Instant return would be some achievement

Steve GedgeOne down, 11 to go. No-one's getting carried away yet, of course, but with City now just five wins away from the perhaps crucial 90-point mark after last season's utter incompetence, you just start to think: 'We might just get away with this.'Steve Gedge

One down, 11 to go. No-one's getting carried away yet, of course, but with City now just five wins away from the perhaps crucial 90-point mark after last season's utter incompetence, you just start to think: 'We might just get away with this.'

It's been a nervy few weeks, that's for sure, but there's a very good reason for that. Every other time Norwich have gone up it's been because they wanted promotion. This time, however, they need it.

Quite apart from the sheer tedium of having to play teams such as Oldham or Yeovil every season, there's the reduced scale of Carrow Road operations that would have to be taken into account if we were to get stuck in this division for more than one year.

And that's why, even now, I still don't want to tempt fate. Yet.

While you always felt that it was first season or bust, as far getting back to the Championship was concerned for the Canaries, it's actually quite a rare achievement to pull off.

And as the general media black-out beyond the borders of Norfolk continues, it's already obvious that we'll get precious little credit for it if we do go up.

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So it's worth remembering just how few clubs have actually managed it.

Since 1992 - which is surely when football began, isn't it? - there have been just three sides who have bounced back at the first attempt, and plenty more - including Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Stoke and West Bromwich - who haven't.

All, I would say, had less of a struggle to gain automatic promotion and greater media recognition than has been the case for us this season.

Birmingham were relegated in 1994, but went down on the back of a seven-match unbeaten run with a side already built for the following season.

So much so that they also won what is now the Johnstone's Paint Trophy as well as the league title - with only 89 points. And, of course, they had the media-friendly and ever-quotable Barry Fry as manager.

Four years later there was huge media interest as Manchester City bounced back. Right from the first day, in fact, as I remember their home game against Blackpool being the commentary match on Radio Five Live. Despite being by far and away the biggest club in the division they could only make the play-offs, however, with 82 points.

And last year, of course, there was Leicester, who actually managed to make the correct choice of manager before the start of the season, but despite the acclaim for Nigel Pearson and the millions spent by Milan Mandaric they took the title with just 84 goals and 96 points.

In contrast, we were humiliated beyond belief on the first day of the season, and even after Paul Lambert's arrival things didn't fall into place straightaway.

For me, the second lowest point of the season was when we drew at Gillingham in September, Nothing was going our way and already you could only hope to maybe squeeze into a play-off place.

Since that frustrating day in Kent, however, we've taken an amazing 65 points from a possible 78, a staggering achievement which appears to have gone largely un-noticed other than in parts of Glasgow.

If anyone else had managed this kind of feat we'd be bored stupid hearing about it. Even the continual failings of Roy Keane's Ipswich Town get far more national attention.

We may not have hit the heights of earlier in this season of late, but we've still been getting the kind of consistent results which Leeds and Charlton can only dream of.

There were signs in the second half at Oldham that we had turned something of a corner, and that carried on against Yeovil.

The next three fixtures could be very interesting indeed. With our form, Huddersfield, Swindon and Leeds should be worrying about us, rather than the other way around.

t YEOVIL'S GAME PLAN WAS TO KEEP THE SCORE DOWN

I was living and working elsewhere in the country in 1989 so I wasn't at that year's Sutton United FA Cup demolition.

But I'm quite willing to bet that they offered far more in the way of resistance in their 8-0 defeat than Yeovil ever did on Saturday.

At least the Conference side were able to hold out for 13 minutes. Yeovil were quite shockingly bad on Saturday.

Frankly they were so bad that they wouldn't have won a raffle on Saturday, even if they had been given all the tickets.

With hindsight, there was perhaps a clue of what was to come in the pre-match thoughts of Glovers manager Terry Skiverton.

When he said 'We've got to make sure that they (Norwich) don't use Yeovil as a little bit of a game for them to find their form and hit us for a big score' it suggested that his side were resigned to defeat; it was just a matter of how low they could keep the margin.

And having got away with only a 3-0 defeat they probably headed back to Somerset celebrating what they considered almost a moral victory.

The fact that we only scored three times may have seriously threatened any hopes of reaching the 100-goal league mark for this season, but that apart you can't really fault Saturday's performance against a side who just wanted to get the game out of the way.

City looked better right across the pitch than at any time since the Colchester win.

True, the early goal helped, but surely no-one could really complain about Saturday's performance, could they?

There was something of a score to be settled against Yeovil on Saturday - well three, actually - since, Colchester apart, they're the side against whom we've conceded most goals this season.

We weren't great that day, and although those dropped points were rather cancelled out by winning 11 out of our next 13 games, you still didn't want to see a repeat of those defensive failings on Saturday.

Fat chance. Frankly, if we show the same sort of determination in the remaining 11 games, with Darel Russell still to come back into the equation, we may not get to the 100-goal mark but we ought to run the century of points barrier close.

t ALL'S GOING OUR WAY AS RIVALS IMPLODE

So, just as this column wondered after Southampton won at Carrow Road two weeks ago, the Saints have proved themselves something of a big-stage outfit.

Good at home, fine away to teams at the top of the table, but absolutely useless against strugglers - hence their draw at Wycombe and Saturday's defeat at Tranmere. (In contrast to the Canaries. And as much as some people might bang on about City's 'poor' record against sides at the top, the only points we've dropped to bottom-half teams have been the two we were effectively cheated out of at Gillingham and the pre-Lambert ones at Exeter and Brentford. And it's records like this that win you promotion.)

You would hope that it'll be business as usual for Alan Pardew's side at home to Leeds on Saturday, while Charlton will have to play out of their skins to get anything at Millwall.

Frankly, I'll be much happier to see the Canaries face Huddersfield this weekend. Lee Clark's side have to win after their recent slump and will probably come at us far more than some of our more cagey recent opponents. Which could suit us just fine.

By then, of course, the top of the table could have a much more meaningful look to it.

Colchester have to play catch-up tonight against an improving Brighton, while tomorrow Leeds, Swindon and Millwall will all use up games in hand. The way things are going you would have to say that all four of them won't win.

By 5pm on Saturday both Leeds and ourselves will have just 10 games to play. Usually that's the yardstick amount you wait for at the start of the season before judging things, but if we come away from the Galpharm Stadium with at least a draw I think that, for the first time, we'll be able to form a clear idea of when we could go up.

t RUN THAT CHOICE BY ME AGAIN

No disrespect to Grant Holt, but his man-of-the-match award was a typical sponsors' choice. Surely most people sitting outside that particular box would have given the nod to Korey Smith?

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