EFL pundit makes bold early call that City will achieve Premier League survival
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Championship leaders Norwich City haven't even sealed promotion yet but already a respected EFL pundit has been impressed enough by their success to predict Premier League survival next season.
Former England, Everton and Sheffield Wednesday left-back Andy Hinchcliffe has been a regular feature of Sky Sports' coverage of the Championship in recent years and is convinced the Canaries will seal the deal, after seven successive wins pushed them 10 points clear of the chasing pack.
City suffered a chastening relegation last season after an exciting title success in 2019, crashing through the top-flight trapdoor thanks to a club record 10 consecutive defeats. Hinchcliffe expects a different story next season though.
"Their consistency all season has been astonishing, they fully deserve to be top of the table and it's clear they are going to go on and get promoted," he said, speaking on the latest Sky Sports EFL Podcast.
"You've got to remember with Norwich that this is a plan which has been in place for a number of years. Since Stuart Webber went to Norwich, what they were looking to do is get a head coach and a philosophy, a style of football and a group of players that played in a certain way, to bring success and longevity - whether that be in the Championship or the Premier League, there was a plan in place.
"So they got promoted earlier because everything went to plan that season, they got promoted, okay they fell out of the Premier League but nothing really changed.
"Daniel Farke stayed, the philosophy is still there, Stuart Webber stayed, they kept hold of their best players, they only lost Jamal Lewis (and Ben Godfrey), everyone else stayed, they've got good recruitment, they use their academy really well.
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"So what's different about this season for Norwich is that it's all been part of the progression, part of the plan since Stuart Webber went there, that's what's so important and hopefully lots of clubs will look at this model from Norwich - and say how can we, whatever league we go into, be a team that can contend.
"When they go back into the Premier League again I do feel that they're a more rounded team, a stronger team than when they went there last, but you have to remember when they went into the Premier League last time they had been planning for a mid-table Championship finish.
"They were so good, the plan worked so well, that they finished top of the table and were promoted. So this time because the plan is further down the line, they'll have no problems staying in the Premier League this time around."
Norwich have seven points more than they had after 35 games two seasons ago despite scoring 20 fewer goals, as they've also conceded 20 fewer - letting in just 25 and keeping 15 clean sheets.
After beating Luton 3-0 at home on Saturday, Farke's in-form team head to relegation battlers Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday lunchtime, knowing that four wins from their final 11 games should be enough to seal promotion.
In the past 10 Championship seasons, the teams finishing first have averaged a final total of 93 points and the runners-up have achieved 88 - with City's current tally of 76 points meaning a play-off place is already secured, if not yet confirmed mathematically, sitting 20 points clear of seventh place.
Hinchcliffe continued: "They are a more rounded team. If you gave me a choice of which players would you want from 18-19, or from 20-21, I would take the ones now.
"Inevitably when the players you have play well you can score three or four goals but at times you are going to have to win 1-0 and seeing them now, they're not a team that are defensive but a team that defend well because they've got good defenders.
"With Oliver Skipp, Ben Gibson coming in, what an inspired signing that was, an experienced, heart and soul defender, exactly what you need.
"You've got all the attacking players you need to win games but at times you do need to be defensively solid and they've had that as well, Grant Hanley has been playing regularly and he's been injured in the past as well.
"So everything about Norwich this season has been absolutely right and I think Daniel Farke and the hierarchy at Norwich will look at it and think this is what we need to take, we need to be this team going into the Premier League, rather than the team we were, we weren't fully rounded and formed.
"Because you know that in the Premier League defensively you're going to have to be strong, look at Sheffield United last season, it was based on a strong defence.
"Norwich have that and if they can keep Pukki, Cantwell, McLean, Buendia, keep all these attacking players, then they have a chance because they can win games 1-0 or they can really open up and score three or four."
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