Robin Sainty: FA Cup replay as welcome as a piranha in a bidet for Norwich City and Fulham

Norwich manager Chris Hughton and Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen shake hands at the end of the FA C

Norwich manager Chris Hughton and Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen shake hands at the end of the FA Cup match at Carrow Road, Norwich. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Having started the Christmas campaign with a predominantly self-inflicted defeat against Fulham most neutral observers would accept that City haven't enjoyed the best of luck since.

Firstly, despite having Manchester United on the back foot for long periods, they came away pointless as a result of a bizarre double ricochet. Then they arrived at Selhurst Park to find conditions that could hardly have been more conducive to the Tony Pulis 'style' of football, and less to theirs.

Having ground out a deserved lead they then fell foul of some awful refereeing by Mike Dean. While no one could dispute Leroy Fer's foolish push in the box the fact that minutes earlier Dean decided to ignore the mandatory red card stipulated for raising a hand to an opponent's face continues to rankle.

Things didn't improve much last Saturday (although luck played little part in the game itself) as the FA Cup tie against Fulham resulted in a replay which will be about as welcome as a piranha in a bidet for both clubs. I didn't go to the game, simply because I grew up with the FA Cup as a competition that everyone dreamed of winning and can't raise any enthusiasm for its present emasculated state.

While Paul Lambert drew inevitable brickbats for his comments about the Cup being something that Premier managers could do without, you only have to look at the strength of sides being fielded by most of them to see that his statement was accurate.

While I can understand why they did that, the way the Cup has been marginalised is yet another example of how the cornucopia of riches on offer for simply being in the Premier League is slowly crushing the soul of the game. Fans may love the competition, but who cares what we think.

However, from a City perspective it was good to hear that a number of fringe players produced performances that will enhance their chances of involvement when league action returns this afternoon. With the injury situation showing signs of improvement Chris Hughton may have the relative luxury of picking from an almost full-strength squad before we reach the end of January, but there are few reinforcements available today.

Most Read

Clearly we are now at a crucial stage of the campaign. The threat of relegation hangs over more than half of the clubs in the league, with City delicately poised three points above the drop zone, but also three points away from 10th place.

With most teams below City having gambled on changing manager we will soon see whether they can mount a charge or whether the City board's decision to go for stability will come up trumps. It's going to be a nervous four months.

On the surface, today's game looks like one of City's more difficult away trips, with Everton still mounting a realistic title challenge. Having said that, City have yet to lose to the Toffees since their return to the top flight and if they can maintain that record this afternoon it will be a massive confidence booster for the second half of the season.

In some respects they may find it easier to assume the role of underdogs again, and certainly the players should find it easier to relax away from the febrile atmosphere that currently prevails at Carrow Road.

And if City's position isn't fraying your nerves enough, we are now well into the madness of the transfer window.

We have already had 'Wesgate' which fizzled out despite a frenzy of righteous indignation about something that hadn't actually happened.

However, I'm sure it won't be long before the next 'I've got a mate who knows someone who's heard that (insert player's name here) is definitely leaving' story rears its ugly head.

Happy days.