Fleming: Norwich City have got what it takes
Former Norwich City skipper Craig Fleming is backing the class of 2011 to return to the top flight.
Fleming made the journey in 2004 – when a 2-0 victory at Portman Road sent City to the top of the old First Division for good.
Fleming believes Paul Lambert's squad has the steely determination not to let their best opportunity since then slip through their fingers – and he's backing City to repeat the dose at the home of their fiercest and most bitter rivals on Thursday.
The race is clearly for the second automatic promotion spot as everyone tries to avoid the lottery of the play-offs – but Fleming believes even an extended season will end in success for the Canaries.
'I don't think it matters,' he said. 'I just think they will go up. Of course you'd rather they did it automatically. To be champions is obviously the ultimate. For the one-off experience, if you can guarantee you can go up in the play-off position that's a good day out – on the reverse, it can be one of the worst of days when you suffer what we did when we lost to Birmingham at the Millennium Stadium in 2002.
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'But I really think either way, Norwich will be promoted.'
Fleming, Malky Mackay, Adam Drury and Marc Edworthy formed a tough-as-teak back four for Nigel Worthington in 2004, with Robert Green behind them and the likes of Darren Huckerby, Iwan Roberts, Leon McKenzie, Damien Francis, Gary Holt and Paul McVeigh in front.
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It took nerves of steel to go into the lion's den and come away victorious – and Fleming believes the current squad have that in abundance.
'I think they've proved over the last two years as a group of players and coaches that they have got it,' said Fleming.
'When it matters they have done it. Last year when it got a bit tight they did it – they came back from a bad start and got promotion. This year they are right up there and they keep producing results when they need them, so I don't think there will be a problem on that score.
'And I don't think the occasion will get to them. They've proved over two years they are capable of doing it.
'It's a huge game for them – it's a big game anyway, but in the context of what could be at stake for the lads it is huge, really huge.
'Everyone knows it and there is bound to be an extra edge to it, a bit of fizz to it. On its own, if both teams were mid-table and safe it is a big game, but when there is so much at stake for Norwich it is huge.'
And the winner will be?
'Norwich,' says Fleming unequivocally. 'They have had a couple of times when there has been a question mark and each time they have answered the question and that is the sign of a team that wins things and does things.
'When the question is asked, every single time it has been answered.'