A year Norwich City would love to forget – a bit like that Championship top-two finish
That most wonderful time of the year, when it’s almost impossible not to look back and what’s dished itself out over the previous 12 months – and then what lies in store over the coming year.
So having not written this column for a week or two, here’s hoping you all had an enjoyable Christmas and New Year – and if it included a Sunday trip to the Madejski Stadium, you have my sympathy.
Sadly though, you wouldn’t have all of it – there’s too much needed elsewhere, given the 2014 Norwich City fans have endured.
Effectively, it was a consistent let-down – a feeling that always seemed to have the last laugh following brief moments of joy. Such as Robert Snodgrass helping City to victory over Tottenham at Carrow Road, or Alex Tettey stepping up to strike the best Norwich goal of 2014 – in that home win over Sunderland.
That win was supposed to be enough to see City finish above the Black Cats – every time Sunderland seem to make the Premier League look such hard work this season, it still sticks in the throat a little.
The pattern was meant to be broken following relegation but given the highs of that comeback win in Cardiff and an East Anglian derby victory before that – and now how the Championship table looks at the start of 2015 – it’s hard to see that much has changed.
Worst-timed event of the year was an easy one for me – the arrival of that fourth home Premier League defeat of last season in April.
Now clearly, this is all a little glib – but to be quite honest, you can’t polish a turnip. Last year was rubbish – and this is a little extra, and necessary, closure.
So what of the brave new world called 2015 that we now inhabit? And no, simply hoping it’s better than last year isn’t going to cut the mustard I’m afraid. Firstly, forget automatic promotion this season. Or at least, forget about chasing it.
From here on it, everyone needs to mentally prepare for making sure of a top-six finish and then winning three games after most of the Championship will have begun their vacation time.
I’m not saying a top-two finish is impossible. If Norwich can win a minimum 16 of their remaining 22 games, they could have around 85 points – although the way the top two are currently going, they may both have more than that anyway. Still, if City can produce that kind of form thanks to the turn of the year, then great.
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But it’s almost now about avoiding the disappointment if that flip doesn’t arrive.
What I feel very safe in predicting is that this year won’t be dull. City’s season has two very clearly defined paths. Promotion equals success and a return to the Premier League.
No promotion equals failure, and an almost certain summer of squad upheaval or at the very least, some unhappy players.
There is no middle ground and while not many teams manage it, it’s why this first shot at a top-flight return was always the Canaries’ best shot.
It’s hard to imagine 2014 having left without there being one or two regrets still lingering around Carrow Road.
The new year’s resolution for 2015 should be to make sure there are not the same feelings hanging around at the same time next year.
• JUST SAYING…
There were moments when some of Chris Hughton’s decisions as Norwich City manager drove me mad – yet it would still feel so uncomfortable if he got anything other than a good reception from City fans on April 3.
That’s when the Canaries travel to face Brighton. The Albion job looks like a nice move for Chris, and I genuinely hope he makes a success of it.
It’s said a lot, but he really is a top-class guy – it just all fell apart for him here.
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