‘Norwich City will still think they can reach the play-offs’ insists Barnsley chief Paul Heckingbottom
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Ex-Norwich City player and now Barnsley head coach Paul Heckingbottom is not dismissing the Canaries' Championship promotion chances.
Alan Irvine will continue in interim charge, following Alex Neil's dismissal last Friday after the board's patience finally ran out with the Scot and his under-performing squad.
Norwich lie eight points behind sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday ahead of the final nine league games and Heckingbottom, for one, is not predicting a tame end-of -season affair on Saturday.
Heckingbottom, who made 16 appearances for Norwich in the 2002/03 campaign, has been one of the names touted as Neil's replacement as part of a new-look football structure after his impressive work at Oakwell.
'I reckon Norwich will still think they can do it (reach the playoffs), especially with the firepower they've got in the squad,' he said. 'The calibre of players in their squad, not just the 11 or on the bench, but the ones who can't even make the squad every week. They'll believe they've still got a chance.
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'It's a great place to go and play, it'll be a full house and it's another big game for us against a top side who've recently been in the Premier League. It's another test for the players, can they beat Norwich again? Can they compete with Premier League players? These are the games we relish. We know that if we bring our best game, we're very tough to beat. We will go there on Saturday aiming for three points, as always.'
Barnsley will aim to complete a league double after a 2-1 win at Oakwell in the midst of a prolonged downturn from the Canaries prior to Christmas. Heckingbottom saw a host of his top players depart in the January transfer window, headed by freescoring midfielder Conor Hourihane, but the Reds are only three points behind the managerless Canaries despite a New Year dip.
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Ipswich earned a stoppage time point last weekend but Heckingbottom's squad headed to Cheltenham this week for a spot of team bonding ahead of the Carrow Road trip.
'It was frustrating' he told Barnsley's official site. 'Certainly the result was. But there were lots of pleasing things we took from the game as well. We were in on Monday, did a little debrief. Assessed the good bits and the bad, we had a few sore bodies to look after too as it was quite a physical game.
'Then the boys went to Cheltenham on Tuesday.
'I think Ryan Williams must have done okay, but everyone else I spoke to about it just shook their head. But in all seriousness I think these are good things, I wish we could send them to more if I'm honest. They're important. I used to enjoy trips like that when I was playing.
'It's definitely a big part of getting that team spirit and togetherness and enjoying the job that you're doing.'