Will Norwich City ignore another chance to deliver on all that Premier League potential?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
A Norwich City win – that must mean it’s time to get over-excited? I have a feeling some might view the next few hundred words in that context. If so, you have an early apology.
What the words are trying to do is bring things back to points made earlier in the season – when the sun was out, money was being spent and most Norwich fans were still hailing the arrival of Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Or points made after the home win over Southampton, one that still sits as an anomaly given how the clubs’ respective seasons have panned out since Saturday, August 31.
Maybe even the trip back from The Hawthorns – where you will no doubt remember Chris Hughton’s men desperately needed a win off the back of their then-seemingly embarrassing drubbing at Liverpool.
Norwich beat West Brom, making it three wins from five – and with a favourable run of fixtures in the pipeline offering the prospect of some evidence to go with the summer’s expectancy.
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It’s arguably been this season’s greatest frustration – not how close the relegation zone has been, but how many opportunities City have had to get clear of it. All so far have been spurned.
Losing to Fulham may be the stuff of nightmares for football’s atheists. Losing at Cardiff remains the stuff of nightmares for everyone else.
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The fact is only rarely – and yes, it has happened – have City’s players not played to the plan laid out for them. The issues have often been individual mistakes – be it at the back or all those missed chances up front. The blame must be taken across the board too – players miss chances, yet the goalscoring issues have been around longer than the current playing personnel.
All of which brings this to Aston Villa. For all of the frustration at Carrow Road, it’s hard to imagine things haven’t been at least as fractious in Birmingham this season.
This journalist expected Paul Lambert to steer Villa towards a decent finish in his first season – and with the way they finished the last one, certainly to kick them on to an easy top-10 finish this term.
But it just has not happened – and Lambert is probably under more pressure on Sunday than his opposite number. If it’s a tight game, the home fans will either exhibit the comatose tendencies we saw last season, or get on Lambert’s back.
For a manager so clearly driven and impatient, it’s hard to work out from a distance where he sees his career heading beyond May.
Of course, making the most of Villa’s difficulties would also require Norwich to shake off their habit of the season – finding moral-boosting wins harder to build on than pancake mix.
But the Tottenham win – and maybe more so the last four performances – do take you back to some of those summer thoughts.
Such as City now having better players than at any point since they were promoted back to the top flight.
Or more currently, that City have a gap to the bottom three despite their strikers continually misfiring – surely something that will change?
And that defensively, City are excelling – at least for as long as their concentration allows.
Forget the fear and negativity that has swallowed the club for much of this season – Sunday not only represents a wonderful chance to taste something not yet experienced against the man Canaries fans owe so much too. It’s the first chance in a March of opportunities to turn an entire season on its head.
And what a chance that is – definitely not one to be walked out on.