Michael Bailey: Nothing wrong with looking up – but it would need a Canaries case of history repeating
PUBLISHED: 06:04 15 December 2017 | UPDATED: 09:58 15 December 2017
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In his latest weekly column, Norwich City correspondent and Pink Un Show host Michael Bailey wonders whether one swallow really could make a prosperous Championship summer for the Canaries.
It only took one win for the question to resurface – what could City still aim to achieve this season? I know. Be it on the PinkUn Show or podcast, I tend to be the one asking it.
We all know one swallow of pride doesn’t make for a clear palate, but it comes with the territory of following a club – you intrinsically want them to do well.
Some of it is straightforward. City simply have no option but to pocket a fair few points across a Christmas period that starts with a Friday night home visit from Brentford ahead of the big day. It’s a shame the move isn’t because of Sky’s TV schedule – given City have won their previous four live dates.
After that and the turkey it’s trips to struggling Birmingham and Burton, before Norwich owe Millwall two games for the price of one at Carrow Road to ring in the new year.
Yet before all that City head to Leeds this weekend, who despite their late autumn wobbles are proving a very decent side this term. Not only that, they are being well-managed and have a major chance of going better than what they achieved last season – narrowly missing out on making the top six – and especially given some canny summer recruitment.
It’s probably best we forget the fact City were 3-0 up Elland Road shortly before half-time last season before having to settle for a 3-3 draw and a Steven Naismith ban that extended into the start of this season.
Not that it should be an issue. By my reckoning Ivo Pinto, Alex Pritchard and Nelson Oliveira are the only starters from that day likely to get the gig again this weekend. Josh Murphy seems unlikely to make it four.
Whether or not it’s all the changes and transition since that day, City’s current campaign has been a real patchwork – but arguably not so much inconsistent. In many ways it’s been the opposite: dead streaky.
After progressive unravelling across their five games in August – there’s that Millwall defeat again – City’s next eight hit heights we didn’t expect of them. They looked unbeatable at the back, dogged in midfield and efficient in attack.
It was the starkest of turnarounds, as exactly was written at the time – and it perhaps caused City a few ongoing expectancy issues one it all came to an end. Because the next six and half games was shy of goals, points and even encouragement.
At least, it was until half-time on Saturday evening – which brings us full circle.
Past trends this season say what happens next will be positive, and it will last a few games.
Obviously what we all want is something equally consistent – just dragged out for a little longer. Well, maybe a lot. For those still hoping City will make it into the top six, it will need to be.
Back in 2015, Alex Neil arrived well into the first week of January with City seventh, 37 points from 24 games and three points off breaking into the top six.
We know the story from there: 22 games, 49 points and so, so close to earning automatic promotion. A truly stunning run that still carried City through bitter disappointment – and the rest really is Canaries history.
You needed 78 points to earn a play-off place in the 2014-15 season – providing your goal-difference was good enough. Wolves’ credit of 14 was still four short.
As we sit now in the present day, only 21 games have passed – but so too has City’s ambition to finish in the top two. Aiming so high now would be purely to fail.
But what about the top six? Well City’s 27 points is by my reckoning 53 short of making the 80 that realistically books a play-off spot.
The next few games could improve their lot – but it seems more than likely even now, City may need a run equal to the stunning one Neil instigated on his surprise arrival – just to break into the top six. I’ll leave you to judge how likely that is.
In reality, all City can do from here is take small steps and ignore any grand plans for this season, see what they can do at Leeds and work from there. They’ve already left themselves in a position where looking any further ahead would be foolish. Most in football would say that’s how it works anyway – hence the clichés.
Therefore, perhaps all we can be grateful for at this juncture is that last weekend brought some semblance of positivity – enough at least to tempt fans into looking just that little bit up from the floor.
• I may have seen Jamal Lewis more than most, albeit only in pre-season – and my own disdain for using that as any sort of judgment is well documented.
In those games Lewis looked the part – quick, reliable and able to defend. More so, the noises from City’s coaches – and recently again Daniel Farke – show just how highly he is rated. We’ll all get to see what he’s got very soon.
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