Maths the way to do it
David Cuffley Norwich City boss Glenn Roeder has, perhaps wisely, refrained from setting a points target as his team bids to secure Championship safety. Although they have taken 23 points from the last 12 league matches, thanks to six wins and five draws, there was still just a six-point gap between the Canaries and bottom place going into today's games.
Norwich City boss Glenn Roeder has, perhaps wisely, refrained from setting a points target as his team bids to secure Championship safety.
Although they have taken 23 points from the last 12 league matches, thanks to six wins and five draws, there was still just a six-point gap between the Canaries and bottom place going into today's games.
Despite what Roeder has described more than once as a “fantastic” run, he has also stressed repeatedly that there is still a long way to go before his players can breathe a little more easily in what he refers to as “warmer climes”.
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It takes only a couple of poor results for City to be dragged back into the bottom three and, while the past two months have given fans good reason to believe they will be watching Championship football again in 2008-09, there can be no slacking at Carrow Road.
My distant memory of sprint races at school is of being told to keep going flat out for at least 10 yards past the finishing line, and this is the same approach City must adopt in the coming weeks.
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- 10 Norwich City fans gather at Carrow Road to celebrate promotion
There can be no easing up when the finishing tape comes into view.
The question is, where exactly will the tape be?
With 18 games to go, starting against Southampton at St Mary's Stadium on Tuesday night, one might - on the evidence of past seasons - reasonably assume that one point per match from now on, taking City to exactly 50 points, will be enough to banish any fear of the drop.
It is the equivalent of six wins and, on current form, they look well capable of managing that.
However, the bottom of the table is extremely tight and the gap between top and bottom is not as wide as in previous seasons. It may even take seven wins, or the equivalent number of points, to be certain of taking the heat off. But I doubt it.
One possible advantage for the Canaries is that 10 of their remaining games are against teams in the bottom half of this morning's table. Scunthorpe are the only side below halfway to have played Norwich twice.
So points taken against any of these 10 sides would have added value in delivering a body blow to one of their rivals in the survival dogfight.
But needless to say, losing to any of this group will be more damaging than, say, being doubled by Watford, West Bromwich Albion or Bristol City.
In spite of their current habit of drawing in front of their own fans - four times in a row if we include the FA Cup tie against Bury - the Canaries' best route to safety appears to be their run of home games, five of which are against teams in the bottom half this morning.
Preston, Barnsley, Blackpool, Colchester and Queen's Park Rangers all have to visit Norwich, and although big-spending Rangers may be a different proposition by the time they arrive for Carrow Road's final game of the season, City took eight points away from home from the other four sides and should be capable of matching that on their own ground.
The other four home games are against Hull, Stoke, Burnley and West Bromwich Albion.
With the exception of Albion, who must be favourites for the title, none of those should send a shiver up the spine.
The away programme is trickier and if City average one point per game on their travels from now on they will have done a very good job.
The major area of concern for Roeder in recent weeks will be his team's failure to turn territorial advantage into goals.
They have scored more than once in only one of their last 10 matches in all competitions and have had to be grateful that the defence has performed a great deal better than many people predicted after Martin Taylor returned to Birmingham City following his successful loan spell at Carrow Road.
One hopes the remaining five days of the January transfer window will bring additional strength in both department and perhaps even Taylor's return, given that injuries and suspensions could seriously weaken an already thin-looking squad.
But if the worst comes to the worst, supporters can at least take comfort from the fact that this team is now prepared to fight to the finish - and dare not do otherwise.
t CITY BADGE A BARGAIN
The Norwich City badge, which is being considered for a facelift by the club's “brand identity” working party, must be one of the greatest bargains in football history.
The man who designed it for a competition in 1971, architect Andrew Anderson, was awarded a £10 prize by the then Eastern Evening News and given two directors' box tickets for a match by the Canaries.
His distinctive canary crest must have adorned millions of documents, magazines, souvenirs and items of kit over the past 37 years, not to mention its hundreds of TV appearances, promoting City's image worldwide. And all for a tenner.
One is reminded of the story of Harry Beck, the engineering draughtsman who designed the world-famous London Underground map in 1933, and continued to update it throughout his working life. His reward? Five guineas for the original job and a plaque at Finchley Central station.