Norwich City need to cook up a baker’s dozen to survive in Premier League
What a difference six months makes. Turn your mind back to last summer when the pundits were having their say about who would get relegated from the Premier League this season.
While one or two threw in names like Wigan or Blackburn, I recall that the vast bulk of TV, radio and newspaper men were united in the thought that what goes up must go down.
Yes, last year’s trio of promoted sides would not be able to cope with the “best league in the world” was the general view.
Paraphrasing the pre-season verdicts, they went something like this.
“Swansea play some attractive football but will lack the cutting edge to compete with the big boys who play nice stuff much better. QPR won the Championship but are a bit of a mixed bag and will struggle when the going gets tough.
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“And Delia’s boys may have cooked up a few treats in the lower leagues over the last two seasons but will not be able to cut the mustard at the top table.”
Remember all that as you sat on a beach or enjoyed a cool lager in the garden?
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I’m not too bothered about Swansea and QPR (suffice to say that Brendan Rodgers’ teams have been superb and I’m sure they will stay up, while despite Mark Hughes’ arrival at Loftus Road, it will still be very tough for Rangers).
On Monday evening during BBC Radio Five Live’s ever-entertaining Monday Night Club, there was another discussion about who would go down.
The panel started reeling off a load of names, predictably with the current bottom three, and gradually working their way up the table.
But not a single one of them mentioned City,
So we’re safe then! Time, to get out the bunting and start relaxing and look forward to a second season in the top flight after one of the greatest achievements in the club’s 110-year history?
Er, maybe not.
It is flattering to think that the pundits who had written us off so easily are now not even considering us as candidates for the drop.
And after last weekend’s draw which for me really did underline we are Premier League quality, we are very, very well placed to survive.
But I still feel – to use the final Delia-ism I will ever trot out – we need a baker’s dozen of points to be certain and it will not be easy.
I have done a little survey among fans since Saturday of the total needed to be safe – which varies from 35-45.
The 40-point mark is generally considered the level at which you stay the right side of the trap door.
However, as this league has proved so unpredictable in 2011/12, I’m aiming for 42.
Right, 13 more and all is well.
And I’ve mapped out a little yellow and green brick road map to safety and the games where I think we can get those points.
If I’m right, April 21 against Blackburn will be safety Saturday – which gives us a whole two weeks to get ready for the FA Cup Final... OTBC.
• Where the points could come from:
Bolton (H) win, Stoke (A) draw, Wigan (H) win, Wolves (H) draw, Fulham (A) draw, Everton (H) draw, Blackburn (A) win.
• Hero of the week: So many contenders this week so the bottle of Clarkie champers will be served with four straws for Messrs Ruddy, Whitbread, Ayala and Pilkington. The City custodian put on another show which makes him a serious contender for the Euros this summer. Zak was everywhere and his centre back partner had his best game in a Canary shirt. And I cannot believe that the Match of the Day highlights left out Pilks making a fool out of Cole and Terry.
• Villain of the week: Yes, he is a great player. Yes, he has done some pretty amusing things and was seen as a bit of a loveable soccer rogue. But Mario Balotelli lost the support of so many of his backers when he put the boot into Scott Parker. He swung his foot further back to kick the Spurs midfielder than he did to take the match winning penalty which he should not have even been on the pitch for. If he had been caught on CCTV doing that on a Saturday night in a city centre he would have faced an assault charge.
• Highlight of the week: If my dodgy maths are correct, the Canaries have now played 2160 minutes (plus added on time) of football this season in the Premier League and the two cup matches. The one monkey on our back has been the whole clean sheet thing and some critics had still tried to cling on to it to undermine the success. So the final whistle on Saturday to confirm the shut out was a massive moment. I can’t remember a more satisfying 0-0.
• Funniest moment: I love listening to BBC Radio Norfolk’s Canary Call after games. It’s always great entertainment and caller Billy from Wymondham gets the comedy gong. He rang to speak to Disco Dale Gordon on Saturday and said in his great Norfolk accent: “I want to talk about Torres. He cost �50m and is on about �300k and Dale, I reckon he’s pants.” Simple, cutting and very funny analysis.
• Prediction of the week: I need to do a bit more research to be certain. but I’m guessing that a new Premier League record could be set this season with the fewest number of managerial depatures. I predict no more will leave their posts before May.