Time for the Premier League novelty to make way for victory
Forget that the season only started a few weeks ago – we are already heading into the territory where top flight campaigns can be shaped.
We all worked through the Premier League fixture list on that sweltering – or not – Thursday in June, the moment Promotion II was supposed to ‘sink in’.
In that long list of dates for the diary, the trio filling September will have been earmarked as ‘winnable’. And not only out of hope. At this level, out of necessity too.
The stark effect of City’s start six years ago sadly means that, until the Canaries bag that first victory back in the top flight this season, it will be relevant.
November 20, 14 games into the campaign, came that opening 2-1 win at home to Southampton – who, of course, joined City in the bottom three come May.
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I mention the detail – but have plenty of faith this season will take City fans to a different place than 2004-05.
And that is because, out of this month’s trio of games, I believe Paul Lambert’s side can beat either West Brom at home on Sunday, Bolton at the Reebok the following Saturday or – maybe and – Sunderland at Carrow Road on September 26.
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It is almost certain, given the heart everyone could take from those 75-odd minutes at Chelsea and what we have witnessed at City for two years, that the players and management have layers of belief in that as well. And that is fine, all good.
But we are all aware we will soon reach the point where belief will be reflected by points on the board – and that will bring an entirely different pressure to proceedings in the coming weeks.
My own point of view is City need to win this month to avoid a flawed campaign. Yes, it’s early to say it – but psychologically it will become vital to shake any potential monkey off the back before it becomes gorilla-proportioned.
And while the fixture list is essentially playing everyone twice at some point, the order does make a difference – be it momentum or perception.
West Brom are still pointless, but have already hosted Manchester United and been unlucky themselves at Chelsea.
Sunday, to them, will be seen as their big chance to get off the mark – at Norwich’s expense. Even if they have to do it without injured strikers Peter Odemwingie and Shane Long.
It’s curious. Now the transfer window is closed and the finalised squads for 2011 are out, returning from the international break feels like getting the season going properly after a few ‘feeler’ games.
The opening skirmishes, full of novelty and energy, are over – now for the real stuff and some serious winning of points.
Obviously there are plenty of winnable games beyond September – two of them will arrive as soon as next month.
But City will do themselves a real favour by joining the party properly soon with a win.
If there was an initial novelty value to the top flight return – refereeing decisions excepted – that day at Chelsea can quite happily sit as a proud final�.
From here on in, it will ratchet up a level – starting in front of the TV cameras on Sunday.
Perform like they did for most of the games with Stoke and Chelsea, and keep 11 players on the pitch, and this City side is well capable of eradicating that annoying stat from 2004-05 to some lonely, rusty bin in the past.
• Just saying…
• Clearly City got their business done early – Paul Lambert isn’t one for deadline day arrivals. But there was some serious recruitment going on elsewhere. Time will tell who played it right.
• Great move to Coventry for Cody MacDonald – a lovely kid and not bad in front of goal either. I spent the first weeks of last season proclaiming he’d bag 20-plus goals at Gillingham, and I bet he gets plenty at the Ricoh too. Good luck to Tom Adeyemi as well, on-loan at Oldham. Boy’s got talent.
• I just cannot get up for internationals – especially as England remain in a yo-yo league between easy qualification and finals failures. But good on Steve Morison – off the mark for Wales. A top-flight first next, please.
• How bizarre Steed Malbranque was reported to have left Saint-Etienne after just one game to tend to his ill son. The ex-Fulham man denied the reason unequivocally – he doesn’t have a son. Weird.