Ian Clarke: Could Norwich City’s rollercoaster campaign still end on a massive high?
PUBLISHED: 12:23 08 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:10 09 February 2018
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
So are you a heart or head kind of football fan?
Do you use sensible logic and reasoned argument – or is it all about passion and kicking rational thinking into Row Z?
The level-headed Canary brigade will have looked at the Championship table and decided that another season in the second tier of English football is inevitable.
Norwich are in 13th place in the table – 25 points from the top and 19 above the basement.
We find ourselves eight points from the final play-off spot - nine if you take into consideration Bristol City’s superior goal difference.
There are 16 games to go and therefore a maximum of 48 points available for City.
Three of those matches are on the road at top two Wolves and Derby plus sixth-placed Preston,
Three others are at Carrow Road against Villa, Cardiff and Fulham – the teams sitting in third, fourth and fifth in the table.
We’ve got a negative goal difference and scored just 30 times in 30 games.
Feeling the positivity yet? Still think the boys in yellow and green can go on a late surge into the end of season bun fight to grab the last promotion spot?
In the last five seasons the number of points secured by teams to get into the final play-off spot has ranged from 68-80.
If this term reaches the upper level, City will need another 37 points – yes, 12 wins and a draw and just three defeats.
Bearing in mind Norwich have won only 12 out of the 30 so far, surely that would be a bridge far too far?
If the lower threshhold was required, the Canaries would need to muster up 25 more points. For simplicity’s sake, call it eight wins and a draw.
I’d guess the requirement for the play-offs this year would be somewhere in the middle.
So can City get 10 or 11 victories before early May?
It’s a massive ask and let’s not forget there are six more clubs who are currently between us and Bristol City. Logic very definitely points towards missing out and trying again in 2018/19.
The sages out there will be nodding wisely in agreement and chuckling at supporters who think the play-off dream may still be alive.
My head agrees.
My heart, though, still has a very slight flutter.
My first ever away game as a City fan was in May 1982 at Hillsborough,
It was one of those never-to-be-forgotten days and saw us promoted to the top flight, despite a 2-1 defeat against Sheffield Wednesday.
Martin O’Neill inspired City to climb from midfield obscurity to third place, which was the final automatic promotion spot (before the days of the play-offs). The team had been on unbelievable run of 13 wins and a draw in the last 16 games.
Everything went our way that year and it will take that kind of juggernaut of momentum to repeat it.
So what gives us hope that a footballing equivalent of a near miracle may still be possible?
The terrific family spirit at the club – which has been highlighted over the past week and especially during the emotional day on Saturday – is so key.
If that togetherness between the players and fans stays and grows, it’s worth so much. If you look around at a lot of other Championship clubs it’s just not there.
All of a sudden there seems to be a renewed buzz around the club.
Angus Gunn is looking as solid as ever, Messrs Hanley, Klose and Zimmermann are forming a wall of protection, Jamal Lewis is as exciting a prospect as we have seen for many a year and we’ve got James Maddison – surely the best player in his position in the league – at least for the rest of the season.
Super Tommy Trybull is proving a great find and there’s a tantalising excitement about the trio of new boys.
Looking at the form table, City are fifth in the league over past six games with four wins, a draw and just one defeat.
And we are second in the away form table over last four matches with no goals conceded.
Those clean sheets on the road are such a good foundation to build on.
Saturday’s victory over Middlesborough was very welcome after so many frustrating days at NR1.
Turn Carra back into a fortress and maintain the excellent game management away and you just never know.
The next three games will pretty much determine our fate.
Positive results at Derby and Wolves and turning over ITFC and then hearts will be racing.
Never stop believing! OTBC.
Rivalry not hatred
Ten days and counting!
I love an East Anglian derby and can’t wait for the Tractor Boys to chug up the A140 on Sunday week.
If we match each other’s results this weekend, we’ll go into the match at Carrow Road on level pegging.
What better starting point is there for the big match?!
I really enjoy the banter surrounding the Old Farm Derby and will share no end of messages with Ipswich supporting mates before, during and after the game.
We all desperately want to win and being the Pride of Anglia means so much.
However, there’s no place for the darker side of the rivalry with violence and hatred which mar the great occasion,
I fully support the stance taken by the two clubs who have vowed to issue stadium bans to any supporters who post grossly offensive, abusive, offensive or discriminatory material on social media.
I’d urge any supporters who spot such messages to report them and get the offenders firmly dealt with.
Much to learn from rugby
I don’t often mention rugby but want to make an exception this week.
Firstly, can I pass on my best wishes to Ben Youngs.
The England scrum-half suffered a really nasty knee injury in the Six Nations match in Italy, which is likely to rule him out for the rest of the competition and possibly the remainder of the season.
Norfolk is rightly proud of Youngs and all that he has achieved in his career. He has shown a brilliant attitude since suffering the injury, with a determination to fight back and return stronger.
Meanwhile, football can learn so much from rugby in relation to refereeing and video technology.
While there were more farcical scenes surrounding decisions in the Premier League at the weekend and VAR has had so many teething problems, the rugby internationals showed how it should be used. Referees were clear in their communication with players and fans were kept in touch with big decisions via the big screens. Simple.