David Freezer: City's superb start entering record-breaking territory
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Just one previous Norwich City team has made a better start to a season than Daniel Farke’s players have managed during the opening 19 games of the current Championship campaign – and that was 70 years ago.
An impressive points haul of 40 has never been managed before, although two campaigns prior to the introduction of three points for a win in 1981 must be included in the conversation.
Winning 2-1 at Reading on Wednesday evening saw the class of 2020-21 surpass the superb opening stages of the 1992-93 season, when Mike Walker’s team were taking English football by storm and top of the table.
That golden generation had picked up 39 points from their opening 19, so the current Canaries cohort have now edged ahead of the team of 92-93, although of course the likes of Bryan Gunn, Mark Bowen and Ian Crook were competing in the top flight.
The best ever start to the season in the club’s history, since joining the Football League in 1920, was the campaign of 1950-51 in Division Three South.
Norman Low’s team - including legends such as Ken Nethercott, Ron Ashman and all-time top scorer Johnny Gavin - managed 12 wins and six draws in their opening 19 games.
Converted to three points for a win that equates to 42 points by modern standards, two more than Farke’s squad.
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That 1950-51 season would finish in second place but only one team was promoted and it was eventual champions Nottingham Forest who were the only team to beat City in their opening 26 games.
If the current crop were to win their next two matches, at home to Cardiff today and away to Watford on Boxing Day, then they would surpass that team of 70 years ago.
The other campaign in the mix was one of the most important in the club’s history, the season of 1971-72, when the Canaries won the Division Two title to earn promotion to the top tier for the first time.
Ron Saunders’ players - including the legendary figures of Duncan Forbes, Dave Stringer and Kevin Keelan – had won 11 and drawn seven of their opening 19 matches.
Adjusted to three points for a win that matches the current tally of 40 points, in what turned out to be a title-winning season.
Again, should City manage to stretch their winning streak to six games by beating Cardiff and Watford, they would also surpass that superb start – to claim the outright record.
The encouraging points tally is also two more than Farke’s title winners of 2018-19 and five better than Nigel Worthington’s eventual 2003-04 champions, after 19 games.
They’re encouraging numbers, clearly, but there are still four games until the halfway point of the campaign so there is no room for getting carried away.
What is making the current position so satisfying for the Canaries however is not just that they are managing to shake off a painful Premier League relegation hangover but that they are also showing mental strength and defensive resilience, edging 11 of their 12 wins by just one goal.
Further encouragement can be taken from last season in the Championship as well.
West Brom and Leeds both shook off the disappointment of play-off semi-final defeat with strong starts, the Baggies leading the way on 42 points after 19 games and Leeds second on 40. It was Leeds that went up as champions but they both went up automatically after bursting out of the traps.
While the last recently relegated team to have 40 at this stage was Newcastle in 2016-17, who would win their next three to take their tally to 49 from their opening 22 games.
The Magpies went on to win the title, edging Brighton to the trophy by just one point with a final total of 94 – which was matched by Norwich’s title winners two years later.
Teemu Pukki’s penalty at the Madejski Stadium on Wednesday also brought up another interesting fact, notching City’s 27th goal of the season – 10 of which have been scored by the Finn.
That’s one more than the Canaries managed during the entirety of their disappointing Premier League experience, across 38 games.
After such a draining and difficult spell which sealed relegation earlier this year, it feels like going from famine to feast. During this most frustrating of years, that warm glow of victory is most welcome.