Time for Norwich City to put the FA Cup first for once
It's amazing the difference that 14 points from seven games can make.
At the start of that run, following the complete outclassing by Tottenham, if successive weekends contained a league game and an FA Cup tie then it was the points that were the main objective. And rightly so.
Now, however, things have almost been turned on their head. And while I wouldn't want to see City completely embarrassed by Manchester United eight days later, if I had to chose one game to win out of the next two it would be the Leicester one.
There's six good reasons why: 1959, 1963, 1983, 1989, 1991 and 1992 – the only previous occasions when the Canaries have made it through to the last eight of the FA Cup.
After 20 years of hurt, the time is surely right to finally reach at least the sixth round.
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Over those two decades while we've occasionally been unlucky with draws, there have been rather more seasons of complete and utter indifference as far as this competition goes. Now is the time to put that right.
Defensive frailties apart, just about everything is in our favour for this tie.
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Home advantage, a squad full of confidence and momentum and facing a stuttering side who have managed only three wins in their last 11 league outings.
The only thing that I can see being a major problem is the past experience of playing Leicester at a time of such over-confidence.
See February 2008, when City fans were just starting to sense the possibility of a late, unexpected push for the play-offs on the back of a 13-match unbeaten run.
A travelling support of 3,094 saw the Canaries crushed 4-0 and it was effectively the beginning of the end for Glenn Roeder. Eleven wins and six draws from 40 league fixtures later and he was out.
And then there was May 1981.
The Canaries need a final-day win that might just save them from the drop to Division Two, they're at home to a Foxes side who are already relegated and surely easily beatable.
No-one quite predicted Norwich trailing 2-0 after only 22 minutes…
This is the sort of fifth-round draw that we have been waiting 20 years for – since Dave Stringer's team were drawn at home to soon-to-be-relegated Notts County.
It might lead to nothing – come Sunday's draw we could be 'rewarded' with our customary FA Cup visit to Chelsea. But on the other hand we might get Millwall or Bolton at home.
We have to take this tie seriously. Go out this weekend then our normal poor FA Cup service resumes next season and we get drawn away to, say, Liverpool and get comfortably beaten and we will look back on the Leicester tie as a real wasted opportunity.
Given that Paul Lambert has picked up a few cup winner's medals and also knows his recent Norwich City history I look forward to him naming a decent side who will be fully fired up to beat Leicester.
• TICKETS GRIEVANCE GIVES FOXES EXTRA MOTIVATION
A few thoughts on the size of the Leicester City allocation – not least the way it's been made behind very closed doors by the Norwich City Safety Advisory Group (NCSAG) and with no explanations being offered.
After all, it's just over two years since Alan Bowkett was moved to say this about our limited official allocation at Colchester: 'We urge them to reconsider their decision, as it seems a shame to potentially stop Norwich City supporters who want to go and watch the game from doing so when the demand is clearly there.'
Varying circumstances maybe, but if you're a 2010 City fan or a Foxes supporter in 2012 you're going to feel equally aggrieved.
Now it could be that all of the below is irrelevant because it's down to Leicester now wanting to pay up front for more tickets on a sale-or-no-return basis, but given that the NCSAG's openness surrounding this whole process is such that some might consider the tie should be sponsored by Pravda, who can say whether or not this is the case?
• If that was us being given only 2,400 tickets you can imagine that all manner of protests would be kicking off, from both inside and outside Carrow Road. Forget a tit-for-tat 2,400 allocation for any midweek replay at Leicester – I suspect that would be quite enough.
The thought more occurs that any potential sixth-round hosts are looking at this situation with interest. Might, say, Stoke, turn round and say: 'Very sorry, but because of the shape of our away end you can only have a standard 3,000 tickets rather than 4,000?'
• If, as some people have suggested it is down to the configuration of the Jarrold Stand – although this did not prevent a very large West Ham following in 2006 – what happens if we win and then draw one of Arsenal, Chelsea or Tottenham here in the quarter-finals. Even allowing for some heavy policing for their league visits, would any of these clubs settle for around 2,500 seats again? Can't see it, somehow.
• This is just going to really stoke up the atmosphere on Saturday. I'll bet there's more potential for trouble from disgruntled elements of a 2,400 Leicester following than in a 4,000 one. It also fires up the opposition. Having already been quoted as saying, 'I think it is very disappointing for us as a club and certainly for our supporters who follow us in big numbers', I imagine Nigel Pearson will be telling his players on Saturday to win it for the fans.
• If there's a suspicion that the Canaries are unable to cope with the relocation of season-ticket holders for this or any future FA Cup tie it frankly does not fill me with optimism for what might have to happen should the City Stand ever be rebuilt.
• If Norwich as a club have not enjoyed this whole process against Leicester then I look forward to hearing about them using their Premier League status to lobby the FA to amend the rules on away ticket allocations. They can but try.
• WE'RE EVEN WINNING WHERE WE'RE NOT MEANT TO
It has always been the view of this column that you stand or fall by the results you manage against your fellow-newly promoted sides.
Seven years ago we managed a win and three draws – and that simply wasn't good enough. Had we been brave enough to go all out for victory at West Bromwich or been unsure of what to do with a 3-1 lead at Crystal Palace that season would have turned out rather differently.
And so to this year. Had we repeated the trend of 2004/5 we'd now still be looking over our shoulders with six fewer points.
As it is though… well, it's going to take an incredible turnaround now for this season to end the way our last time in the Premier League did.
Are we going to lose most of our remaining 13 fixtures including the key ones against Wigan, Wolves and Blackburn? It's unlikely.
Are the likes of Bolton and QPR all going to suddenly embark upon an unlikely winning streak?
Well, it's possible, but academic really if the Canaries continue to carve out results such as Saturday's.
Yesterday was the first day that I stopped looking below us in the table and started considering those immediately around us. Wolves' result against West Brom was of interest, obviously, but not in quite the same way as before.
Not only are we now winning the games that matter, we're also succeeding where we weren't expected to.
The Lambert-Culverhouse tactical team completely out-thought Swansea on Saturday – no mean feat when you consider their previous results at the Liberty Stadium.
It will have bust many a game of Swansea v Norwich media bingo.
You could tick off many of the phrases used: rising young managers; fans who surely expected nothing but a season of struggle; and teams who like to pass and play the game in the right way? Check, check and check.
The only thing not expected was anything but a home victory.
• A LOT OF HOT AIR IN WRONG PLACE
I see that two clubs in the Championship who have been known in the recent past to have charged Norwich fans a fair bit for tickets obviously didn't put such income towards under-soil heating. Surely if clubs coming up into the Championship have three years to make their grounds all-seater there should be the same requirement for under-soil heating. Covers and hot-air balloons are simply not reliable.