Fleming: No one will want to play us
Skipper Craig Fleming insists Norwich City are just a “couple more results away” from recapturing the spirit of 2002.Four years ago, a bitterly disappointing 1-0 home defeat by Birmingham appeared to have ended the Canaries' play-off hopes, leaving them six points short of the top six with just seven games left.
Skipper Craig Fleming insists Norwich City are just a “couple more results away” from recapturing the spirit of 2002.
Four years ago, a bitterly disappointing 1-0 home defeat by Birmingham appeared to have ended the Canaries' play-off hopes, leaving them six points short of the top six with just seven games left.
Throw in the hammer blow of Gary Holt's wretched penalty miss that night and, for the vast majority of supporters, that was City's season over.
But after five wins and two draws - and on the slender basis of having scored one more goal than the luckless Burnley - Norwich were on course for Cardiff.
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Could the Class of 2006 be about to repeat those feats, this time seven points adrift of that crucial sixth spot with the same number of games to go?
“There is a lot more confidence about the lads right now,” said Fleming, after helping to steer his side to Saturday's 2-1 win over second-placed Sheffield United.
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“If you take the Crystal Palace game away, for me we're a lot more steely. We've got this hard-to-beat attitude back, although I think it'll need a couple more results before we're right back in there.”
One thing appears certain, however. On the back of his experiences in 2002, the long-serving Canary defender would far rather be among the chasing pack than be in either Preston or Wolves' shoes - anxiously looking over their shoulder to see who was coming up hard on the rails.
Coming within a minute of beating Leeds United away and then putting another dent in the Blades' hopes of automatic promotion would have sent a shiver down one or two spines - particularly given the fact that the Canaries have still to play Preston, Wolves and Cardiff City.
“Yes, we need other results to go for us, but we're playing other teams up there and we can do something about it - and knowing that makes a big difference,” said Fleming, as the Canaries finally start to resemble something approaching a team.
“It's getting there,” said Fleming. “The Crystal Palace game took a bit out of us, but it's not just the fact that we're beating people like Sheffield United - it's the manner in which we're doing it.
“As I say, we've got back to being hard to beat - we're back to grinding out results in the way we did when we won the title in 2004.
“If I was one of those teams in the play-off places now, I would not be looking to play Norwich City. Not looking at the players and the squad that we've got.”
It is a time when the nerves start to jangle, when people start to push for the panic button, and when, in short, anything can happen. And, all too often, does.
“It's a lot easier to do the chasing than be chased,” said Fleming. “And I know it's the oldest and biggest cliche in the book, but all we can do is take it one game at a time and you never know what might happen.
“Things can change very, very quickly. There will be a lot more strange results to come.”
One thing never changes, however - the fact that the sparks fly whenever Neil Warnock's around. Having had the volatile Sheffield United boss as his manager at Oldham, Fleming knows exactly what makes Warnock tick.
“There always seems to be that little bit of extra spice about the place when you play one of his teams,” said Fleming, who duly bumped into his old boss after Saturday's game.
“I did have a word with him. And he said 'Oh, you were just so lucky . . .' I just smiled at him and said 'You always seem to be saying that - every time we play you!' It does make it all the more sweet.”