‘As big as a cup final’ – Mark Barham wants Norwich City to take their big chance against Sunderland
- Credit: Archant © 2008
Mark Barham is one of the few to play for Norwich City in a major cup final – and for him, the Canaries' Premier League clash this weekend is just as big an occasion.
The former City and England winger was a League Cup winner with the Canaries in 1985, when they beat Sunderland at Wembley in what was dubbed the 'friendly final'.
On Saturday the two clubs meet again, this time in the Premier League at Carrow Road with a step nearer to either top-flight survival – or the reality of relegation – at stake.
'I would say it's as big as a cup final,' said Barham. 'It is fantastic we won the cup and all fans would love a cup put on the table at some stage, but this has got to be the biggest game they've played for five or six years with where they are in the table, where Sunderland are and the fact they're playing each other.
'If Norwich win, we go seven points clear of them. They might have three games in hand, but seven points is hard to come by at this stage of the season and everyone is playing everyone else as well.
'We've still got West Brom to play, Swansea and Fulham as well.'
The Friendly Cup will be on the line on Saturday too – a legacy of that Milk Cup final – but it is likely to be the last thing on the current players' minds.
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'I think the two sets of fans still have the same feeling we had with that cup final – but it won't be with the fans that things will be strained this weekend, it will be the players,' added Barham.
'There is a lot more riding on it for the players. The fans have other games to look forward to before the end of this season, but the players will be looking at this one – especially the players from Norwich – saying this gives us an opportunity to put some distance between us and them before Sunderland take on their games in hand.'
Norwich have eight fixtures remaining, while the Black Cats have 11 to play.
Their three games in hand come at Liverpool on Wednesday, a midweek pre-Easter trip to Manchester City and then hosting West Brom on the Wednesday before the final Sunday of the season, when Sunderland will host Swansea.