City boss Glenn Roeder long ago identified the Canaries' Achilles heel – their wretched record away from home.
On the day that he walked through the door at Colney last autumn, the Carrow Road club had just one point from their travels – and that from a thoroughly forgettable 0-0 draw on the opening day of the 2007-2008 season away at Preston North End.
So as 'Curtain up!' looms for the start of the 2008-2009 campaign away at the Ricoh Stadium home of Chris Coleman's Coventry City, Roeder knows that his re-built City side have to up their game on the road – that's where promotions are won and play-off places secured. On your travels; in the opposition's back-yard.
“There is no doubt about it,” said the City boss. “The teams that win automatic promotion and the four teams that are in the play-offs, their away records are terrific.”
He had one, ready example to hand – the fate of the neighbours last season.
“If you take Ipswich, for instance, last year,” said Roeder, all-too well-versed in the perils of 'Fortess Portman Road'.
“If Ipswich had a half-decent away record, they'd have gone up probably automatically – they'd have walked into the play-offs. Their home form was absolutely outstanding.
“It was a fortress down there at Portman Road. But, away from home, if my memory serves me right, they had a little bit of a desperate away record.”
For the record, Town only won three times on their travels – in the end, two away wins and six points less than the Canaries. They did, however, nick twice as many away draws as their Norfolk neighbours; eight draws as opposed to City's four.
Given the Championship is likely to be every bit as tight and congested as it was last year, those single away points can make the world of difference. Just as Jim Magilton – Town would, after all, finish just one point outside the play-off places.
“Go and look at all the teams in the play-offs and the teams that have won automatic promotion and their away record wasn't far away from their home record,” said Roeder, a devout student of the stats on the quiet.
For City to achieve such a goal, the word is quite simple – don't expect us to go out all gung-ho at the Ricoh this Saturday. Prising big away points out of places like Coventry City (a) may all be about playing a little ugly; being a little conservative in the way that you set out your stall.
“Those teams that achieve that don't go away from home and play with two wingers high and wide – and let the opposition have acres and acres of space to play in,” said Roeder, with thoughts inevitably turning back to wingers who did play high and wide for a legendary living.
“A lot of those results were achieved on 1-0s; 2-1s; 0-0s; 1-1s.
“They pick up points on the road and there is no doubt about it – last year at times we were far too easy to beat away from home.”
As he would memorably discover for himself away at Plymouth one particularly wretched afternoon away from home – for four of those Plymouth Brethren it was the last time that they ever donned a Canary shirt under the new manager.
“We have to be tougher away from home,” he added. “And we have to pick up a lot more points than we did last year.
“I don't think we quite got to the 23 [City took 21 for their away troubles…] which is the bare minimum you should have in an average season to be mid-table – 23 games, 23 points.
“But in November, what did we have? One point. One draw. Preston on the first day. And by the first week in November, that was the one point away from home. And it wasn't until we went to Blackpool that we got our first away win.”
All of which leaves City firmly under the microscope come the Ricoh on Saturday; from the very off they need to demonstrate a new resiliance on their travels. Coventry, of course, will be looking to start the season with a bang; three points on the door come five o'clock and they can send their own fans home happy.
And, no doubt, Coleman had a scout or two sat in the stand on Saturday, noting down exactly what to expect this weekend on the back of that 2-2 draw with a well-organised U's side.
“For sure, Coventry will be at the game – like we will go and watch Coventry wherever they're playing,” said Roeder, speaking ahead of this weekend's final dress rehearsal.
“They'll get an idea of how we might be thinking next week by the way that the team is shaped up and who is playing, but I'm not that bothered about letting people know what my team is,” he added, with the City chief fully expecting the absent Ryan Bertrand to return for this weekend's opener.
He is still, in theory, hoping to bolt that elusive target man into his thinking before then, too. For now, however, there were little more than whispers doing the rounds; with invariably the same old names falling into the transfer frame.
The fact that Shola Ameobi hobbled out of last Friday night's friendly against Hertha Berlin with a slight hamstring strain at least suggested that the 26-year-old was playing again; albeit with that lingering ability to tweak this or strain that.
Whether he really figures in Kevin Keegan's Premiership plans is very doubtful; for the watching Magpies owner Mike Ashley Ameobi's latest twinge might just have hardened his resolve to get him away; he missed Newcastle's latest pre-season clash by reportedly being locked in discussions with the club's executive director Dennis Wise – the one assigned to wheel and deal at St James' Park.
“We all know what our players can do and what they can't do; their scouts can write down all our set-plays and it'll be a waste of time,” added Roeder, clearly intent on springing a surprise or two on Coleman and Co.
“Because we'll do something different when we play Coventry…”
And, who knows, they might even do it with one or two different players.
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