Michael Bailey: The high degree of difficulty that’s pushing Norwich City’s luck
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
In his weekly column, Norwich City correspondent and PinkUn Show host Michael Bailey talks Carrow Road, James Maddison and hair…
The question gets asked a lot, and listening to people’s responses is always interesting – but the best answer always gets delivered on the pitch.
So far this season, those supporters who ventured no further than Carrow Road have had a curious experience. Arguably the most consistent grumbles have come from home games, while they’ve had almost none of the fun – be it Sheffield United, Middlesbrough, Reading, Ipswich or even in a slightly strange way, Arsenal.
Only Bristol City and leaders Wolves have accumulated more points on their travels than Daniel Farke’s men so far this Championship season – a dramatic turnaround from the repetitively brittle nature of City’s previous campaign, albeit clouded by their failure at Bolton last time out. Old habits can sometimes die hard.
And yet, at Carrow Road it’s been painful. Only five teams have picked up fewer points – including Reading, from seven games rather than eight. Only Birmingham have scored fewer goals than City’s tally of six – even Sunderland have managed eight, and they are yet to taste victory.
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It’s also a stark contrast given how free-scoring the Canaries were for the most part last season in front of their own fans.
Why the contrast? That is the key question I referred to at the start of this column and it’s the key one we ask.
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For Farke and most managers, the public answer is merely happenstance. To them, the game is the same at home or away – and therefore sole concentration on the usual plan will see them through any bumps in the road, wherever they are.
Timm Klose’s recent answer to me was a little different, feeling City try to add too much panache to their home performances – and all too often, simply securing the points then eludes them.
For me, it feels a little more pragmatic. City do get more space on the road as their hosts try to force the issue – and generally they can take advantage.
They have also been more clinical too. Maybe more focused in what is always a more hostile environment than their home comforts. And therefore, more able to get themselves in front.
Of course, if you get the points it doesn’t really matter where they come from – except much like City’s often apparent approach to scoring a goal, if you keep doing things that come with a high degree of difficulty then you run the risk of pushing your luck.
After the latest international break, it will be all eyes on what Farke has in store for us. His pragmatic, conclusive response to the ills at Millwall and Villa Park was faultless – and while the issues are not so stark this time around, they are arguably just as important. There has to be a similar result, and that despite the limitations of injured personnel.
There have to be signs at home to Barnsley and Preston that City are unlocking the door with better focus, and a theme continuing on the road to Nottingham that the Canaries can rediscover their meagre defence.
Then we will really have answers to the key questions being asked.
• You sense the Football Association is excited by having James Maddison to play with over the international break, given how much coverage they are giving his first England Under-21 call-up.
Of course, there is no hiding his blossoming reputation – nor the fact he has a very big future.
Having seen every one of his performances so far this season, I have no doubt City have the real deal on their hands – and likewise, every club sitting above Norwich will know all that too.
Premier League Everton’s speculation is just par for the course rather than bold revelation.
But I have also seen too many hot City prospects sold off all too soon, be it through financial need or the team’s failing fortunes.
So I find myself making sure we enjoy Maddison while he’s here – and hoping City can keep pace with the young man’s development for as long as possible.
• For those who don’t know, my picture at the top of this page looks rather out of date.
Last April I decided to find out if I could grow a beard – and the answer seems to be yes.
The best bit is the Norwich City Fans’ Social Club held a vote to see if City fans wanted to shave the beard to pre-April levels, or save it for the rest of 2017. Shave won the day, more importantly raising more than £500 for City’s Community Sports Foundation.
The beard will go at Thursday’s media night hosted by the Fans’ Social Club, as half-time entertainment. Hopefully the Carrow Road entertainment gurus won’t decide it’s entertaining enough to extend to half-time at first-team matches.
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