Expect blood and guts affair
Craig Fleming is looking forward to heaping more misery on old enemies Wolverhampton Wanderers by pipping the Midlanders to seventh spot in the Coca-Cola Championship.
Norwich City stalwart Craig Fleming was today looking forward to heaping more misery on old enemies Wolverhampton Wanderers by pipping the Midlanders to seventh spot in the Coca-Cola Championship.
Ever since that momentous play-off semi-final win over the men from the Black Country in 2002, there has been a certain animosity between the two sides and this will surely be evident again at Carrow Road on Sunday afternoon (1.30pm).
In past seasons matches between these two teams have usually had plenty at stake, but unfortunately this time there is no such added incentive, although the Canaries will be looking to reverse one particular statistic - not having scored in the last four meetings between the two sides.
“Yes, that is not a particularly good fact and it's one we will look to right come Sunday,” said Fleming, who looks likely to switch from right-back to centre-back following Jason Shackell's ankle operation.
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Malky Mackay was the last Canary player to score against Wolves, in the 90th minute of the 3-1 play-off semi-final first leg win at Carrow Road four years ago. The following season, Wanderers did the double over the Canaries, winning 1-0 and 3-0, and this season won 2-0 at Molineux.
Fleming, 34, is one of the few players still at the club to remember what victory over Wolves feels like and he's desperate to end the barren spell of results.
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He said: “Both teams are in the same boat. I think that everybody expected us and Wolves to be up there at the end of the season competing for honours but for one reason or another it has not worked out like that.
“There's no doubt that there'll be a bit of spice to the game. Ever since the play-off semi win there has been a bit of needle between the two sides and it would be nice to get the result.”
A win would push Norwich up to seventh in the table - so close yet so far from a place in the play-offs.
“There's no escaping the frustration,” declared Fleming. “If we were to finish seventh, which is the aim with a win over Wolves, it will only add to the frustration of a season which has been well below par.
“It's been a bad year for the players, the fans, the board and the management.
“I don't think we have really fired at all this season except for a short spell over Christmas, and yet we could still finish seventh.
“It goes to show that if we had managed to click then perhaps we would have been capable of a lot more.”
Following the final game of the season against Wolves, Fleming will have a week off but he is determined to do more than just tick over during the close season.
“I think all the lads are determined to go away over the summer and have a good long look at themselves and see areas where they can improve, myself included, and return in pre-season better players.
“I'm sure there will be additions made to the squad during the summer and it will be clear from the off that if you have not worked hard during the close season to maintain your levels, or indeed got better, there will be somebody ready to step into your place.”
Fleming added: “But that's nothing new. It's been the case for a long while now that you have to keep yourself in tip-top shape during the close season - it's all part and parcel of the professional game now.”
The first away win of the year at Cardiff last weekend - and the first in the now defunct two-tone green kit - was very encouraging, insisted Fleming, and was something that they can take on into next season.
“We have really struggled away from home this season and it was nice to keep a clean sheet for a change,” said Fleming, who will play his testimonial game during the pre-season build up at the start of his 10th season with the club as he enters the final year of his current contract.
“The manner in which we did it was also very pleasing. It was nice to score first for a change and then have the determination to hang on to the lead.”
He added: “I have got my testimonial game coming up and it's definitely a big season for me coming up. It would love to make it a double celebration.”