Ian Clarke: Staying in FA Cup is Norwich City’s best chance to stay in Premier League
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I needed cheering up on Monday evening with a plum home FA Cup draw for Norwich City.
While I had a lovely time with family and friends over Christmas and the new year, the festive period had been pretty disappointing as a Canary supporter.
There were those defeats to Wolves - when we had dominated in the first half - and at relegation rivals Aston Villa, when again we had lots of chances to win.
Then came that game against Spurs, which resulted in a draw but was overshadowed by the VAR shocker to rule out the Mario Vrancic-assisted/Teemu Pukki-finished wonder goal.
And the new year started with yet another "what could have been" day against Crystal Palace.
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The cup win at Preston was certainly a pleasant surprise, especially with the wonderful hat-trick by our new young hero Adam Idah.
Come on, I thought, give us a nice home tie against a lesser team to help City through to the fifth round for the first time since Idah was in primary school.
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I missed the live draw as I was playing six-a-side football.
At the age of almost 50, just being able to take to the pitch every Monday is great - but this particular week wasn't the most enjoyable to be a goalkeeper (I'll give you a clue as to the scale of the defeat as I lost count when the goals against tally reached double figures.....)
Anyway, as I trudged back to my car to check my phone for City's next opponents, I was confident of good news.
The reaction on Twitter before I saw the actual draw said it all.
A trip to Turf Moor. Great.
The general view from the vast majority of fans seems to be that we'll lose and miss out on a bumper home crowd or big away day.
Well, I've stuck my yellow and green glasses back on with the belief that Daniel Farke's men can go to Burnley and win.
And I firmly feel that staying in the great competition is City's best chance to stay in the Premier League.
Getting knocked out will allow us to concentrate on the league fight, I hear some of you yell.
Well, I think the opposite is true.
Of course it's going to take the miracle that Farke keeps talking about to see the Canaries prolong their stay at English football's top table beyond May.
Some may feel that any distraction or chance for more injuries will make the Everest climb even tougher.
What we need is confidence, positivity and the winning mentality back.
Just think what a victory against Sean Dyche's men would do for the Canaries.
Burnley are certainly beatable - and I'd expect their boss to rest key players.
The Clarets are in 15th place with 24 points - just four above the drop zone.
They've lost the joint most games at home in the Premier League this season and there will be a nervousness around the place, especially if they fail to register many points in their tough looking next three games against Chelsea, Leicester and Man United.
I was interested in a tweet from Cory Varney (@iwritethings23) on Twitter earlier this week.
He pointed out that in 2004/5, 13/14 and 15/16 City lost in the FA Cup third round and then got relegated.
But in 11/12 and 12/13 we progressed and stayed up.Cory quipped: "I found more straws to clutch at everyone."
Maybe he is grasping (and yes I know the 12/13 campaign ended with defeat at Carra to non-league Luton).
A decent cup run will lift us all and really keep the season alive.
You have to be of a certain age now to recall those great FA Cup years for Norwich.I've been sorting out a load of old papers at home and came across some cuttings I'd kept from 1989 and 1992 - and indeed the 1985 Milk Cup campaigns.
Wow, they were exciting times.
Success breeds success. Confidence snowballs. Belief is infectious.
This season shows that if a team goes on a mini run, it can quickly climb the table,
If it gets in to a rut, it can rapidly slip down.
Old Trafford is certainly nothing like the place it used to be.
Bournemouth at home has to offer an opportunity to get that desperately needed home three points.
If those games go our way and we somehow can sneak something at Spurs, then who knows what can happen, especially if teams just above us slip up.
It's certainly not time for any Que Sera Sera chants yet.
But let's stay positive and keep dreaming of cup glory - and seeing if the survival miracle can become a reality.
Refs must take control
Finally, common sense broke out in the bizarre VAR world.
On Saturday during the FA Cup tie between Crystal Palace and Derby, referee Michael Oliver used a pitchside monitor to upgrade a yellow card given to Luka Milivojevic to a red one.
Among the countless gripes football fans, pundits and managers have with the massively-flawed VAR system, one is that control is taken away from the on-pitch officials by the Stockley Park gang with their shiny laptops and flashy marker pens.
We've all seen incidents where the refs are standing helplessly waiting for a decision.
Oliver watched a replay of the incident and changed his mind.
Everyone makes mistakes and that is why the idea of VAR came in.
But it is so much better for the man in the middle to have the chance to look again.
While I would still prefer VAR to be scrapped, if we are having a system, this approach is definitely preferable.
Football should fund trial
I warmly welcome the news that a £1m study is to be carried out by Norwich-based scientists into the links between dementia and heading a football.
The connection has long been debated and the researchers want to monitor ex players to look for signs of the disease.
City legend and fellow columnist Iwan Roberts is among those taking part and has spoken candidly this week about his fears over dementia.
Canaries' greats Duncan Forbes and Martin Peters have both died in recent months and they each had battles with Alzheimer's.
We must all hope that the trial can bring clarity to the situation and ensure that lessons are learned and that people are helped in the future.
The £1m to fund the project needs to be raised by the University of East Anglia.
Surely with all the billions of pounds swilling around in football, that money can be given immediately so the ground-breaking research can get underway as soon as possible.