Festive fixtures offer Canaries an ideal opportunity to start 2018 in style
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As a season-defining run of Championship fixtures approaches, David Freezer takes a closer look at a festive period which could salvage Norwich City's season and bring hope for the start of a new year.
“So here it is, merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun” – begins the Slade classic which becomes almost omnipresent in British life at this time of year.
‘Fun’ may be pushing it a touch when describing life at Norwich City right now – but perhaps hope can be taken from the second line of Noddy Holder’s famous chorus: “Look to the future now, it’s only just begun...”
If you managed to read those lines without singing them in their glam-rock tune, then help yourself to another mince pie, as we weigh up what the latest festive campaign holds for the Canaries.
To describe the approaching four matches as absolutely crucial to the club’s immediate future would be far from hyperbole, starting against Brentford at Carrow Road on Friday night.
The Bees sit just a point better off than Daniel Farke’s side in the Championship ahead of kick-off, three places higher, in 13th.
Following that battle with a mid-table rival are three games which simply must yield a decent return of points if City are to set up a more positive second half of the campaign.
An away game against bottom-of-the-table Birmingham City awaits on Boxing Day, who have picked up just eight of a possible 33 points since Steve Cotterill replaced Harry Redknapp as manager in October.
Four days later a second trip to the Midlands follows, against another team currently in a relegation battle, Burton Albion.
Nigel Clough worked wonders to keep the club with the smallest budget, and an average home attendance of under 5,000, in the Championship last year.
Nine defeats in 14 games leaves Burton struggling to repeat that but the Brewers are always well drilled and make teams fight for every point, as they proved when beating City 2-1 at the Pirelli Stadium last season.
Completing the set are another team who Norwich should be on a revenge mission against, Millwall.
The Lions will come to Carrow Road on New Year’s Day still smiling about the 4-0 hiding they handed Farke’s team at The Den in August.
However, Neil Harris’s team are a completely different proposition outside of London and are yet to win away from home this season.
If City cannot make the most of those fixtures, then the Jingle Bells chants will soon be replaced will alarm bells ringing, leaving any slim hopes of a promotion push in the bin alongside the wrapping paper and that joke present from your ‘funny’ family member.
Following that run of fixtures against fellow teams in the bottom half? Just the current champions of England – well, until Manchester City claim the crown at least.
Chelsea offer a glamorous carrot on the end of the stick, bringing a touch of new year glamour to Carrow Road on Saturday, January 6 in the FA Cup third round.
Come out the other side of the festive season with spirits high thanks to a positive set of results and Farke’s team can relish a giant-killing mission with no pressure on their shoulders.
Approach it with a dark cloud hanging over the club and it may be a case of resting key players with relegation worries in mind.
It simply cannot be a time for presents and goodwill, if it is to be a happy new year at Carrow Road.
Before it all begins though, here’s a reminder of how the Canaries have fared during the festive period during the last 10 seasons...
Fri, Dec 16 – Huddersfield (h) – L 2-1
Boxing Day – Reading (a) – L 3-1
Sat, Dec 31 – Brentford (a) – D 0-0
Mon, Jan 2 – Derby (h) – W 3-0
Sat, Dec 19 – Man Utd (a) – W 2-1
Boxing Day – Tottenham (a) – L 3-0
Mon, Dec 28 – Aston Villa (h) – W 2-0
Sat, Jan 2 – Southampton (h) – W 1-0
Sat, Dec 13 – Huddersfield –W 5-0
Sat, Dec 20 – Derby (a) – D 2-2
Boxing Day – Millwall (h) – W 6-1
Sun, Dec 28 – Reading (a) – L 2-1
Sat, Dec 21 – Sunderland (a) – D 0-0
Boxing Day – Fulham (h) – L 2-1
Sat, Dec 28 – Man Utd (h) – L 1-0
NY Day – C Palace (a) – D 1-1
Sat, Dec 22 – West Brom (a) – L 2-1
Boxing Day – Chelsea (h) – L 1-0
Sat, Dec 29 – Man City (h) – L 4-3
NY Day – West Ham (a) – L 2-1
Tues, Dec 20 – Wolves (a) – D 2-2
Tues, Dec 27 – Tottenham (h) – L 2-0
NY Eve – Fulham (h) – D 1-1
Mon, Jan 2 – QPR – W 2-1
Sat, Dec 18 – Coventry (a) –W 2-1
Tues, Dec 28 – Sheff Utd (h) – W 4-2
NY Day – QPR (h) – W 1-0
Mon, Jan 3 – Middlesbrough (h) – D 1-1
Sat, Dec 19 – Huddersfield (h) – W 3-0
Boxing Day – Millwall (h) – W 2-0
Sat, Jan 2 – Wycombe (a) – W 1-0
Sat, Dec 20 – Charlton (h) –W 1-0
Boxing Day – C Palace (a) – L 3-1
Sun, Dec 28 – Nottm Forest (h) – L 3-2
Sat, Dec 22 – Scunthorpe (a) – W 1-0
Boxing Day – Charlton (h) – D1-1
Sat, Dec 29 – Wolves (h) – D 1-1
NY Day – C Palace (a) – D 1-1
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