Are Norwich City now Stoke City in disguise? The statistics certainly suggest so
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
How things change.There was a time a few years ago that I looked at a club like Stoke and wished for Norwich City to emulate their progress.
In fact, back in our darker days of League One and Championship football that was probably a subject of one of these very columns.
Clearly it wasn't the style of play that led an envious eye to be cast over the Midlands club – I'm firmly in the same camp as those Norwich City romantics who want the team to play with a certain passing style and panache. You can't always get what you want of course.
It was more that Stoke had managed to establish themselves as a settled top division club by giving trust and time to their manager and not putting the long-term stability of the club at risk by lavishly splashing the cash without considering where it was even coming from – or what would happen should the plan go a bit awry.
It was also because Stoke had managed to give their fans more to enjoy than simple mid-table security year-after-year.
They blagged themselves an FA Cup Final in 2011 (albeit unsuccessful), which was followed by a run in Europe (albeit the lowly cup, not the big one).
And regular readers of this column will know that a day out at Wembley for a cup final is an itch I've not yet been able to scratch – but am desperate to do so.
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Meanwhile, I wouldn't even complain about a season travelling some of the most far flung corners of Europe (or should it be Europa?); at least it would be a unique and memorable experience.
Since feeling those flushes of envy, Norwich City has obviously improved its fortunes, while Stoke have flatlined somewhat. Potters fans would probably say both the cup final and Europe seem a distant memory.
In fact the two clubs are as comparable now as they've ever been – and here's the evidence.
They are currently separated by just two points in the table. Stoke with the advantage.
Both of the previous two seasons have seen both sides enjoy mid-table security, again separated by just two points, though with Norwich having the advantage on both occasions.
Meanwhile, the most recent six games between the two clubs have yielded two Norwich wins, two Stoke wins and two draws.
Those games have brought five goals for Norwich and exactly the same for Stoke.
Looking back on this evidence I'm beginning to wonder if we are Stoke in disguise!
So, on the face of it, all my dreams have been realised, haven't they?
Well, yes and no. Of course I'm delighted Norwich is in the position it is, especially when put against the context of its recent history.
But there are also several negatives that can be found in City having such a connection with the Potters.
These include an inability to create many chances and score many goals, a seeming lack of desire to really go for broke at home, but especially away, and also a failure to get enough points to stay clear of the threat of relegation.
It's for these reasons that it's time to pick a new model to aim to emulate – and that brings me nicely on to this weekend's opponents Southampton.
Ironically it wasn't too long ago the Saints were talking about the need to ape Norwich's record on the pitch. And they did just that with consecutive promotions from League One to the Premier League.
Since then the progress has continued apace, thanks in a large part to spot-on managerial judgment, astute signings and an ability to bring on players from the academy who do not look out of place gracing the Premier League.
At least three things the Canaries should aspire to achieve.
Follow David Powles on Twitter @David_Powles