 goals to help City squeeze into the playoffs by the back door in 2002 before penalty shoot out heartbreak at the Millennium against Birmingham.
Roberts finished top scorer for the fourth consecutive season despite missing most of the run in through injury - a finale that saw the Canaries six points adrift of the last play off spot as late as March 18 that year.
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City head to Cardiff this weekend seven points behind sixth-placed East Anglian rivals Ipswich with Roberts insisting anything is possible.
“If you look at the last two months its promotion form - if they keep that going who knows?” he said. “With the number of games left they just need to keep picking up points. Crystal Palace had a terrible start. Neil Warnock came in and, after the first few matches, laid down a marker. It might be a little early for people to start talking about the play offs. First and foremost I would say the target is to get to 50 points. Get to 50 points and you guarantee being in the division next season. Then you can start setting new targets - like making the top ten or even higher.”
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City's 2002 play off brush went down to the final day of the regular season and a straight shoot out with Burnley for sixth spot.
“We had to better their result and managed it by a single goal - that's how tight it can get,” he said. “Even at the start of May it can go down to goal difference and you tend to find the team finishing sixth goes on to do well because they have that momentum. I missed most of the second half of the season because I hurt my knee at Sheffield Wednesday, then when I came back my hamstring went at Burnley. I remember the lads picking up wins at some tough places like Bradford, Barnsley and Stockport to take it down to the wire.”
Roberts' credit's former Watford team mate Glenn Roeder with turning the club's season on its head following Peter Grant's exit.
“I've known him for about 20 years and I was very pleased when I heard he was coming in,” said Roberts. “Players do get a lift because it was hard under Granty towards the end. They were losing games they shouldn't have and the confidence takes a battering. Players don't want the ball or stop making the runs they should because if they make a mistake of lose a goal you start to think, 'here we go again.' Glenn has changed it around and now everybody is desperate to get into the team. The lads coming into the side are taking their opportunity.”
The Welshman feels City's Championship trip to a resurgent Cardiff this Saturday is a major test of their current 11 match unbeaten run.
“It's two good sides full of confidence but Norwich will be in for a difficult game,” he said. “I think if they come away with the unbeaten run still in tact that is a great result. Not many teams have left Ninian Park with a result since Christmas.
“I saw Cardiff at the start of December against Charlton and they were absolutely shocking. I thought Dave Jones was in serious danger of losing his job but a couple of weeks later they were fantastic against Sheff United and that seemed to get them going. They lost for the first time in a while at Stoke last weekend but by all accounts they were unlucky. They are playing really well and guys like Joe Ledley and Paul Parry are scoring goals.”
Roberts has not closed the door completely on a return to the game in a coaching capacity after carving out a successful second career as a BBC television pundit.
“I still want to go and finish my UEFA A course and get my licence this coming summer,” he said. “You never know what is around the corner and I'd like to have that option to get back involved if the opportunity every came. But I'm really enjoying the media work. It means a lot of travelling and watching games but I've been doing that for the last 25 years. You can take all the coaching courses, but I can honestly say I've learned so much from watching games and speaking to managers - seeing how they set their teams up and use different systems.”