Royle approval for Norwich City's chances

David Cuffley Norwich City fans dreaming of a miraculous promotion double will need to keep their feet on the ground - with no club in the past 10 seasons reaching the Premier League with back-to-back successes.

David Cuffley

Norwich City fans dreaming of a miraculous promotion double will need to keep their feet on the ground - with no club in the past 10 seasons reaching the Premier League with back-to-back successes.

But the last manager to guide his team from the third tier to the top flight in successive years today offered words of encouragement to Paul Lambert's men in the Championship when he said: “It's wide open next season.”

Joe Royle took Manchester City up two steps from the former Division Two in 1998 into the Premiership by 2000, and the one-time Carrow Road player of the year sees no reason why the Canaries cannot be among the challeng-ers after taking League One by storm.


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He said: “One thing in their favour is that next season is the most open Championship I've seen in a long time.

“When Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion came down last season they were both very strong, both big clubs and played some exceptional football, but there is nothing to fear this time.

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“It's hard to see any of the sides coming down from the Premier League running away with it. Portsmouth are in disarray, Hull have problems and Burnley might lose one or two of their best players.

“Norwich went from strength to strength last season after a disastrous start and getting promotion was a fantastic achievement. They're high on spirit, they score goals and they have a goalscorer in Chris Martin who has come on greatly after a very promising start to his career.

“From what little I have seen, they will need to strengthen, but Paul Lambert will already have earmarked which positions. When we went up at Manchester City, we had to strengthen in a couple of positions. I brought in Mark Kennedy, who was a great footballer, and Andy Morrison, who was a great leader.”

Lambert has been careful not to make any bold predictions for 2010-11 after guiding the Canaries to the League One title by a nine-point margin in his first season in charge, but chairman Alan Bowkett has already spoken of competing for a top six position in the Championship.

“It's not impossible. It's realistic. Next season is wide open,” said former striker Royle, who spent two seasons as a player with City, from 1980 to 1982, and later managed their biggest rivals, Ipswich Town. “I think Ipswich will be stronger next year and with Leeds coming up into that division, it's going to be very competitive.

“You never know - it could be a great year for East Anglia. I'm absolutely delighted Norwich are back. I got my one player of the year award at Norwich and I'm very proud of that. I had two marvellous years there and it was just a shame it ended with injury, but I still have great friends there.”

Royle's promotion double began when he guided Manchester City to victory in the Division Two play-off final at Wembley in 1998-99, where they beat Gillingham on penalties after a dramatic 2-2 draw. They then finished second behind Charlton in the former Division One, clinching promotion with a 4-1 win at Blackburn on the final day.

A year earlier, Graham Taylor had completed a similar double in his second spell in charge of Watford.

In the past 10 seasons, however, no team newly promoted from what is now called League One has gone straight into the Premier League at the first attempt. Of the 30 teams promoted to the second tier, five have reached the play-offs in their first season, and two were beaten finalists - Preston in 2001 and Bristol City in 2008.

Four clubs were immediately relegated, including Peterborough the season just ended, but for the other 21 teams it has been either consolidation or survival. Leicester's efforts last term will give the Canaries encouragement, after they finished fifth and narrowly missed out on Saturday's play-off final.

t Teams newly-promoted to Championship (former Nationwide League Division One)

2009-10: Leicester 5th (play-off semi-finalists), Scunthorpe 20th, Peterborough 24th (relegated).

2008-09: Swansea 8th, Doncaster 14th, Nottingham Forest 19th.

2007-08: Bristol City 4th (play-off finalists), Blackpool 19th, Scunthorpe 23rd (relegated).

2006-07: Colchester 10th, Barnsley 20th, Southend 22nd (relegated).

2005-06: Luton 10th, Hull 18th, Sheffield Wednesday 19th.

2004-05: Queens Park Rangers 11th, Plymouth 17th, Brighton 20th.

2003-04: Wigan 7th, Cardiff 15th, Crewe 18th.

2002-03: Reading 4th (play-off semi-finalists), Stoke 21st, Brighton 23rd (relegated).

2001-02: Millwall 4th (play-off semi-finalists), Walsall 18th, Rotherham 21st.

2000-01: Preston 4th (play-off finalists), Burnley 7th, Gillingham 13th.

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