Dave Major: Whatever happens, Norwich City fans always have hope
PUBLISHED: 07:30 24 February 2018
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As the cliché goes, it’s the hope that kills you.
It’s the hope that killed Ipswich Town’s fans last Sunday and that knocked the stuffing out of Wolves midweek.
The hope of last-minute goals. When they’re in your favour they turn a defeat into a draw, can turn one point into three. But more than that, they lift the mood. The despair or acceptance turns into adulation. The positivity flows through supporters and players alike and ultimately an unbeaten run continues.
Add into the fact that last Sunday, Timm Klose’s header kept up the nine years of hurt for our nearest and not so dearest neighbours in Suffolk. That’s why it was celebrated so fervently, at least on the terraces, not because we’d won the cup according to a slightly disgruntled Ipswich goal-scorer. Shame, eh?
Such goals can have a profound impact on a season. Ask Paul Lambert’s Norwich City side of 2010/11. It started in the second game of the season, with Grant Holt’s last-minute winner at Scunthorpe. Through the second half of the season some eight points were further gained with last-minute goals, largely turning draws into wins at Carrow Road. Result, Norwich got promoted by four points.
Which brings us on to promotion and the play-offs. It remains there as a tantalising glimpse upwards; effectively a nine-point swing away thanks to Norwich City’s lack of goal-scoring prowess.
Do I think we’re capable of beating Bristol City, currently in sixth place, on our day? Yes. Do I think we’ll pick up nine more points than them during the rest of the season? Sorry, no. Ultimately, Norwich haven’t won enough of the games against the likes of Ipswich or today’s opponents Bolton to warrant such a position.
But then it’s the hope, the if only, that draws you back in.
If only we manage to beat Bolton today, then Barnsley next week. Let’s say we’re a couple of points closer to the play-off pack. Maybe, just maybe.
Whilst that hope remains, Norwich need to go for it, Never Mind the Danger style. It was 2001-02 when Norwich effectively came from nowhere mid-March to gate-crash the Championship play-offs and come but a few penalty kicks from the Premier League.
It’s happened before.
It could happen again, but we’re firmly in that last chance saloon territory. The goals need to click, the hope needs to deliver. And that’s where my belief starts to draw thin.
Sunday showed exactly where Norwich are this season; particularly at home. Defensively resolute, but going forward, too slow, predictable and overly-reliant upon James Maddison. Net result, if he’s crowded out Norwich have too few options. Get him on the ball and in the right areas, and he looks like a man playing above everyone else on the pitch.
Which wasn’t quite the position on Wednesday. Such is the embarrassment of riches that Wolves possess, with the £15m Rumen Neves, they’re on course to win the league at a canter, even with Ryan Bennett regularly in their back line and John Ruddy’s help to end Nelson Oliveira’s goal drought.
To make the play-offs and such a run a reality, both Oliviera and Maddison need to play major parts – the former needs to now go on a goal run and the latter lift his stock and mantle that bit higher.
But without six points in the next two games, it’s going to be about next season. About ensuring enough positivity remains to keep an Oliveira or Maddison; to prove the worth of the likes of Dennis Srbeny and Sean Raggett. For me that’s the most likely outcome, a top-10 finish and enough hope that keeps Norwich’s better players for next season.
But it won’t stop me clinging to that hope.