City tipped to struggle again

Michael Bailey It may still be early in the preparations for next season but bookmakers are expecting another season battling against Coca-Cola Championship relegation for Glenn Roeder's men.

Michael Bailey

It may still be early in the preparations for next season but bookmakers are expecting another season battling against Coca-Cola Championship relegation for Glenn Roeder's men.

But former City winger and Evening News columnist Neil Adams believes there is no need to panic about City's fate just yet.

With the start of the new season a little more than two months away, and Roeder's player recruitment drive in its infancy, Norwich are as short as 5/2 to find themselves in the third tier of English football come 2009.

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It was a fate the Canaries avoided last season only after securing three points against Queens Park Rangers in their final home game.

But Adams believes Norwich will be able to put some distance between themselves and the five teams - Blackpool, Barnsley, Doncaster Rovers, Plymouth Argyle and Southampton - more fancied for relegation, before the latest 46-game marathon begins on August 9.

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“Those odds are understandable because they go on current form, and last season Norwich only stayed up by three points. But I think it will all change when we get to the eve of the new season,” said Adams.

“The manager said he needs to get six or seven players into the club and by then the team will have a vastly different look about it. Everyone will see the odds change when the new players come in, especially with the calibre of players being mentioned at the moment.”

Newly-promoted Swansea and Nottingham Forest (both best at 25/1) are preferred to the Canaries in the Championship title race, while QPR, who finished three points above the Canaries, are as short as 9/2 to walk away with the Football League trophy next May.

“As Bristol City proved, they came up and many people think it's like a Championship club going into the Premier League. But it's different. They are going into the Championship hoping to push for the top six, rather than simply hoping to survive,” said Adams.

“It's a tight division and any team can beat anyone. It all boils down to consistency, I'm confident of that.”

QPR's new-found wealth comes from their new owners, Formula One multi-millionaires Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, who may have money burning a hole in their pockets.

Newcastle United's Peter Ramage, a reported target for Norwich, and Tottenham 'keeper Radek Cerny remain their only recruits to date, while Iain Dowie has been installed as the new manager at Loftus Road this summer.

“As for QPR, the reasons they are there are obviously the promise of riches with the people who are backing them,” said Adams.

“It's been said they are potentially the richest club in the world and they could buy anyone they want, but I don't think they will sign players willy-nilly.”

The bookies currently believe the relegated duo of Birmingham City and Reading will be Rangers' closest challengers for the title, while the Canaries' bitter rivals Ipswich Town sit 11th at 16/1.

But City fans will have all eyes set on the transfer dealings at Carrow Road between now and the start of pre-season training next month - and Adams believes those new players can dispel any concerns over a season once more spent battling against relegation.

“It's got to be a concern but realistically, looking at the size of the support they get, it shouldn't be and I won't expect it will be once we get closer to the start of the season,” he added.

“Dion Dublin and Darren Huckerby have left but some of the names Norwich are being linked with are exciting and hopefully they'll turn up and give the fans hope of pushing for the play-offs instead.”


QPR (shortest odds 9/2 Skybet)

Birmingham, Reading (6/1 several)

Wolves, Crystal Palace, Sheffield Utd (9/1 several)

Derby (10/1 Skybet)

Watford, Charlton, Bristol City (12/1 several)

Ipswich (16/1 several)

Cardiff (18/1 Ladbrokes)

Nottingham Forest, Swansea, Preston, Coventry (25/1 several)

Southampton (28/1 Paddy Power)

Norwich, Plymouth, Doncaster, Burnley (33/1 several)

Sheffield Weds (40/1 several)

Blackpool, Barnsley (66/1 several)


Blackpool evens

Barnsley, Doncaster 6/4

Plymouth 8/5

Southampton 2/1

Norwich 5/2

Bristol City, Nottingham Forest 13/5

Burnley, Sheffield Wed 3/1

Preston, Swansea 16/5

Coventry 7/2

Cardiff, Derby, Reading, Sheffield Utd, Ipswich 4/1

Charlton, Watford 5/1

QPR, Wolves 6/1

Birmingham, Crystal Palace 9/1

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