As everyone knows, ten is always the magic number when it comes to judging which way the wind will blow in any given season.
So, with Norwich now three games short of that mark, perhaps we should shelve any sweeping predictions for another couple of weeks.
File City’s start – for now – under ‘Flash in the pan…’; wait until they’ve proved more of a point before assuming that we’re all heading for an East Anglian play-off final…
But that would be dull; let’s start to sketch out a few, early observations.
Like, for example, that the Canaries have a chance this season; that they may yet be there or thereabouts come next May.
Two points can be made with some certainty – if only on the evidence of the last two weeks.
One, they are not a one-trick pony.
Two, they haven’t lost last season’s art of winning ‘ugly’; or rather, picking up the kind of 1-0 away wins that invariably make all the difference.
Saturday’s success at Deepdale being a classic case in point. A classic case in three points, to be more precise.
More on that in a mo. First, however, the home win over Barnsley.
If you allow Wes Hoolahan to play, he’ll murder you. Get some Championship bruiser treading on his toes wherever he goes – as Watford did in that season opener – and Plan A doesn’t always work so well.
And it was interesting to note the plaudits that Hoolahan received for his performance at Preston. Because you wonder whether or not *at home* teams will take their eyes off the ball; they’ll set out their stall to play their own way and not pay the likes of a Hoolahan the attention he invariably deserves.
You get on the front foot early on your home patch; to detail one man to shadow the Canary play-maker might be one for away teams; teams that arrive in Norfolk with their hearts set on stopping Norwich from playing. Nick a point on your travels, etc, etc…
Which is why having a second trick up your sleeve is – in every likelihood – going to be key this season.
Changing shape; suddenly giving yourself the kind of pace and width that McNamee offers then asks a whole new set of questions of the opposition.
And as both minds and legs tire in the final third of the game, so teams can come up wanting.
Particularly for as long as you’ve got the likes of a Martin or a Holt delivering a finish.
And whilst you have the likes of a Smith and a Crofts adding the legs; keep the opposition working for the ball; never give them a moment’s peace – key ingredients in a decent Football League outfit. That graft counts just as much as craft; more on certain days away from home.
As for events at Preston this weekend, those kind of 1-0 wins are worth their weight in gold. As Paul Lambert has long since appreciated.
Which, in turn, suggests that the back end of the team is starting to function as required; that there is enough muscle and nous therein to keep the Championship’s likely also-rans at bay for 90 minutes.
And that bodes well.
The garden is not without potential thorns. As events at the Keepmoat proved. It won’t be all plain sailing.
And as ever, the wrong injury to the wrong player at the wrong moment in time could cost City dear.
Chrissy Martin is one of those that you wouldn’t want to be without; Hoolahan makes the opposition think and re-organise; Norwich still look a little light in the centre-half department… or rather, prone to injuries in that area of the side.
And there are teams in this division who could power away to the top two spots.
QPR are the obvious example. Manager Neil Warnock knows this block inside out; given the kind of resources he has at his disposal, they might take some stopping.
And – as Ipswich discovered this weekend – the trick is to face Cardiff when Bellars is out and injured.
With him at the helm, they will remain a force to be reckoned with.
So, seven games in, and there is every reason to be cautiously optimistic that this could be another interesting season.
The wind remains firmly in Norwich’s sails; last year’s title success and the confidence that comes therein hasn’t disappeared on the first autumn wind; the force is still with the Canaries; the momentum remains; the mood is onward and upward.
And for now, I’d just bask quietly in that feeling.
Norwich being Norwich something unexpected will pop up; you never, ever know quite what lies around the corner. Be it on – or off – the pitch.
But let’s all cross that bridge as and when; right now ‘Steady as she goes…’ is all anyone could have hoped for.