Costly lessons must be learned

So here we go again. There's hardly the feeling of a bright new dawn at Carrow Road. We've signed just one new player, and the departures of Simon Charlton and Darren Ward don't exactly signal the end of an era.

So here we go again.

There's hardly the feeling of a bright new dawn at Carrow Road. We've signed just one new player, and the departures of Simon Charlton and Darren Ward don't exactly signal the end of an era.

Nigel Worthington has said he is not interested in signing Chris Sutton, and the past couple of days have been dominated by speculation that our former hero will instead be wearing the blue shirt of our Suffolk rivals.

But cut through all the doom and gloom about the lack of new faces and it might, just, all work out in our favour.


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For my money, the key problem last year was complacency. I'm not pointing at a particular player or match or incident. It was just a general feeling that seemed to pervade the whole season - the idea that because everyone (players, board, press and fans) said we should be at the top of the table, we would eventually find our way there.

We didn't - and our final placing of ninth was highly flattering. Ignore the position and look instead at the points difference of 13 between sixth-placed Crystal Palace and us.

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Indeed, we were nearer points-wise to fourth-bottom QPR than we were to Palace.

This time around, things will surely be better. Anything else is unthinkable.

For a start, we are not favourites to go up, so perhaps the pressure (from outsiders, at least) will be less intense.

More importantly, the likes of Andy Hughes - who surely couldn't have foreseen the relative fortunes of his previous club, Reading, and his new employer when he made the switch to Norfolk last summer - will know that this year he is going to have to improve (and then some) if the team are going to leave their comfort zone.

Maybe last year was the wake-up call some of the players needed.

Darren Huckerby, who remains one of the most talented players at this level, has already spoken publicly of his frustration at last season.

He will know as well as anyone that the occasional flash of brilliance is not enough, and he has so much more to offer.

Perhaps he, too, was guilty of cruising on auto-pilot, and he must know that he needs to raise his game if he wants to perform again at the highest level - at Carrow Road, at least.

The list of those who can do better is far too long.

As well as Hughes and Huckerby, there is Dickson Etuhu, Carl Robinson, Peter Thorne, Jurgen Colin, Ian Henderson . . .

Some of them had absolute stinkers last year - Thorne and Etuhu, for example, must be itching to show us what they are made of, and surely both would happily wipe last season from their CVs.

A team that includes Huckerby, Adam Drury, Jason Shackell, Youssef Safri, Robert Earnshaw, Paul McVeigh, Leon McKenzie and Paul Gallacher (from what little we've seen of him, at least) should be a match for anyone at this level.

But last year, they weren't. Instead, they lurched from ordinary to poor to dreadful. It mustn't happen again.

t Leeds United are odds-on favourites to win today, and you can't really blame the bookies.

Last season's play-off finalists with home advantage against last year's also-rans? No contest, surely.

Hang on a minute. After City's 2-2 draw at Elland Road in early March, Leeds only won one more match before embarking on their play-off campaign - and that was a 1-0 home win over relegation-bound Crewe.

And although they beat Preston in the play-off semis, they were then walloped by Watford at the Millennium Stadium.

So perhaps they will be the ones with the hangover - and their injury crisis can't help, either.

I suspect Robert Earnshaw will be the lone striker this afternoon, but I'd give Leon McKenzie a run-out, too.

An Earnshaw-McKenzie pairing should prove a nightmare for an aging Paul Butler and company - as long as Norwich play the ball to feet, that is.

The problem is that that's where the gameplan fell down week after week last season.

t SUTTON'S STILL GOT CLASS

I'm a bit puzzled as to why Geoff Horsfield was a player Nigel Worthington was interested in ,while Chris Sutton was so swiftly ruled out as a transfer target.

“He's a bit older now and he's had his injury problems,” said Worthington when asked about the possibility of signing Sutton.

Some might think Worthington has a point regarding the injuries.

But Sutton is 33. Horsfield, who has just been snapped up by Leeds and who might play against us today, is 33 in November. And our own Peter Thorne (who we only signed a year ago) is - you guessed it - 33.

t I'm honoured to be following in the footsteps of my friend and colleague Richard Balls, who has been writing this column since its inception more than six years ago.

Like Richard, I am a season ticket holder in the Snakepit, and last year I racked up about 10 away games.

My day job is on the EDP business desk, but for the purpose of this column I am writing as a fan, not a journalist.

I'm simply a City supporter who will tell it as I see it.

If you agree with me, great. If you don't, never mind. Either way, feel free to let me know.

I'm not promising to reply to every e-mail, but you can contact me at fanseye@archant.co.uk

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