Well well well, what do we have here then… is that a smattering of optimism I sense around amongst the Norwich City fans?
Although it was played down post-Wolves, there is a bit of a symbolic achievement attached to successfully clambering back in the play-off places in mid-February, especially when you have been hovering outside of it since November.
Currently nestled in 6th, can we go one better by grabbing three points out of the Hornets nest? It certainly is going to be our biggest ask yet, with Watford probably the form team of the division at the minute.
But a word on us first. I have been lucky enough to have seen the last two home matches through my freelance journalism endeavours, and from the vantage point of the City stand, Gary Hooper sticks out like a sore thumb. And in such a good way.
He reminds me of another strapping, prolific Englishman in his mid to late twenties – one Wayne Rooney. Hooper is our main man these days and oozes calmness and quality when on the ball.
If our Championship Rooney carries on the way he has, it gives the team every chance to grab positive results – not only against Watford, but Blackburn and Ipswich too in what are three games bigger than the river of tears the Derby fans have created this week.
To preview the big match, I enlisted the help of my old course-mate, Tom Bodell, who is a Watford fan and works for the local paper down that neck of woods, reporting on Barnet FC and Saracens rugby among other things.
He said: “I am writing this after another good evening for Watford in the Championship. Draws for Derby County and Middlesbrough, coupled with the Hornets’ run of nine wins from 12 league games, mean I’m more positive about Watford than I have been in a long time.
“From the outside looking in, Watford might have appeared something of a laughing stock this season. We are on our third manager since losing 3-0 at Carrow Road in August under Beppe Sannino but current incumbent Slavisa Jokanovic has made real progress in the last
couple of months.
“The Serbian’s ability to identify and correct problems during games is a great asset and his no-nonsense style of man management has seen the players who were harmful to team spirit earlier in the campaign weeded out.
“One accusation levelled at the former Chelsea midfielder was his perceived lack of personality but in recent weeks, Hornets supporters have started to warm to the man affectionately nicknamed ‘Joka’.
“As well as Jokanovic’s rising star, striker Odion Ighalo has gone from bench warmer to key man. The former Granada striker has scored 12 goals in his last eight Championship fixtures, including four in the incredible 7-2 comeback against hapless Blackpool.
“The Nigerian was a cult hero at former club Granada but was never prolific before switching Andalusia for Hertfordshire in the summer – initially on loan before making the
“His recent run is frankly astounding and whilst Matej Vydra has struggled to replicate his form of two seasons ago and club captain Troy Deeney has blown hot and club, Ighalo has flourished as the main man.
“An honourable mention too for Swiss midfielder maestro Almen Abdi, who appears to be back to his best in recent weeks having missed a lot of football last season due to the foot condition plantar fasciitis.”
So there you have it then; two confident teams in the top six playing free flowing football in dashing yellow shirts. All to play for and they should be going at it like hammer and tongs, to borrow two well-worn clichés.
The consequences of losing this may not be fatal to our chances of making the play-offs, but it certainly won’t make automatic promotion a very realistic target and Watford, currently in 5th, would go six points above us with 14 games left.
Win by more than the one goal though, and ‘bam’ we are right in the mix, leapfrogging Watford into 5th and setting things up nicely for us to go above the Tractor Boys after we beat them again. on the way to romping to the Championship title…
Okay I admit I am letting myself get a bit carried away. But why not dare to dream? At the end of the day, all anyone of us wants is a regular dose of escapism-come-entertainment from watching Norwich City.
My preferred line-up for today: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Olsson, Johnson, Tettey, Redmond, Hooper, Grabban, Jerome.