Just one more victory and Norwich City will be home and dry

Norwich City players and fans celebrate the pressure-releasing win over Reading. Picture: Paul Chest

Norwich City players and fans celebrate the pressure-releasing win over Reading. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

I was driving back down the A17 last Saturday afternoon after witnessing Cardiff City win the Championship title when I’m sure I heard the roar of relief from Carrow Road at 4.55pm.

What a huge three points they were against Reading last weekend. That win all but assures that there will be Premier League football for the third successive season for Norwich City and that’s a fantastic achievement for all concerned.

Of course, mathematically it is possible that both Wigan and Aston Villa could catch the Canaries, but realistically they need to win three of their last five games to stand any chance of avoiding the drop. I’m sure Chris Hughton will be telling the lads: “One more victory and we’re safe”.

I was delighted to see the Bennett boys scoring the two crucial goals against the Royals last Saturday, and they will probably be the most important goals that both Ryan and Elliott will score for Norwich City. They’ve both had to be very patient this season as playing time has been limited, but it goes to show why the squad is so important and advocates strength in depth.

I’ve spoken to a few Norwich fans since last Saturday and they’ve all said the same thing – that the atmosphere at Carrow Road against Reading was unbelievable, the best they’ve heard for a very long time. Even when Reading scored with 18 minutes remaining, the Norwich faithful stayed with the players in a moment of great tension.

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Tomorrow will be another tough test for Chris and the boys as they travel to the Britannia Stadium to face another team that’s in the relegation battle. Stoke’s recent form has been shocking. Before last week’s 2-0 win at Loftus Road, Tony Pulis’s men had won only one game in their previous 14 and had plummeted towards the bottom three. But those three points last week were as big to them as Norwich’s were against Reading.

Stoke now sit in 15th, two places below the Canaries, but only a point further back. Stoke have lost four games at the Britannia this season, but three of those losses have come in their last four home games so it could be just the right time to go there and play them. Tomorrow isn’t going to be pretty and won’t be a venue for the faint-hearted. The lads will have to go up there and match the physicality of Pulis’s men, who will now be rejuvenated after beating QPR last weekend.

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I’m sure that you were all as shocked as I was last Sunday afternoon when I saw Luis Suarez sink his teeth into Branislav Ivanovic’s forearm. Not for the first time on a football field the Uruguayan was caught biting an opponent. He did it in his last game for Ajax and was suspended for seven games. I’m not surprised the FA have made an example of him and banned him for 10 games.

However, they decided against punishing Jermain Defoe when he similarly bit Javier Mascherano in 2006 as he had been booked. Suarez may argue a precedent had been set.

He’s a wonderful player but has a dark side to his character that we’ve seen far too often. Before Sunday I would have said that he should win the PFA player of the year award, but now I’d rather see Gareth Bale or Robin van Persie pick up the award.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if he’s gone to break someone’s leg with a ridiculous tackle or smashed a player in the face with a deliberate elbow. But the two worst things that can happen to you on a pitch is for a player to spit or bite you. There is a code of conduct among players and these two actions are a big no no.

Players go out and they expect to get kicked and sometimes elbowed, but they never expect to be spat at or for a player to bite them. There’s no room for those two things in football or in any form of sport.

I was quite vocal about Suarez’s actions as I’ve been bitten twice while playing in my 22-season career. I was shocked when it happened to me. The first incident happened at Vicarage Road when I was playing for Norwich. We had a free-kick and I was being picked up by their burly centre forward (who will remain nameless). All of a sudden he planted his teeth into my shoulder blade and, boy, did he leave his mark. I went mad and somehow I didn’t punch him. To this day I don’t know how I didn’t react. I showed the referee his teeth marks but the ref said he hadn’t seen it and, therefore, couldn’t act upon it. The player involved went unpunished.

The second time I was bitten I was on loan at Cambridge and we were playing Swansea at the Vetch Field in the penultimate game of the season. This time it was their centre-half who tried to take a chunk out of my tricep. He drew blood and once again left teeth marks but the ref had the same problem as before. He hadn’t seen what had happened, so couldn’t take any action.

I’ve lost teeth from an elbow playing football; I’ve broken ribs, and punctured a lung playing the game I love. I’ve broken my nose more than once on the field and suffered numerous concussions, but that’s all part of the game. You know when you take to the field that those types of injuries occur in the heat of the battle, but you never expect to get bitten.

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