As 3,300 Canary supporters prepared for Sunday's trip to 'The Very Last Chance Saloon', so Charlton's newly-crowned Player of the Season Nicky Bailey was aiming to break many a City heart before he, too, heads for League One next season.
The 12-goal Addicks midfielder has, it appears, one or two close pals heading for The Valley with one, last drop of hope in their heart – that Norwich can, somehow, prise three points out of Charlton as Plymouth are, likewise, ripping all three points out of Barnsley's hands.
In which case, the Canaries will be spared the fate of Charlton and Southampton next season; it will be Simon Davey's Reds heading off to pastures new and not Bryan Gunn's Canaries.
It remains a big, big ask. Not least for the fact that City have to trust that the Pilgrims are ready to make a fight of it themselves on 'Showdown Sunday' – their own place in the Championship next season secured by Norwich's devastating 2-0 home defeat by Reading on Monday night.
Bailey, 24, wasn't about to make City's life any easier as he vowed to send te Addicks' faithful home for the summer on one, final high note.
“You always want to win your last game of the season to send everyone away happy,” the former Southend United midfielder told the club's official website today.
“And hopefully we can do that on Sunday. I'm hoping Sunday will be a happy day for us, but not such a happy day for Norwich.”
A few of his travelling pals included, it seems.
“I've got a few mates who are Norwich fans, and I think they will be coming to the game,” said Bailey, likely to play wide-left in Charlton's new-look five man midfield in which their boy wonder Jonjo Shelvey plays a prominent part.
“They have some good players, but this is a hard league and a lot of teams have found it tough; that's why they are down there with us,” added the Addicks favourite, with the two FA Cup meetings ensuring that both teams are well-versed in the ways of the other.
“Obviously, we've played them quite a few times this season and we've won one, lost one and drawn one, so we'll be looking to beat them again,” said Bailey, with an ominous warning. That with the pressure off and their fate long since sealed, Charlton have been enjoying themselves of late.
They can just go out and play – the fear, the panic and the preessure, they can leave to the visitors as Norwich's Championship survival hopes hang by the very slenderest of threads.
“Apart from the second half at Derby, we have been playing well in the last few games. Hopefully we can put in a performance like the ones against Cardiff and Blackpool and take the three points to send the fans off with something to smile about,” he said.
Whether his opposite number in terms of Player of the Season gongs will be on duty at The Valley is something of a moot point right now after Canary winger Lee Croft revealed that he was still in the hands of the physios at last night's 'Player of the Season' dinner at Carrow Road.
The 23-year-old has been struggling with a calf strain of late and this final game could yet come just too soon for him; whether boss Bryan Gunn would wish to risk him from the start after the better part of two weeks on the sidelines is another matter.
Croft, of course, is also out of contract this summer and will – once he celebrates his 24th birthday – be able to walk away on a Bosman free. As much as he clearly enjoys his life in Norfolk, money may do all the talking – particularly if the Canaries are forced to cut their costs according to their League One cloth.
That ?8 million player budget will be slashed like never before should the worst befall the club on Sunday.
Already City boss Gunn was re-shaping his squad for next season as both ex-skipper Mark Fotheringham and barely-used winger Robert Eagle were released early from their contracts; both were out of contract this summer anyway; now both have a slight head-start on the rest of the footballing world as they bid to continue their careers elsewhere.
“Both players are aware that their best chance of playing regular first team football lies elsewhere,” Gunn said today, with all manner of similar decisions awaiting in the summer. If, of course, he himself is given the managerial role on a longer-term basis.
“Robert Eagle has worked very hard since emerging from our Academy ranks but has found it very tough to break into the first team and this gives him the chance to focus on new challenges and kick-start his career,” added the City chief.
“Mark Fotheringham also wants to play first team football and again with this news he now has the opportunity to secure a place with another club. I'd like to wish them all the best in their future careers on behalf of everyone at the club.”
Leave a Reply