Defensive solidity and points over performance are paramount at this time of year as City head to the second cityFri 26 Aug 16 by Russell Saunders
There’s an old adage in football I’d like to share but whisper it quietly as it’s one most fans don’t want to hear;
“You don’t want to be playing your best football in August.”
Despite an unbeaten start so far in the month, only bettered by early surprise front-runners Huddersfield, many a grumble has been uttered about no flow, structure or pattern on show from the Canaries (except for the opening day stroll).
Of course that is the case as summer cobwebs are blown away, the squad settles into shape and the league table slowly actually begins to make any proper sense.
As great as it might be to be knocking six bells out of the opposition (in a footballing sense) at this very early stage of the season, in my supporting experience, only the points gained matter.
The same applies to chairman Ed Balls’ soon-to-be-aired dancing efforts. I’m sure he is looking for a solid start with gradual improvement in style as the weeks tick by until the golden glitter globe prize is in his hands.
Best of luck Chairman. Let’s hope he does himself and us proud.
Many an overly bright start in past times has come crashing down, bringing fans hopes and dreams with them in tow.
Alex Neil has yet to get the best out of his boys and, quite frankly, with that adage in mind – thank God.
What I’m looking for is a solid and not particularly spectacular start to the season. Keep ourselves in the top six by year-end and then start to ramp up the style and quality for a firm push through to May.
So far, so good. Save the best stuff for later. Just like Mr Balls.
Up next is Birmingham – one of those clubs in blue who have briefly tasted the Premier cream but have been marooned in tier two for so long that some acceptance of fate has become the norm.
Whenever we play Birmingham, I get an urge to slap my ELO ‘Out of the Blue’ CD on – the pinnacle of that city’s finest culture – to mentally prepare myself.
This weekend will be no different. Can’t wait – respect to Jeff Lynne and his magnificent 70s afro-perm.
Just like Villa and Newcastle, City will be seen as a major scalp for the Brummies and those other clubs for whom the Championship has become an unwelcome long-term home.
Historically, the head-to-head record indicates two very evenly matched clubs – 20 wins for Norwich, 21 for Birmingham and 22 draws dating back to the first meeting in 1963.
The last encounter in the country’s second biggest metropolis was a drab, hard-fought goal-less draw in the first month of new boy Alex Neil’s reign.
The last time the Canaries tasted victory on St. Andrews’ soil was October 2006, with Jason Shackell being the unlikely hero in a 1-0 win.
Cameron Jerome was in blue that day in what was his first season of five with Birmingham.
Having worked his socks off, as always, already this season and bagged a couple of goals (currently more than McCormack at Villa for some perspective), Jerome will be keen to return to his old haunt and show his former employers what they’ve been missing since he left for new challenges.
Never the most ostentatious of celebrators, if Cam does find the back of the Brummie net you can bet a low key reaction from him will be the order of the day in due deference to the home fans who once cheered his efforts on their behalf.
I think most us want to see Sergi Canos let loose at the Blues’ defence after his scintillating man of the match showing in midweek, albeit against a very green, struggling Coventry.
Other than that, I refuse to play the ‘guess the starting XI’ game so popular on social media.
Neil’s hand is forced somewhat by early injuries to key defensive personnel. We have enough strength in depth to cover those positions but the probable absence of Martin Olsson and Ivo Pinto will most likely restrict performance levels going forward.
The Robbie Brady at left-back is a pale shadow of the one who operates further forward, while Ivo Pinto has arguably been the stand-out performer for us so far.
Usually I would curse the international break that is enforced upon us after this weekend but it may be perfectly timed as far as our treatment room and return to action for key personnel is concerned when the league action resumes.
As for this Saturday afternoon, I suspect that the Blues will fight and scrap for every ball and make it very difficult for our boys to find their best form. That’s as it should be as long as we too are up for the fight, take care of the dirty side of things and nick it by the odd goal.
As for the beautiful game, we’d all like to see in an ideal world but I’m happy to wait until the New Year when the men really are sorted from the boys in the push for promotion.