2005 again? No thanks

Steve Gedge It's time to give the relevant footballing authorities thanks for giving us the forthcoming rather familiar-looking start to the new season. It's not so much an August 2008 fixture list, more a case of groundhog month.

Steve Gedge

It's time to give the relevant footballing authorities thanks for giving us the forthcoming rather familiar-looking start to the new season.

It's not so much an August 2008 fixture list, more a case of groundhog month.

Coventry away followed in the same month by a trip to Milton Keynes in the Carling Cup? That's so 2005, frankly.

And how most City fans must wish we could tear up the last 36 months and start all over again, still with parachute money in the bank and rather more confidence and shared sense of purpose running throughout the club.

You can almost hear some supporters now. “Jason, Carl, Peter who?” “Did we really once pay Reading £500,000?”

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(Though, that said it's interesting to see that in Four-Four-Two magazine Dion Dublin has named Messrs Thorne and Hughes as substitutes of his dream XI team of those he has played alongside. But I digress.)

Not beating Coventry on the first day of the 2005/6 season is when it all started going wrong for the Canaries, so we can do without a repeat three years on.

Easy to be wise with hindsight, but City should have just delayed the game when it become apparent that the Ricoh Arena wasn't going to be ready in time.

Doing the decent thing, however, and switching it to Carrow Road meant that when Nigel Worthington's side failed to win, the level of catch-up they were faced with playing increased week by week, resulting in having to wait six matches for their first league win and recording only two victories in their first 10 fixtures.

Never mind the brief revival in December, by then the damage had already been done.

And it was during that barren early run that City paid their last visit to Milton Keynes. True they won, but it was a success of the slapstick variety on a night of miss after miss, a wasted home penalty and a bundled 120th-minute goal.

The personnel might have changed on both sides since then, but doubtless MK Dons officials and supporters will approach the Canaries' latest visit still smarting from the last one.

It's not just the 2005 Coventry away fixture that effectively ruined a Norwich campaign.

Look at the following season.

After a reasonably bright start - 10 points from their first five fixtures - the Canaries endured a testing international break when they failed to sign David Cotterill and were virtually held to ransom by Leon McKenzie, then promptly died 3-0 at Coventry.

Three days later it got even worse as they threw away a 3-1 lead at Southend and within three weeks Worthington was gone.

How different the Canaries' recent history might have been with a positive result that September 9.

No, if ever there was a time to put on a good show at Coventry, August 9 is the day.

And it could prove to be just as season-defining as the previously-mentioned occasions.

Lose, and then get beaten at Milton Keynes, and it'll be like last season never ended.

All of a sudden at home to Blackpool on August 16 will become something of a must-win game.

I'm not expecting any great miracles in the 2008/9 campaign - after last season I'll be quite happy with mid-table mediocrity.

Never again do I want to see a confidence-free City struggle to a 0-0 draw at home to Scunthorpe in a game they couldn't afford to lose.

And don't get me started on the away game on December 22, when all the Canaries' Christmasses came early with one of the scrappiest wins (and goals) you're ever likely to see.

Let's just learn from the lesson of Wrexham. In 2007 they were barely 35 minutes away from relegation out of the Football League before hitting back to beat Boston and send them down instead.

Afterwards one of their joint owners declared: “If I were a betting man I would put a few pounds on us winning promotion next season.”

But they didn't strengthen their squad enough, had a change of management and ended up finishing comfortably bottom of League Two in May to end 87 years of League membership.

I don't expect anyone at Carrow Road to make such bold and rash predictions as that, given recent underwhelming years.

Wholescale changes in the summers of 2005 and 2007 did not really pay off, and even if they do this time around, just how long will it take this new squad to gel together?

A good few weeks, I would say, and so they don't need the added pressure caused by an opening week dominated by defeats.

You'd like to think that the Canaries won't sail so close to the relegation wind this time around.

You'd hope that around 50 points would be more than enough for survival in 2009.

For starters, Southampton look like a 10-point deduction waiting to happen, Blackpool's lack of resources will surely catch up with them sooner or later, while Plymouth are struggling for crowds and have been forced into selling their better players and seem beset by off-the-field woes.

There ought to be enough teams that will struggle even more than the Canaries should Glenn Roeder's new-look squad not come together.

But the chances of that happening will be diminished significantly with the right result on Saturday.

Come on you Yellows!


Six things to watch out for over the coming nine months.

1. The debut of the first terrace chant that incorporates the names of both Peter Cullum and Darren Huckerby. I predict its airing on the first occasion of the Canaries suffering three successive defeats.

2. The likely first returns of Leon McKenzie and Robert Earnshaw to Carrow Road since controversial departures. A welcome more befitting a Marshall than a Mackay, you would imagine.

3. The moment someone in official circles forgets the script and refers to sponsors Aviva by their previous name. If the public address system announcements at the Tottenham friendly is anything to go by, such is the revision of local history now in vogue that minions in the Carrow Road Ministry of Truth must be engaged in touching up pre-1979 photos of the adverts at the back of the River End terrace by airbrushing out the words 'Bonds of Norwich' and replacing them with 'John Lewis'.

4. The first appearance of legendary pundit Barry on Radio Norfolk's Canary Call when he appears to blame Neil Adams for not just any training failings at Colney, but, indeed, all the ills in the modern world, from soaring gas prices to why the A11 around Elveden still hasn't been dualled.

5. The first mention by any City player of how they need to make amends for recent past failings against Ipswich. Note: any mention of end-of-season aims of finishing above the aforementioned club should be punishable by appearing in any revived Anglia Soccer Night derby preview sat in between Barry Fry, Alan Brazil and Bryan Hamilton.

6. When Norwich finally find some way of utilising the commercial value of Darren Huckerby by hosting some over-due tribute event/restaurant-filling function on a quiet night (delete as appropriate) to the legendary former No 6 during the MLS close season. After all, that work in phoning up late-renewing season-ticket holders such as myself earlier this year shouldn't go unrewarded.