Norwich City need to focus on the start not a daunting Premier League finish

Chris Hughton's squad will complete their Premier League preparations at home to Panathinaikos on Au

Chris Hughton's squad will complete their Premier League preparations at home to Panathinaikos on August 10. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The temptation to become preoccupied with a brutish-looking Premier League run-in for the Canaries should be resisted.

In the event City need points from a Champions-League-chasing quartet next April and May, supporters would be well within their collective rights to question what had gone wrong in the intervening months. City's opening burst must remain the sole focus, given it offers an appetising opportunity to inject early doses of momentum into a fresh campaign that were singularly absent during Chris Hughton's debut tenure. A heavy reverse to Fulham by the Thames set the depressing tone that left Norwich already playing catch-up barely a fifth into the season after mining three points from their opening seven tussles. Repeat that again and there would be genuine cause for alarm against a trio of teams City finished above last season, plus newly-promoted Hull. Roberto Martinez may have to endure the same acclimatisation process Hughton suffered as he strives to re-mould David Moyes' radically different imprint on the Toffees in his own image. Chelsea's visit under the guardianship of Jose Mourinho on October 5 will again symbolise just why it was so imperative City remained part of the most exclusive clique in club football.

Hughton and his players will be mindful to avoid a repeat of the festive struggles that not only wrecked a club-record unbeaten surge but proved a portent for Spring turmoil. Norwich lost all four of their Christmas and New Year clashes last time out, but a trip to Sunderland should present more of a logistical problem for the travelling support than City's efforts on the field to replicate their spirited display on Wearside after being reduced to 10 men for an hour at the Stadium of Light. Fulham on Boxing Day will pose a resolute barrier before the champions sweep into town two days later. Carrow Road will again be crucial in Norwich's latest bid for consolidation. Arsenal and United were beaten on Norfolk soil last season. Manchester City and Chelsea subjected to serious examinations. But therein lies a truism that should be remembered when the initial excitement subsides from a day in the footballing calendar imbued with a sense of renewal and blind optimism.

Few would have forecast those special league wins over United and the Gunners at this stage 12 months previous. Fewer still, that Norwich possessed the potent intent to dismissively beat the dethroned champions on the final day at the Etihad. The Canaries' responded magnificently when the pressure was at its fiercest towards the end of the previous campaign. Starting in the same vein on the resumption can go a long way to averting the need for a late encore.

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