The joys of Old Trafford, Norwich City’s day of freedom and Carolyn Still
This Saturday – the reason everyone got so giddy with excitement during last season’s trials and tribulations in the Championship. The reason the other 72 sides in English football would love to be where Norwich City are right now.
A trip to Old Trafford to face Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in front of 76,000 fans – a club with which City now share a division, if not financial stratosphere.
And it has to be said, the Yellow Army will almost be able to head to Manchester, take in the match and enjoy an afternoon without a drop of pressure.
Let’s forget for a moment those inside Colney, who will be planning to execute the same effort that came within 10 minutes and a harsh sending off of earning at least a point at Chelsea.
For those spending their own hard-earned wages and petrol on the 450-mile round trip, it will be a day to savour – and here’s why:
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• It is the easy and obvious comparison, but exactly two days short of two years ago, City were welcoming Bristol Rovers to Carrow Road in League One – three days before a trip to Gillingham in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy second round (south);
• This is City’s first season back in the top flight, so there is every excuse to play up to the ‘underdog, little Norwich’ tag for now, without thinking it belittles the club – the same trip next season may be different;
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• City will finally get to take back their colours from the yellow and green wannabees;
• Anything better than losing 8-2 tops Arsenal’s efforts at Old Trafford earlier in the season.
Then there is the likely absence of Wayne Rooney through injury – speaking as a fan, something that is a clear bonus; but as a journalist, it’s disappointing to miss the man and his hair in top form at close quarters.
But the real reason City fans can enjoy the trek north on Saturday is the fact the last two outings have brought six points, two wins and a huge dollop of confidence to Premier League life – far beyond the early experiences of 2004-05.
I was straightforward about September before it arrived – fail to pick up a victory in the month’s three games and the season was set to be a long one for all concerned – Premier League novelty or not.
As it happens City are ninth, have the makings of a settled starting XI that plays to the strengths of David Fox, Wes Hoolahan, Elliott Bennett and Anthony Pilkington – and most importantly lead their top flight mini-league that includes QPR, Wolves and the teams from Sunderland downwards.
I fully appreciate the difficulty – and expense – that fans face in trying to book a ticket for City at this level.
And I’m definitely not trying to get in on an argument over loyalty and rights – no thanks.
But for sentiment and exactly what the club has achieved over the last two and a bit seasons, it would be fitting if the 556 members of the Yellow Army who made that freezing Tuesday night trip to the Priestfield Stadium get to take a seat among the 3,000 visiting fans at Old Trafford for Saturday’s big one.
After all, it is a day that has been six years, five managers, two promotions and one relegation in the making.