Prove me wrong Norwich City – and give us again what we’re all so keen to see

Norwich City manager Alex Neil during the pre-season match with Coventry at Carrow Road. Picture by

Norwich City manager Alex Neil during the pre-season match with Coventry at Carrow Road. Picture by Richard Blaxall/Focus Images - Credit: Richard Blaxall/Focus Images Ltd

If you can't be optimistic in the days before the season starts, then when can you be? It's a great question – and one that has endured year after year, and despite Norwich City's horrendous opening day record.

Saturday will see the Canaries' 14th attempt at winning their first game of the campaign. While far from a walk in the park, a trip to Blackburn certainly gives City a shot at putting right one of their more bizarre historical runs.

But the battles that await Alex Neil's men will run far further and deeper than that opening 90 minutes at Ewood Park.

It's the role of all fans, ex-players, journalists and pundits in these days of high pre-season anticipation to lay it on the line, bask in their optimism and share exactly what they are hoping to see come the end of term.

And yet I find myself out of character with my past summers, desperately hoping those predictive feelings prove to be wrong – because I'm really struggling to imagine City pulling off a Championship promotion repeat for a third successive second-tier campaign.

That view has already brought shouts of negativity – some of them quite loud! But I can assure you it stems from a much more objective place than that.

It starts with the subject of my opinion piece in yesterday's papers – the complete lack of competition at the top end of Alex Neil's squad. You can sign as many number 10s as you like, there are only so many you can play at the same time – and none of them will make up for a squad shortage of genuine strikers.

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As things stand – maybe even with the odd departure – City are certain to have one of the best starting XIs in the Championship this term. The squad has significant quality too.

But the forward imbalance and lack of competition for Cameron Jerome simply cannot be left beyond the last day of August, and already is a great worry going into the campaign.

The assumption Jerome will guarantee you 20 goals in a second-tier season filters into the reliance every City player that has done it before in the Championship, will be able to do it again – albeit two years later.

It would be lovely if football was so predictable.

There is an energy that comes from recruiting players where their names appear on the radar and the first thought that follows – be it through their potential, reputation or hunger – is: I get that.

Ironically, it feels all too infrequent that we have 'got it' with a recent arrival at City – and it remains hard this summer to shake off the recent transfer window failings; be it those noticeable at the time, or the scouting issues proven a little further down the line.

I'm telling him nothing he doesn't already know himself, but Alex Neil has to deliver too. He needs a quick start. He has it all to prove again following relegation – despite how well those first six months passed.

Notions of winning with style and entertaining the fans are nice ideas – but should never get in the way of the purest, simplest aim every week: three points. That's the only true enjoyment in football.

It's why many fans will declare their love for the Championship ahead of the Premier League. All those wins; all those goals.

And I can assure you, I hope I'm wrong. I hope City's cycle doesn't break and the yo-yo continues its momentum. It's just that for this season, for this kick-off and for all the above and more, I'm not sure I can go ahead and predict it.


However this season pans out, there will be so much for us all to discuss, enjoy and rant about – some of those storylines have spent all summer brewing too.

City's goalkeeper situation will be fascinating following Michael McGovern's arrival. I'm confident John Ruddy will start at Blackburn as Alex Neil's number one – but it wouldn't take much of a wobbly patch for the Northern Irishman to find a clamour for his inclusion.

Russell Martin's early-season fitness issues have propped up the organic debate between fans over who should be captain this season.

And of course, the excitement of Alex Pritchard's arrival will be followed up. How Alex Neil manages his squad from there will show how much he has developed since last season.

However it all goes, it's great to have it back.

• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey or Facebook @mbjourno