City boss Glenn Roeder this morning called on his players to deliver “a complete performance” against title-chasing West Bromwich Albion tomorrow – and finally put this season out of its many miseries.
The last of which, of course, arrived away at the Canaries' nearest and dearest rivals last Sunday. A further compelling reason to right all those wrongs against the Baggies and – subject to results elsewhere – book the Norfolk club's place in the Championship again next season.
Defeat for Leicester away at Barnsley, victory for the Canaries…. the maths is always so simple. In practice the fact that Kevin Phillips, Zoltan Gera and Co will arrive at Carrow Road flying from their own derby success against Wolves in mid-week might make life rather more awkward for City. With a full-house long since booked in, it promises to be a thumping great clash.
And all with the Canaries, once again, left with a point to prove after last weekend's miserable no-show at Portman Road.
“52 points has been home and hosed for the last five, six seasons,” said Roeder at Colney this morning. “And it looks like you probably need a couple more points.”
Everyone needs to show up; every man needs to step up to the plate and give his all. It was that kind of message at Colney this morning.
“We cannot carry a passenger,” said the City chief. “We can't afford to carry one player tomorrow – all 11 have to play to their very best. And whoever's on the bench when they come on. We need a complete performance.
“And with the backing of our home crowd I don't see why we can't get it – and get a very good reaction to the massive disappointment of what happened at Portman Road on Sunday.”
Roeder wasn't about to bite on the suggestion that this was a particularly big game. No more than any other, was his line.
“I think every game since I've been here has been big,” he said. “Six points cut off [at the bottom of the table], you couldn't lose that one [Ipswich]. We didn't; we got a point. We lost the next two…
“I don't think we've ever had what I would call a game where you can really go out and relax – the lads have always played under pressure.”
Pressure that then told through the early spring as form and fortune started to desert Roeder's Canaries.
“I think that contributed to a difficult March, because they'd put so much in to get where they did – and they're human beings at the end of the day. You expected them to have a down-turn in fortune; you didn't want it to happen.
“But considering where we were, we've still got ourselves into a decent position – we've got to finish it as soon as we can.”
In fairness – or at least on the evidence of the Stoke City and Bristol City games – Norwich do have the ability to raise their game for when the better teams arrive. Or rather teams that are higher in the league. West Bromwich Albion, however, have long looked the promotion part. They smashed City in the home game at The Hawthorns and on the evidence that day, should have long wrapped up the title.
“They're obviously having a fantastic season – and in a season where it's going to take the lowest total ever to be promoted,” said the City chief, about to be reunited with one of his more famous transfer captures, 24-goal Baggies' hitman Phillips.
“I won't spend ten grand better in my whole life,” said the Canary boss, who plucked Phillips out of non-league obscurity at Baldock Town whilst manager of Watford. The rest is, of course, history.
“I got tipped off about him; went and saw him play; it was a freezing cold night; I only stayed until half-time – I'd seen enough.”
Legend always maintained that Phillips was then a left-back; Roeder put the record straight. “No, he left Southampton as a right-back.
“I think he'd started as a striker when he went to Southampton, but they moved him further and further back and he ended up at right-back. But they never bothered trying him as a goalkeeper because he was five-foot nine. And he'd definitely struggle there. So they'd moved him on and out of the club.”
It was Phillips' attitude as much as his ability that won Roeder over. Some 14 years on and the City chief sees someone else in the Dion Dublin-stroke-Teddy Sheringham mould as the Baggies' striker – 35 this summer – sits down and listens, no doubt, to all sorts of offers for his services.
Having already offered him a new deal, West Brom boss Tony Mowbray remains firmly in the box seat to win Phillips' signature again – particularly if he has the prospect of Premiership football to put on the table.
“He had a great attitude – and I've seen him quite a lot since and he's still the same man that I signed from non-league. No airs and graces; no big ego. A super man – and human being. I can't speak highly enough of him.”
Would he be tempted to make a call this summer? That horse had already bolted, was the impression that Roeder gave.
“As far as I understand, West Brom have offered him a new contract; he's happily settled in the Midlands as far as I'm aware, so I haven't even given that a moment's thought.”
Team-wise and skipper Mark Fotheringham – ruled out of the derby clash with a neck injury – has trained all week and will be fit to play. Long-term shoulder injury victim Luke Chadwick came through a friendly clash with Cambridge United in mid-week unscathed and looks set to be involved.
The one doubt is on-loan Chelsea youngster Ryan Bertrand who tweaked his hamstring chasing Danny Haynes' shadow last weekend. His place could go to Mo Camara.
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