Norwich City must win ‘mini league’ games

So is your glass half full or half empty?

The views from phone-ins, chat rooms and fans in the stands are pretty divided.

The positive clan look at an unbeaten run of three games, a solid defence since the Fulham debacle, 20 chances created against the Hammers, the real prospect that those three draws could have been wins and no bookings this season.

And the fact is that City have one more point than at the same stage last year and have only one goal fewer.

The supporters on the other side of the fence highlight only two goals in six hours of action (even bearing in mind the comparison with 2011), a really tough run of games now coming up, skipper Grant Holt looking out of sorts and the inevitable extra challenge from “second year syndrome” in the top flight.

City’s visit to Villa at the end of October will be game nine. To be on a par with last term, the Canaries will need 12 points in the bag by then.

That will mean getting a total of nine points from the trips to Newcastle, Chelsea and Lambert’s new boys and the home matches against Liverpool and Arsenal.

Most Read

What do you think? Not impossible but tough.

I don’t like sitting on the fence (splinters aren’t pleasant) but at the moment I’m neither overjoyed nor down in the dumps after the first four matches.

The biggest issue for me as the season begins to unfold is our ability (or otherwise) to beat the teams who will be around us come the end of term.

To me the reason that City had such success on their return to the top flight was winning so many points in our ‘mini league’.

A whopping 36 points out of the 47 came against the clubs from the lower half of the table, and duly ensured 12th position in May.

Results like the fantastic win at White Hart Lane, the amazing comeback draw at the Emirates and the plucky goalless draw against Chelsea were icing on the season’s cake.

But the bread and butter which ensured we are still dining at football’s top table came from double successes over Swansea and QPR, wins at Bolton and West Brom and crucially not getting beaten very often by our real rivals. Yes City lost at Fulham last season – but a 2-1 reversal was very different to this campaign’s opening day calamity.

The home draws against QPR and West Ham were hardly disastrous – but you sense we have to start turning the one pointers in to maximums.

And to fail to score from 20 chances is a concern.


After the truly shocking findings of the independent panel in to the Hillsborough disaster, the next biggest talking point in football this week has probably been about handshakes.

I think I’ve seen about one effort that QPR and Chelsea had during the goalless draw on Saturday at the eBay Arena (as I think Loftus Road should be renamed). On the other hand (no pun intended) I have seen countless reruns and different camera angles of the moments when Anton Ferdinand snubbed John Terry and Ashley Cole.

It was all so predictable and all so unfortunate for football.

After the amazingly high levels of respect and sportsmanship during the Olympics and Paralympics, there were hopes that it could rub off on the so-called beautiful game. Hmmm… Clearly not then.

I’m not saying Ferdinand should have grabbed Terry by the hand and given him a man hug and forgotten all about what has happened between them.

What I do believe is that it is time to end the prematch enforced hand shakes. The intentions may be well meaning but you sense that the ritual has as much to do with ensuring the league sponsor’s advertising banner gets a prime spot on TV as promoting respect among the players.

I feel it has become something of a farce. Let’s let the footballers get on with the games and seek out those they want to exchange shirts with or embrace or shake hands with afterwards.

Those gestures would then really mean something.

• Hero of the week: I am in awe of the work done by the families of the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the Hillsborough tragedy 23 years ago to finally ensure the truth has come out. As a journalist I know how really tough it can be to take on the authorities and get information released. What these people have achieved is remarkable.

• Villain of the week: While the Hillsborough families are certainly the heroes, the very real villains are all those who tried to cover up what happened on that fateful day in 1989. I was flabbergasted by the extent of the lies which were told and the extent to which the blame for the tragedy was laid on the supporters. There were some in the police, other emergency services, certain parts of the media and a few politicians who played their part in the shocking deceit and justice must now be done.

• Highlight of the week: Last season it took until the 22nd game on January 21. This term it has happened on game four on September 15. There were times in 2011/12 when we thought we wouldn’t ever get a clean sheet – and it was a great surprise when it finally came against Chelsea. So while there are concerns about how things will go under Hughton, to get a shut-out under the belt so early in the campaign in 2012/13 is a positive thing.

• Funniest moment of the week: It has been a dreadful week for football and comedy moments have been few and far between. But I did chuckle when I saw Peter Crouch and Ryan Nelsen on MOTD trying to justify two big moments in their games – and attempting to keep a straight face. Crouchy said there “could have been a suspicion of handball” after his basketball impression while New Zealander Nelsen “couldn’t comment” on his All Blacks-style rugby tackle on John Terry.

• Prediction of the week: Reunions will become a common theme in City games over the next month. On October 27, a certain Mr Lambert will come face to face with many of the players he led to such amazing achievements in the past three seasons (and I will look ahead more to that in future columns). But this weekend CH will be returning to one of his old stamping grounds – and I have a sneaky feeling it will be a successful trip back up north.