The League Cup may be a staple in the English footballing calendar, but since Norwich City lifted it at Wembley 33 years ago there’s little doubt its stature in the game has dwindled, along with its attendances.
In the 13-week period that Norwich City’s fortunes did not pre-occupy supporters’ minds this summer, those of us who followed every kick of England’s exploits in Russia were reminded how special this game can be when hope far outweighs expectation.
A derby clash at Portman Road and a cup tie at Arsenal followed by two home games against tough opposition, all in the space of 10 days. This run of fixtures was always going to test both the depth and character of Norwich City’s squad.
In a season of transition, and a week where Norwich City made it past the third round of the League Cup for only the fourth time in 21 seasons, it only feels right to draw on the positives of a second successive Carrow Road stalemate.
Whereas Wednesday night’s win against QPR felt like it could have been the start of the Daniel Farke revolution, Saturday’s performance at Villa Park was instead achingly similar to any number of away defeats suffered last season.
As City’s disappointing season meanders towards its seemingly interminable close, games and results have become almost secondary to statistics, which are being pored in over in much the same way that an ancient Roman oracle might study the entrails of a freshly-sacrificed sheep.
At least we can now resolve the long-standing debate about how to improve the atmosphere at Carrow Road. If the EFL were to appoint Tim Robinson to referee all of City’s home games I’m convinced that we would have plenty of noise.
When Timm Klose, finding no one open ahead of him, turned and played the ball back to Angus Gunn from the halfway line to an undertone of boos halfway through last Saturday’s first half I feared the worst.
With yet another international break upon us it seems like an appropriate time to assess the current state of the Canary nation, and there is no doubt that the overall mood has been lifted by Saturday’s performance.
Saturday’s game was much more than just a football match, with so much raw emotion in the Carrow Road air as fans of both teams united spectacularly to show great respect for the passing of Michelle Dack and Gemma Thomas.
The week leading up to the game at Bristol was a difficult one for everyone connected with Norwich City Football Club, with Alex Pritchard jumping ship for the greener grass of Huddersfield and Daniel Farke’s plans for the game disrupted by a late training ground injury to Tom Trybull.
As we trudged away from the Pirelli Stadium after one of the worst games of football I’ve seen for some time, and in which City’s first shot on target came in the 78th minute, I suspect that few of us were relishing the prospect of a game against Millwall.
There have been painfully few crumbs of comfort for City fans in recent weeks and, whilst the victory at an injury-ravaged Birmingham City removed a little of the gloom hanging over the club I don’t think anyone is going to get too carried away just yet.
Last Saturday’s game was slightly surreal in that City utterly dominated the first 20 minutes, created two excellent chances and then proceeded to gift the initiative as sloppy errors and unfocused defending allowed Bolton to claim a two-goal lead which had looked totally beyond them in that opening period.
The History Boys will have to make do with their star gazing for another few months after the Canaries left with the points from a Portman Road stadium seething with impotent rage as a generation of fans who have never seen an Ipswich derby win hurled facile abuse at anyone wearing yellow and green.
It seems that regardless of how many times we repeat the mantra “work in progress” in regard to City’s development, when it comes down to it we all perhaps expect rather more than is reasonable at this stage.
Reading probably expected to be facing a football team last Saturday, but instead found themselves up against a group of black clad Duracell bunnies who proceeded to harry them mercilessly for 95 minutes.