Burton Albion: as seen from a Norwich City fan
- Credit: PA
Norwich City fan David Powles gives us a lowdown on today's opponents. Confused? Let him explain his predicament.
So, a curious dilemma for you today – why do you have a foot in both camps and will it be a difficult game for you to watch?
It's very much a house divided in the Powles residence. My wife is a Burton Albion fan and I was living in the Midlands town when we met as well as working there as a journalist. Albion, then managed by Nigel Clough in his first spell at the club, were in non-league and they became my second team. As a reporter I even got to travel to Old Trafford with the players when they forced Manchester United into an FA Cup replay. When we moved to Norwich, the Canaries became the other half's second team and we've both had a season ticket for several years now, still watching Albion regularly as well. We never imagined that one day that might be an issue – especially as we have two young boys who we are trying to convince to support each of our teams.
How much are Burton punching above their weight?
Amazingly so. This is a small town in an area with several other reasonably large teams, which is why they struggle to get crowds above 5,000, even in the Championship. Their success is mainly down to having a fantastic and very shrewd chairman in Ben Robinson who has consistently picked managers who have then moved the club on a level. It says everything that until this season their biggest transfer fee paid was £10,000. The fans are living the dream and last season expected to be relegated from League One, not heading in the opposite direction.
Who are Burton's players to watch?
Much of Burton's success in recent years has been built on a solid back four. Keeper Jon McLaughlin and centre back and captain John Mousinho are both class acts, while they've recently added Kyle McFadzean and Ben Turner, who have played at the very top, to the defence. However, the reason they've started reasonably well has been largely thanks to the form of more attacking players like Australian midfielder Jackson Irvine and winger Lucas Akins, who, bizarrely, looks better in the Championship than he did in League Two. Watch out for striker Chris O'Grady – he doesn't score much but never stops running.
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They say don't go back – but it seems to be working for Nigel Clough. What's the secret?
In many ways the secret is that he's a very good manager. In his first spell he improved the league position in all 10 of his years. At Derby County he steered the ship through troubled waters and I think most of their fans felt he was harshly treated. At Sheffield United he was sacked for being fifth and in two cup semi-finals. The club has sunk lower since, which says it all. Top manager, lovely bloke.
Can Burton survive in the Championship?
At the start of the season I would have said they didn't have a chance – but they don't look out of place at all and I think they could stay up. Injuries will be key though as they do have a small squad and a small budget.
Will they park the bus or do they make a game of it?
Good question. Clough has always been regarded as a negative manager happy to win all games 1-0, but at the start of the season he admitted that would change as he felt Albion wouldn't survive in the Championship playing that way. Given that, I guess you'd expect them to make a game of it.
Where do you think the key battles will be today?
Given the quality and physical nature of Burton's defence it will be interesting to see how Cameron Jerome gets on. We need to make sure he isn't isolated. Someone will need to be tasked with looking out for Irvine's late runs into the box as well.
With your City hat on this time – are you optimistic about promotion?
I don't see how you can be confident in the Championship. So many teams expect the same outcome, therefore so many end up disappointed. A few weeks ago I felt Newcastle had it sewn up and we were effectively in a battle for one automatic spot – then they have a bit of a wobble again. If they play to their potential then City are definitely good enough to end up in the top two.
And a score prediction, please - with an explanation as well, of course.
The wife and I agreed on one thing after the Nottingham Forest game – we feel Norwich are about to give someone an absolute stuffing. My heart hopes it isn't Burton and that the Canaries win 4-3, my head thinks it could be and that we might be on course for a 4-0 victory. Sorry if there are any Brewers fans reading this!