Worthy must have lads firing from traps

RICK WAGHORN As much as you can ever guarantee anything at Carrow Road these days, let's work on the basis that the Canaries will lose at Cardiff City on Saturday and beat Wolves at home the following Sunday.


As much as you can ever guarantee anything at Carrow Road these days, let's work on the basis that the Canaries will lose at Cardiff City on Saturday and beat Wolves at home the following Sunday.

After all, that's not exactly a wild stab in the dark - Norwich have lost four of their last five on their travels; won the last six at home.

Be nice if they actually managed to sign off a pretty wretched season with more by way of a swagger than a stumble, but that might be asking a little too much with the beach and the first JD and coke of the summer within touching distance.

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Bitter post-mortems of what has been can, therefore, wait until they kick their last ball in anger; what will be is the more intriguing question.

Because even if the Canaries end the season with a swash-buckling away performance at Ninian Park this weekend and dance around the Wolves the weekend after, the air of bitter division that does for an atmosphere at Carrow Road these days will not blow away with the first summer breeze.

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People's opinions are too entrenched; for better or worse, for right or wrong, minds are made up; positions that have been held and fortified through the spring will not be easily abandoned. The 'Worthy out!' flag will flutter on that hill for more months yet; it is likely to be part of the match-day landscape for - right now - the foreseeable future.

All of which makes events of this summer more important than ever. The Canaries - for all manner of reasons - have to hit the ground running on August 5.

They cannot afford to wait until the second Saturday in September before racking up their first Championship win of the new season. The marker that they mean business has to be laid down on the very first Saturday - a marker that, arguably, will be of more importance to their domestic 'audience' in Norfolk than any other across the country.

For waiting in the long grass, waiting to pounce at the first sign of a stumble, will be the doubters and the dissenters; those that have long called 'Time!' on Nigel Worthington's reign.

To give them little or no room for manoeuvre, Worthington has to have a team, a shape and a defined way of playing in place by the first week in August.

Look back now at last summer - and for all manner of reasons - that never happened. The shadow of Damien Francis loomed large over everything. As laudable as it was to hold out and hold out for the best and biggest deal possible as the City midfielder downed tools completely en route to that pre-season friendly at Colchester United and threw his toys right out of the pram over his non-move to Portsmouth, this summer Norwich may yet have to bite bullets early - wheel and deal their way to a situation where a starting eleven is clearly visible from day one.

If people drop the slightest hint of wanting away - dig them out and get them on their way. Right at the start of the summer; not the end.

Plan for a life without Robert Green if mixing with the world's best in Germany this summer gives the City keeper a feeling that Premiership pastures new beckon; ponder what you might do without Youssef Safri if his wretched run of niggling injuries continues through another season; decide what is the best way forward away from home - and if that comes at the expense of entertainment, dig out a dirty 0-0s on your travels. Better that than the thrills and spills of a Luton Town away.

Much of it is in City's hands; some, alas, isn't. And that's where the problems really lie.

Because as much as we can all urge early action, the fact of the matter is that the summer's transfer window slams shut not on July 31, but August 31. In the case of this season, August 31 was a whole seven games into the new campaign - seven, crucial games on which Worthington's managerial standing and Norwich's promotion prospects may yet hang.

Quite what FIFA's deadline achieves in terms of anyone's hopes of team-building is, frankly, anyone's guess. Look back now and all that ensured Canary-wise was that Dean Ashton - or rather his agent-cum-uncle - had Manchester City whispering in his ear right through those early weeks of August. The 21-year-old didn't know whether he was coming or going; just in the same way that the City midfield never knew whether Francis was coming or going.

They didn't even know whether he was showing up for that Inter Milan game, nine days before the start of the season. Coupled to Safri's fun and games with Morocco, Jason Jarrett's home-sickness and the difficulties that the luckless Andy Hughes has had through injury and otherwise, Norwich's midfield has never been on a sure footing all season - something you half suspected might be the case when you were watching Andrew Fisk and Rossi Jarvis do their best on a village pitch in Holland last summer.

Unfortunately for those that think this summer will bring a welcome break from all the trials and tribulations this season has brought, the chances are that City are just stumbling from one minefield to the next; that just as Andrew Johnson run amok at Crystal Palace away, so the likes of Tony Finnegan and Company will be running amok this summer.

So be warned - the 'fun' is likely to run and run.

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