Norwich City are a team of two halves
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The cliché goes that football is a game of two halves, but at the moment it feels like Norwich City are a team of them.
Firstly there’s the upwardly mobile half.
The one which is in a reasonably comfortable position in its second season in the Premier League, potentially just one win away from 11th position and is currently the joint seventh hardest team to beat in the league.
This same half has just brokered a club record deal as it starts to spend a multi-million pound windfall due upon the resumption of a third consecutive year of top-flight football.
A Canary fan’s dreamland.
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Then there’s the half which is in the midst of a disturbingly downward spiral.
The one which has won just once in 16 games, suddenly finds itself just four points off a relegation spot and has the joint fourth worst win record in the league.
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This same half has just taken a massive gamble by agreeing to a club record deal when it could in fact be facing a year of Championship football in the 2013/14 season.
A Canary fan’s nightmare.
I guess which part you follow depends on whether you are the type of person who stares glumly at that half pint upset that it will be soon over, or with relish at the sips yet to pass your lips. I’ve always been a glass half full type of guy, but even in my most positive mood it’s hard to ignore the fact that we are entering a pivotal few weeks in the history of the club.
Perhaps even a pivotal few days, because while I refuse to roll-out the cliché of Saturday being a ‘six-pointer’ there’s no denying it feels bigger than your average battle between two mid-table teams.
Lose or draw on Saturday and squeaky bum time remains for a good few weeks at least, especially if results around us go the wrong way.
Win and that will put us on 37 points – with six games remaining, at least four of them winnable.
And while my early season estimation that 38 points would be enough to see us safe now seems a little bit optimistic, I’d still expect us to be able to get the 40 points that would surely see us home?
Ultimately, with QPR and Reading all but dead and buried, we are now in a straight race (if that’s the word) against seven other clubs to avoid that dreaded 18th spot.
Fans of West Ham, Southampton, Stoke, Newcastle, Sunderland, Wigan, Aston Villa and of course Norwich, cannot yet rest easy when they gaze upon the league.
My prediction (for we all love doing them at this time of the year) is that it will come down to one of Villa, Wigan and Sunderland and that Norwich will do enough to pull clear.
And if that happens it will be mission accomplished for Chris Hughton and his team, the only priority being to assess how the season went, look at the positives and negatives and ensure that 2013/14 doesn’t have us looking nervously over our shoulders once more.
And brings a season of entertaining football of course.
Norwich fans who expected anything other than safety this season were being unfair on a manager in his first term with the club.
If it doesn’t happen, and Norwich do end up going down, the consequences almost don’t bear thinking about.
I know chief executive David McNally has been fairly bullish about the fact that we’ll sign Ricky Van Wolfswinkel no matter what league we are in next season.
However, I’m convinced he would only have sanctioned such a deal if he was pretty confident a relegation scenario wouldn’t pan out.
All of his transfer dealings within the club over the last three years suggest here is a man not willing to put the club out on a limb. It’s been prudence with ambition – to revamp a well-known Norwich phrase.
Relegation, then, would leave us saddled with an expensive purchase, presumably with the high wages that go with it and in terms of the bigger picture undo some of the hard work of the past few years.
Granted we’d benefit from the Premier League parachute payments, but we’d be left with the scraps off the plate, while those still in the top division pore over the riches the latest television deal will bring.
I guess for that reason alone, the prospect of relegation doesn’t warrant thinking about too much – so I won’t. My pint’s still half full, we’ll win on Saturday, and again in two weeks, and all will be well within our club once more.
• Did anyone watch the highlights of Swansea’s game against Spurs last week and notice the repeated damage caused by Gareth Bale by simply running with pace at the oppositions defenders? While Norwich aren’t fortunate enough to have Bale in the squad, there are players with similar attributes. This is the ideal game for a fit again Anthony Pilkington to return, hopefully armed with some of the sparkle of last season.
• Time will tell whether Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s apparently ‘misquoted’ claims that Norwich are after an attacking midfielder and two wide players turn out to be accurate or not. In case you missed it he was quoted as saying so by Dutch football magazine Voetbal International, though Chris Hughton was quick to play down his quotes. Reading the interview back it was nice to see such open and honest quotes from a football player, rather than the usual cliches about ‘taking each game as it comes’. I’m sure in time we’ll see that change.
• An interesting tweet from David McNally this week. In response to a question as to whether we might play Ipswich Town in a friendly, his reply was “watch this space”. Let’s hope he’s not teasing City fans because such a prospect would be fantastic, much needed. But would Norfolk and Suffolk Police sanction such a game considering trouble at previous encounters?
• In a parallel universe Norwich City have been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons this week after a member of its board, perhaps even it’s majority shareholder, was jailed for 14 years for a series of frauds. Thankfully, in this universe the efforts of Giovanni di Stefano to increase upon his six per cent share of the Canaries with a hostile takeover in 2001 were rebuffed. Last week di Stefano, 57, was convicted on 25 charges including deception, fraud and money laundering between 2001 and 2011. The case should come as a cautionary tale to Canaries fans who, at various points in the past decade or so have wanted to see our current majority shareholders were displaced. Can’t help but think we got a lucky break in this case.