Michael Bailey: The boot is on the other foot for a welcome Carrow Road return
In his weekly column, Norwich City correspondent and PinkUn Show host Michael Bailey looks at the West Bromwich Albion squad ahead of the weekend and gets all misty-eyed.
So the song goes for all those supporters either mocking a stricken rival or preparing for promotion: “We’ll never play you again.”
It feels like a long time since I’ve heard those words bellowed from a stand – either directed towards or from those in yellow and green.
Of course, invariably you will play them again.
Football’s cyclical nature is arguably one of its enduring features. What goes up generally comes down and vice versa – last season’s Premier League was an ideal example of exactly what it means to become an established top-flight club: basically nothing.
All three were at one time posted as an example of how things should be done. But now, it’s back in the Championship for West Bromwich Albion, Swansea City and Stoke City – and it’s the Baggies we get to see first against the Canaries.
One look through Darren Moore’s squad, and you start to appreciate just what the rest of the second tier probably felt when coming up against City back in the early exchanges of the 2014-15 and 2016-17 campaigns.
Despite what I’m anticipating will be a tricky time under a rookie manager, the talent at Moore’s disposal and the depth of his squad are remarkable weapons to take into the relentless Championship squabbles – at least it is, if everyone fancies the battle.
Kieran Gibbs, Craig Dawson, Ahmed Hegazi, Jake Livermore, James Morrison, Gareth Barry, Chris Brunt, Harvey Barnes, Nacer Chadli, Hal Robson-Kanu, Oliver Burke, Matt Phillips, Jay Rodriguez, Dwight Gayle. It’s quite the list.
It feels a long time ago – even though it’s not – that Norwich City could declare their own rude health in terms of former Premier League playing options, relative to their new surroundings. But then, we in these parts also know all too well how quickly those factors can slip through your fingers – from bookies’ title favourites to being lost in a sea of Championship mediocrity while chasing the tails of Millwall and Brentford.
There should be no hiding the size of the task facing City this weekend, back on home soil for the first time in what feels like an eternity; a task arguably tougher than when Sunderland rocked up 12 months ago and clocked what proved to be a rare win, never mind the fact it came on the road.
The simplistic number that Black Cats outfit pulled on City was a sobering one and in truth, so many circumstances are comparable now.
The Baggies may have failed to win either of their opening two games, yet it is still early enough in the season to feel they will get it right sooner or later – regardless of the question marks held against their manager.
In truth, it is Moore who may yet prove their Championship undoing eventually.
Daniel Farke could look at the prospect of his side’s Carrow Road return and wonder just how many risks he can take – hoping Gayle and Phillips don’t get a free run at a back-line that was far from secure at Birmingham.
Conversely, there is a chance for City to prove a lot in front of their home crowd – where no doubt, the Canaries would do well to seek their greatest improvements on last season. Life will be much less bumpy over the coming months if they can get it right here.
This is an enjoyable part of the season. Where there are gaps still to be filled and patterns yet to form. We simply don’t know how Farke will implement his lessons from last season, with a fresh batch of players still aiming to impress. Indeed, for the second game running James Husband could be the sole survivor from last season’s equivalent fixture. If he doesn’t make it, the XI could be entirely different.
Maybe that chant has more truth to it than I gave it credit.
• It had been a fair time since we last got to quiz City sporting director Stuart Webber – so Friday was a welcome chance for a catch-up. Especially given so much has happened.
From James Maddison’s record sale to the curious case of Nelson Oliveira, Daniel Farke’s ticking contract and the building spouting up at Colney; whatever your views, you can’t accuse Webber of fiddling around the edges. The lack of activity around yesterday’s initial deadline day said it all.
Yet there may be things you want addressed by the man himself – or managing director, Steve Stone – and the good news is you can do just that next week.
Both Stone and Webber are the attraction for Norwich City Fans Social Club’s forum on Thursday evening, held at Carrow Road and only £3 on the door to attend – with the group once again raising money for City’s Community Sports Foundation.
And yes, I plan to go along to see if we missed out on anything back at Colney last Friday.
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