Fantastic 2010 whets the appetite for year to come

When football teams are doing as well as Norwich at the minute, it is normally the practice of columnists like myself to trot out well-worn phrases such as “who would have dreamed of us being in this position a year ago”.

We will then go on to wax lyrical about how said club is “punching well above its weight” or even “batting above its average” if we want to be extra clever and throw in the odd reference to the on-going Ashes tour.

But you know what? You won’t find me using these lines this week.

It’s not that I am averse to throwing in the odd over-used saying here and there. Regular readers will know that I love a clich� as much as the next man (whoops I have done it already).

No it’s more of a case that if someone had told me a year ago that in 12 months we would be sitting in fifth place in the Championship, just two points off the top two, I would have probably believed them, such was the confidence engendered in the fans and players by the manager in a very short space of time.

In Paul Lambert we trust, as another popular saying goes.

And a year later that confidence has failed to dampen.

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But that is not to in any way denigrate the achievements of 2010 because it has, without a doubt, been a fantastic year to be a Norwich City fan.

We have played 45 league games, winning 26, drawing eight and losing just 11. Along the way we have had mass celebrations (in particular promotion and the derby), goals galore (an average 2.7 goals per game for and against, to be exact) and very few disappointments (though we do still need to work on having even fewer of these at Carrow Road). And as we head into January the club is now at an interesting crossroads in terms of where it may want to go over the next 12 months.

With us sitting so close to the top, do the board and manager throw caution to the wind and do all they can to get us to the Premier League by the end of the season?

Or is it just a case that they pretty much trust in what they have, try and add a bit more quality but don’t break the bank?

The thinking being that if that leads to promotion, great, but if not next season is the one in which to push on.

Judging by our board’s previous behaviour I think it is pretty certain to be the latter – and I doubt you will find any fan disagreeing with the more cautious approach.

So on that basis what are the aims for Norwich City in 2011?

Well, immediately it must be to get through a tricky four games in nine days.

I would gladly take seven points from them to tide us over, though I fear even that may be a tad too optimistic.

Once January arrives it is all eyes on Lambert in the transfer market. It’s clear we need another striker and for what it is worth, a few names I would like to throw into the mix are Peterbrough’s Craig Mackail-Smith, Craig Davies of Chesterfield or Millwall’s Steve Morison.

I can see the case for some more cover at left and right-back but otherwise, as long as we keep Henri Lansbury, the squad looks strong enough to see out the season.

Between now and May I’ll happily settle for much of the same, and if we don’t get promoted the season still has to be regarded as a success.

For me the priorities therefore are to ensure that, whatever happens between then and now, we are well equipped to progress further in 20011/12, whether that be in the top division or the one below.

And key to that is, of course, keeping our best players, such as Grant Holt, Wes Hoolahan and, above all of course, the manager.


1. It sounds like former academy coach Aidy Boothroyd is still a fan of a more agricultural style of football. It wasn’t too long ago that Boothroyd was heavily tipped for the Carrow Road hot-seat, so the trip to Coventry was perhaps a little taste of what might have been. That Lambert can provide a decent team and decent football is further reason why we should be glad for what we have.

2. A bit of snow and a couple of games called off and all of a sudden we see the return of one of the most tedious debates in English football – the merits, or not, of a winter break. There are so many reasons why I am dead against this. When would you have the break? The snow doesn’t exactly send us a card to tell us it’s coming. For so many people football is a large part of what the Christmas holidays are about. It would be a travesty to lose that. I also don’t see how it is any better for the players and fans to be having more of the season in the summer months. So many end of May/early August games lose their fizz because of the heat. You would probably also have managers then complaining of it being too hot.

3. Despite the excellent performance and result I still have one hang-up from the 2-1 victory over Derby County earlier this month. Why is Robbie Savage being so obviously earmarked as a broadcasting “star” of the future by the BBC? Within five minutes of coming off the field he’s on the radio and now he has started appearing on television too. They obviously think he falls into the “love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him” category. If, and it’s a long-shot granted, anyone from the BBC is reading this, I can assure you he doesn’t. He is annoying, argumentative for the sake of being argumentative and I will be doing all I can in future to ignore him.

4. I wonder how many transfer rumours start the following way: player wants out but no one is buying, agent slyly reveals a list of clubs apparently interested in said player, story appears and now other managers are alerted to the apparent “must have” appeal of said player and potentially put in a bid, player sold (but probably not to one of the so-called “interested clubs”). This week’s example Owain Tudur Jones whom, we are informed by Sky Sports News, is being tracked by at least four top teams. Quoted in the story? Well it’s none other than his agent, Dan Wood.

5. There are some fans who simply have to have something (or someone) to moan about. Last season the target was Russell Martin, but now he is showing the form of his lifetime our centre-backs, in particular Elliott Ward, are suddenly getting a bit of stick. Granted we have not kept a clean sheet for nine games, but how much of that is to do with the ultra-attacking line-up Lambert choses to put out?