A ‘double bounce-back’ the goal as the tremors of last season subside and thoughts turn to new fixturesSat 25 Jun 16 by Russell Saunders
It’s been a BIG week for sure.
EU split, Wes and Robbie heroics in France and the Football League fixtures released to anxious fans of those brave and ambitious 72 clubs scrapping outside the money-soaked big boys’ league.
I could rattle on about the EU vote or praise endlessly the form of ‘our’ Irish boys on the continent from which we’ve just consciously uncoupled.
I won’t though and you may be relieved to hear I’m focusing on the fixtures that await us from the 6th August onwards.
For some, confirmation of the Championship fixtures was the depressing and final point of realisation that we did indeed fall short of the mark in the Premier League. The defining signpost of failure and fallout which summed up the months of January to May 2016.
Others of a brighter disposition see the new fixture schedule as the embarkation point of the next exciting trip aboard the Canaries magical mystery tour – eventual league destination completely unknown but never a dull or predictable journey to get there.
It’s fair to say that over the last ten years, no other football league club has experienced quite as many highs and lows as us lot.
Maybe we could all do with a bit of stability for a change just to calm everyone down. Maybe… but hopefully not in the Championship.
With the harsh spotlight of the media focus already concentrated on the two ‘big’ relegated clubs and others who fell just short last season, it seems that Norwich have been consigned to the “Oh them. They’ll do well to get a play-off place” pundit category.
That suits me fine. Under the radar, the underdog, the forgotten team.
Of course, the first game at Blackburn would have had much more of an edge if Mr Lambert had hung around a bit longer. Clearly the Venkys’ remotely-controlled vision in Lancashire did not agree with Paul’s relentless ambition.
Whatever the wisdom of that decision, it’s hard to see him turning up anywhere other than China or Azerbaijan with the usual claims of being sincere about raising the game’s profile in such places.
That’s followed by the Owls being the first visitors to Norfolk. The return of one Gary Hooper. If he’s fit for the occasion, Hoops will be desperate to bag a goal and a win to show how bad we were to let him go.
Then it’s the first mid-week match up, with Bristol City the visitors. Again, a former old boy is likely to be keen to impress with Gary O’Neill back on the pitch on which he shed no small amount of blood and sweat.
It will take the first five to ten games of the season to get a feel of whether Alex Neil and team have regained their collective mojo and got last season’s let-downs fully out of the system.
Brighton of course went 20 or so games unbeaten at the start of last season and still didn’t even get a trip to Wembley.
There will be defeats in the first couple of months. As with the players, it’s important how the fans react and bounce back in the face of disappointment.
The ‘bonus’ of having two derbies again is the extra spicy ingredient which awaits. For some reason, it now seems set in stone that we have to go to their gaff in August and they to ours the back end of the following year.
I’m guessing that Mick McCarthy has one last shot at getting that club into the top flight. He surely won’t want to hang around any longer in the Championship working on a shoestring? He will be desperate to avenge the three defeats of 2014/15.
Another quirk of the fixtures is the number of long trips in midweek – Newcastle, Wigan, Bristol City etc. Punishing schedules for even the hardiest of travelling supporter.
For the first time ever, City will be playing Burton Albion – the kind of potential banana skin of a match up that players and fans alike must not take for granted for a win.
All in all, there’s much to look forward to. Most of us would rather see the side up against the country’s biggest and best week in week out, but that’s for another time.
For now, let’s embrace the months and challenges ahead. I’m sure a similar message will soon be delivered on the unforgiving fields of Colney.