Spud Thornhill: Let’s hope Norwich City’s season is now injury-free
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Saturday's game kicks off what could be a massive two weeks in the latest chapter in our fine club history – but little did we know, back in June, when the fixture list came out, how big the next three games were going be.
If you're not nervous, I understand why. But if you're not excited about it all, you're either fibbing or you don't understand what being a football fan is all about. We pay our money, we travel far and we sacrifice so much throughout the years for these games.
First up are Chris Wilder's Sheffield United and, knowing what a delightful chap he can be, I'm sure he'll have his team so fired up for the game.
It's the other teams being fired up that has got me worried for the rest of the season.
Over recent weeks we have seen injuries to numerous players caused by some unfortunate situations, but at the same time there have been some truly awful, X-rated tackles when you know the offending players have no other intention but to take certain individuals out of the game.
Before Christmas, whilst listening to commentary of City's game at Blackburn, it appeared all I was hearing was that our players were being tackled heavily, with Emi Buendia and Mo Leitner the main targets. It appeared that Blackburn believed that by stopping Buendia and Leitner they would prevent City getting a result. By half-time Blackburn had achieved what they set out to do as both Buendia and Leitner were both taken off injured – although we may have had the last laugh as we got a late winner from Teemu Pukki.
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Spud's teaser: Who scored a hat-trick the last time Norwich City beat Sheffield United at Carrow Road? Answer at bottom
Buendia may not have suffered any long-term injures, but Leitner has been out since that Blackburn game and missed the last five league games plus the FA Cup tie. We have very good players in the wings, but we have definitely missed him. It's not a coincidence that in those six game, we have won only one game.
Last week against Birmingham City, Buendia was again the main target. Again Birmingham had achieved what they probably aimed to do. Eventually he was subbed off with an injury before half-time. Fortunately, Buendia had already done the damage by playing some exhilarating football – the sort of stuff we are used, but Birmingham fans can only dream of.
In the game, the foul count was 22 to Birmingham to our five, but how many of those 22 were just on Buendia? There were only four cautions to Birmingham all game. There was then the blatant stamp by Maxime Colin on Mario Vrancic. Ok, the officials may have missed it, but I'm surprised there has not been any retrospective action taken.
And don't get me started on fouls on Max Aarons by Jay Rodriguez in the West Brom game and Birmingham's Craig Gardner last week. The foul by Rodriguez was shocking – he was lucky that his tackle was awful as it meant Aarons was actually able to avoid serious injury by his quick thinking and jumped away from the lunge. While many of us praise Aarons for not staying down, I honestly believe his honesty prevented Rodriguez seeing red. The same could apply to the Gardner tackle.
I'm not advocating cheating, but maybe we are being too honest. I can't see Wilder telling his players to be this honest today.
With so many of our players being targeted I do fear for our season. The football is so good, some teams just can't touch us. So what do they? We know the answer.
I know injuries are part and parcel of the game. But when you know you're losing a player through an opponent deliberately taking the player out, it's very frustrating.
So let's hope our players can avoid the malicious tackles that they may face until May and maybe we can see some of our players at their greatest and hopefully they can grace the greatest stage of them, the Premier League.
Spud's teaser answer: Wes Hoolahan on December 28, 2010