Opening day calamity so familiar to Norwich City fans

It's a tried-and-tested formula for success which has worked before, so why not roll it out again?

Get outclassed on the first day and then regroup strongly to go on and have a campaign to remember.

People will always remember what happened three years ago, but how about 2001/02 as another example?

A season which started with the Canaries being taken apart 4-0 at Millwall, but yet almost ended in promotion at the Millennium Stadium.

Because Saturday's performance was right down there with Colchester and Millwall when it came to embarrassing, one-sided affairs which evaporated a rising head of genuine pre-season optimism.

In some ways it was actually far worse.

The trademark of away games over virtually all of the past three seasons has been players knowing what they were doing, having great spirit and self-belief and refusing to be beaten.

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Coincidentally the last time I saw such a poor away game as that – genuine one-off no-shows at Blackburn earlier this year apart – was at Brentford three years ago.

Which just happened to be the previous occasion that Paul Lambert didn't take full charge of a Norwich City side – he was watching from the Griffin Park stands that night.

It's only a matter of five miles between the grounds, but how the memories came flooding back on Saturday.

Players not being able to do the basics? Check. A sense of, shall we say, less than togetherness running through the whole side? Check. The feeling that as soon as City went two down, that was it? Check.

That last one was the most telling, when you think back to the never-say-die spirit seen at Arsenal last season.

In most away games of recent times the Canaries have gone out and given it a go.

Even at Fulham last season, when the defending in the first quarter of an hour was as inept as anything seen on Saturday, City refused to be beaten as the second half got under way, and had their goal arrived earlier than the 77th minute I'm certain they would have come away with a point that day. On Saturday heads went down as the goals went in, and continued to get lower and lower and lower.

Both the attitude and the hot weather made the memories of May 2005 flood back.

(Not to mention parts of the midfield going missing in non-action as well.)

They say that lightning never strikes twice. Well, on evidence of this showing let's hope that Colchester never, ever come back to Carrow Road.

It's one shockingly bad game, and that's all you can say.

If seasons were decided on the basis of one fixture we'd deservedly now be relegated, but we have another 37 matches in which to make amends.

If we're still looking as all over the place by the time Fulham come here in February then we are going down, but that's still another six months away.

The old regime might have had a plan B up their sleeves on Saturday, but it took even them time to build up such strategies – remember a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to Walsall very, very early on during their time in charge?

Saturday's Portsmouth team composed of 11 players making their debuts would have shown more understanding of each other's roles than what we saw at Craven Cottage.

The formation used in south-west London seldom appears to work for us, and we need to be able to have alternatives in place.

If we're taken apart with as much ease by QPR then there is a real problem. That, after all, comes under the category 'One of the 10 games we should be winning'. Anything you get out of Fulham away is a bonus.

We should expect changes, a much more adventurous outlook and little things like captains leading by example.

Hopefully we can consign this one to history once we've got the first 11 fixtures out of the way and can make a realistic assessment of our prospects after the visit to Reading in November.

But at the end of the day we're Norwich City. Like cup runs, we don't really do opening days.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, that's just the way it is.


As the words of the song don't quite go, when it comes to Craven Cottage I just can get enough now, actually.

Two of the last three visits have been depressingly similar, although if you take away the final 75 minutes of the one in the middle you can actually make that all three.

I don't quite know what it is about Fulham, but I could probably put up with continually being outclassed if it was by a bigger or more sustainably-run outfit.

There was a time when Fulham were the sort of club that very few people could dislike. Over the past 15 years they've become a Leyton Orient with a sugar daddy, and that ambivalence is now long, long gone.

It's been noticeable on each of City's three Premier League visits. You set off with the thought: 'It's 'only' Fulham, we might actually get something out of today.'

Then when you actually arrive in London SW6 you take a closer look at their squad list and see it's full of some quality players and other names which you don't know but duly turn out to be as equally capable.

It was a case in point on Saturday, when Fulham had no Clint Dempsey to call upon, yet unveiled the little-known (to us) Mladen Petric and Alex Kacaniklic. Ninety minutes later we certainly knew a whole lot more about them, that's for sure.

I suppose it could have been worse. In each of our three visits, while Fulham have been pretty much allowed to score at will, on each occasion you sensed something of a easing-off.

I dread to think how many they might have got if they really, really tried. If ever there was a venue at which City's record defeat of 10-2 to Swindon in 1908 would come under threat, recent history suggests it's Craven Cottage.

But the chances are that I won't be there to see it in the future.

In the way that I'm thinking that I should never again go to the likes of Ipswich, Colchester, Charlton and Portsmouth to sully the memory of famous wins and promotion days, I'm now thinking I should call time on Fulham. Old habits die hard, though, and next time City are there I'll be the one with the nervous twitch turning into Stevenage Road when remembering what happened before.


Well, now proper football has returned perhaps we've finally seen the last of the summer Celtic-Norwich love-in.

I guess the Glasgow fixture shift might have already achieved that in some quarters, given that the switch was less than what might be expected from a supposedly Premier League-standard operation by someone.

This whole relationship is fine when your opponents aren't a threat and it's all about a pre- or end-of-season jolly. But with events in Scottish football over the summer, who knows, that might change one day.

If Celtic want to get into the top flight of English football in the future it will be at the expense of a Norwich City-sized club and playing such teams in the meantime is a bit of a PR exercise – 'Look, our fans are great, not like those Rangers supporters in Manchester for the 2008 Uefa Cup final' – as well as being a nice little earner.

And then the love-in would really end if they're off to the Emirates Stadium while we're heading to Selhurst Park.


One chant at Craven Cottage made me think that if we draw a certain club from Yorkshire in a cup tie that the police are going to insist upon it being a triple-A-plus security risk.

It's like a visit from Ipswich would be far more likely to get under way at 3pm on a Saturday.

Because the first time opposition fans hear the strains of 'Leeds are our feeder club' it's really all going to kick off.

• At least we've got a few nanoseconds of extra presence in the Match of the Day opening credits this season. Who knows, if we can manage to stay up for another couple of years they might even show us scoring a goal.