Iwan Roberts: Norwich City’s relentless form can be demoralising for Sheffield United and Leeds
- Credit: EDP / Archant © 2004
Another gritty hard-fought three points for the Canaries who have now won five on the trot and eight of their last nine in the Championship – imagine how Sheffield United and Leeds must be feeling!
Week in, week out Norwich win yet again, giving the two Yorkshire clubs no chance of closing the gap on the Championship leaders.
I’ve been in both positions in my career – I’ve been at a club doing the chasing and I’ve been at a club sitting at the top of the table and being chased.
In my one and only season at Wolves we were sitting in third, chasing Bolton and Barnsley. In all fairness, we were never catching Bolton as they were well clear of us, but we had every chance of catching second-placed Barnsley... until the pressure of seeing them win week in, week out took its toll and the pressure got to us in the end.
After every game the first question we’d ask when we got into our changing room was, “how did Barnsley get on?” and it was demoralising when we were told they’d won again. That’s exactly the feeling Leeds and Sheffield United will have had in recent weeks as City have been relentless in their quest to win the Championship.
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From January 28 to April 26, we saw Barnsley lose just three games in 17, an incredible run for a club that shouldn’t have been anywhere near the top two and a run that gave us no chance of catching and leapfrogging them to win that second automatic promotion place.
In fact, seeing them churn results out had an adverse effect on us as we lost five of our last 10 games, winning just three. It’s not that we’d all of a sudden become a bad team overnight; it was the simple fact that seeing Barnsley grinding results out every weekend had such a negative effect on us, especially at Molineux where the home fans vented their frustrations at us as they saw a top-two finish disappearing.
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We ended up finishing third, just four points behind Barnsley, and lost to Crystal Palace in the play-off semi-final – and what has happened to Leeds in the last couple of months reminds me of that 96-97 Wolves season.
I’ve also had the experience of being the club that’s being chased, as we were in the 2003-04 when we won what was then the First Division at Norwich.
We were flying at the top of the table with WBA and Sunderland doing the chasing, but our form from January onwards gave them no chance of catching us – which must have been demoralising for them. In our last 20 games we lost just four games, winning 13. If you were West Brom or Sunderland you had to have one unbelievable second half to the season to get anywhere near us, and they just couldn’t. The pressure of seeing us dropping a just point here and there was too much for them.
We were just so confident we’d go out expecting to win. Of course, we weren’t going to win every game, but you looked at the quality, experience and the pace we had in that changing room up at Colney and we knew that we were the best team in the league and that it would take a special side to finish above us.
I look at this Norwich team now and they remind me of us. They are relentless, they keep going and going and don’t know when they are beaten.
I see in them a spirit and togetherness that we had in that title-winning season, and it can take you a long, long way – just look at what happened to Leicester in the 2015-16 season – and those traits and the undoubted quality that’s up at Colney.
I just can’t see either Sheffield United or Leeds closing the gap on City, and another Championship title beckons.