First there were relegation issues, then there were promotion issues. Now it’s Liverpool.

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Ever since I have taken a healthy, professional interest in all things Norwich City, there has been something to keep me occupied at almost every stage of the season.

It started in 2005-06 – yes, I know, it’s a very late vintage – when Nigel Worthington’s relegated team tried to bounce back straight away. They were fringey, tailing off to ninth position.

Then it went downhill – Worthington was sacked and a succession of managers who were brought in to take them up, actually faced the task of keeping them up. I recall Glenn Roeder explaining the players’ bonus system which earned them extras if City were in the top half of the table. I believe during his tenure City peeped over that particular parapet just the once, so if nothing else he saved the club a few bob on that score.

The plunge finally came, but the days of reporting on relegation dogfights on a weekly basis soon turned to the battle for promotion. It came instantly – the rise and rise of Norwich City was plotted from position 67 in the footballing ladder, up to 22nd (runners-up in the Championship) to the nosebleed territory that is 10th today.

City are unlikely to waver too much from there – maybe a couple of positions higher, maybe a few lower. But it’s mid-table mediocrity of the very best kind.

It is also the only time in recent years it has happened. Which is where Liverpool come in.

With no relegation and no promotion issues and just four games (how can that be?) remaining, the targets become individual. Monday’s win at Tottenham was applauded all round, not for just the scoreline, but also for the manner in which it was achieved. It wasn’t lucky, or flukey; it was professional. And a brilliant scalp.

Manchester City was a bridge too far, but the next home game - against Liverpool - is a headline scalp, even more than Manchester City. Liverpool have a history, a cache, that few can match. But they are a club, a team, in turmoil. Rarely will Norwich have had a better chance to beat Liverpool than on April 28.

The incentive, though, is doubled: not only can City claim another high-profile victim, but they could also be in a position to overtake Liverpool in the Premier League.

For the first time under Lambert, promotion isn’t an issue.

But the replacement isn’t half bad at all.


I know referees have come in for some stick in the past week or two, but it really is time to blame the suits, rather than just the men in the middle, for some of the ridiculous inconsistencies in our game.

When refereess behave badly, the call is for TV replays to be used.

Presumably, those at the FA who sat in judgment of QPR midfielder Shaun Derry had the use of replays.

I ask only because you could quite imagine them all sitting down at a big, round table, looking at each other and saying: “Do you remember what happened?” “No? Me neither.” “What about you?” Etc etc

What did happen was that Derry laid a hand on Manchester United’s Ashley Young in the penalty area during the game with QPR last weekend. Young went down far too easily, referee Lee Mason saw it, red-carded Derry and awarded a United penalty. United went on to win the game 2-0.

Had we had the benefit of instant TV replays the judgment most probably would have been that a red card would have been harsh and Derry would have stayed on. Instead, we used TV, but only because there was an appeal – therefore, a couple of days after the event.

Of course, the FA found themselves in a position where, had they rescinded the red card, it would have pointed the finger at England international and Manchester United player Ashley Young. The inference would have been that he cheated. And then what would the FA have done?

Move on to Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli, sent off against Arsenal on Sunday. The controversy with him was an unpunished X-rated tackle on Alex Song. Because the match officials saw it (referee Martin Atkinson reported the incident had been seen), but not clearly enough to take action at the time, there is no avenue to make a retrospective judgment. Even though they could have viewed it on the same TV with the same Betamax recorder and with the same clarity as they did the Derry incident.

The trilogy of FA cock-ups involves Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, who struck Wigan striker Shaun Maloney in an off-the-ball incident – and nasty it looked too. Because referee Mike Jones and his officials didn’t see it at the time, the FA were allowed to take retrospective action – and quite rightly banned Ivanovic for three games.

Referees are human, they make mistakes. They have split seconds to make a decision. It’s very difficult and the players don’t always help. Nor, it seems, does the FA.

Football fans have been moaning about the problem for donkey’s years, yet nothing has been done. Perhaps the total failure in the Derry case is the reason why. If they can’t get it right over a cup of tea and a selection of fancy biscuits, what’s the point?


Another example of a football club being a little too sensitive of the media has emerged. Remember Manchester City banning the BBC’s Dan Roan because they didn’t like the interview he conducted with their Football Development Executive, Patrick Vieira. Well now Southampton – who in 2010 revealed that all independent photographers were to be banned from home games – have upset a member of the written media by refusing him a press pass for the big south coast derby last weekend. Portsmouth News chief sports writer Neil Allen was the ‘Solent One’, and assumes it was something he’d written rather than the fact the press box was full – because it wasn’t. Two of his colleagues did receive accreditation – but there’s a point that does need to be made here. The Portsmouth News had applied for accreditation for 11 members of staff – four journalists (later reduced to three), three photographers, two pitch-side photo technicians and two photo technicians. You did read that correctly – 11. As far as I am aware, Pompey v Southampton could be compared to Norwich v Ipswich. When I attended Portman Road in April last year to cover THAT match I did so in the company of three people – two other writers and a photographer – covering it for the EDP and the Evening News.