It’s time for Norwich City to start believing

There was a moment during the brilliant early stages of the second half at Leicester on Tuesday when Wes Hoolahan did something that prompted manager Paul Lambert to simply stand and applaud. It wasn't the usual manager's display of encouragement and bravado, it was a genuine appreciation of a skill that Hoolahan has in abundance.

But for Hoolahan, read any one of the other 10 players who started at the Walkers Stadium. Was it one of those defining games?

Did any of the 2,235 Norwich fans who were packed into a corner have a flashback to one of last season's performances which made you realise that, hey, this is a team that actually IS going to do something this season?

We all have our opinions of when and where we saw Norwich City change last season; change from the club that looked like it had an anchor tied to it to one that was ready to reverse the downward, losing trend of the previous, what, five years?

Some say it was the moment Lambert walked through the door. Some say it was before that, when his Colchester side battered City 7-1.


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Others look at a rare defeat – at Leeds on October 19, 2009. City were beaten 2-1, but only because of goalkeeper Fraser Forster fluffed a clearance, allowing Jermaine Beckford to snatch a 90th-minute winner. It didn't reflect the game by any means. City finished the night five places and 11 points behind Leeds, but after the way they performed it was perhaps no surprise that they overhauled their great rivals to finish top of the pile.

The result aside, Tuesday night at Leicester was a reminder of that Monday night at Leeds.

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City were magnificent: it was Foxes Road Kill – another away day, another victory, and in absolute style.

Stylish enough to make Mr Pessimism who sometimes makes the away day journeys with us to declare that we had just seen a side more than capable of winning automatic promotion.

Far be it from me to suggest that to the manager, for whom expectations are meant to be anything but great. But the barren years, combined with the fact that the top flight is so close you can almost smell the prawn sandwiches, means it is unavoidable.

There are 10 more games, spread over 54 days, to go before we know whether City go straight up, have an extended season by way of the play-offs, or close the gates for the summer. Lambert himself has never really been willing to discuss promotion, but now it's getting to the business end of proceedings, it can be touched upon if you're careful.

For example, are Queen's Park Rangers catchable (ignoring the possibility that they may be deducted points if they are proved to have broken FA rules)? A couple of months ago it wasn't answerable. Yesterday, it was a firm 'yes'. It can't be ignored any longer, but as long as it runs hand in hand with a semblance of reality, then it's harmless.

With City entertaining Bristol City on Monday night, it's time to look into the crystal ball and wonder whether fortune will smile on the Canaries again: last weekend Ipswich went and won at Cardiff, Swansea lost at Scunthorpe and Forest lost at home to Hull.

On Tuesday, Cardiff lost at Palace, QPR lost at Millwall, Forest went down at Sheffield United and Swansea were held to a 1-1 draw by Watford.

It's fortune, not luck –although the inconsistent results make predicting this afternoon's fixtures a minefield. You'd take Burnley to win at home to Millwall, Swansea to win at Derby, Leeds to beat Ipswich, Forest to beat Doncaster and QPR to see off Palace.

Then on Sunday, Cardiff will beat Barnsley, on Monday City will beat Bristol City and on Wednesday, dark horses Burnley will win their game in hand, at home to Coventry.

That's how the form book would have it, but if they do then call me Nostradamus and give me a �10 Ladbrokes voucher.

Reality shows that it will be very different, because a lot of what football is about is between the ears. If you are devoid of mental strength you might as well miss the run-in altogether.

The meek might inherit the earth but they won't get you in to the Premier League. Lambert has gathered together players with the hunger, but in amongst them are a lot of winners. Not all of them have tasted the sort of success that could be just around the corner. Look at his regulars:

• John Ruddy: never made it with Everton.

• Russell Martin: never close.

• Elliott Ward: Experienced at Championship level, but only a handful of top-flight starts with West Ham.

• Leon Barnett: One of the most experienced, but unwanted by Premier League West Brom.

• Zak Whitbread: Never played in top flight.

• Adam Drury: One season at top, with City in 2004-05.

• Andrew Crofts, David Fox and Wes Hoolahan: Nowhere near.

• Henri Lansbury: One sub appearance for parent club Arsenal.

• Andrew Surman: Unloved at Wolves – seven appearances only.

• Grant Holt: Never been near.

• Chris Martin: No appearances in top flight.

Every one of them has an excellent reason for wanting to take Norwich City into the top flight. Just like every one of the side that played at Elland Road almost 17 months ago.

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