There is little doubt as to what stock, football phrase will do the rounds over the next ten days.
And with good reason, in fairness.
‘When it comes to derby games, the form book goes out of the window…’ is one of those that I must have written countless of times down the years.
And, in all likelihood, may again before the two tribes go to war once more a week on Sunday.
For as Town prepare for an awkward little trip away to Hull in their warm-up for the biggest game of the season and the Canaries prepare to renew their League One rivalry with Leeds United at Carrow Road this Saturday, so the fortunes of the two age-old rivals would – appear – to suggest only one outcome on the following weekend.
All of which will – one suspects – merely send a shiver down the spine of most veteran derby fans; nine times out of ten, the form book does go out of the window…
But it is an interesting point in the season for both clubs with a third of the campaign now gone and that long, hard slog through Christmas and the New Year looming large on the horizon.
Three home defeats on the spin and the mood that appeared to change in the midst of the 3-1 reverse against Barnsley last weekend would appear to suggest that down the road Roy Keane’s margin for error is minimal – certainly among the North Stand faithful.
They kept the faith with the Irishman last season; that patience is now waning fast. Defeat against the Tigers and a no-show against the neighbours could test everyone’s resolve – not least that of the club’s reclusive owner, Marcus Evans.
Closer to home and Norwich are in far better shape; Paul Lambert can all-but walk across the Wensum these days such is his standing among City supporters.
And whilst back-to-back away points at Millwall and Reading are – in the longer-term – not to be sniffed at, the point from the home draw against Burnley the week before has seen his side take three points from their last nine.
As all scholars of Championship form and fortune know, a two-point a game average is promotion; something in the region of four-to-five is play-offs.
Three from nine gets Norwich to where they kind of are now; just outside the final play-off reckoning.
The fact that Leeds have dusted themselves down after their own iffy spell to put themselves into fifth – albeit only one point better off than their hosts – reinforces the impression that, in some senses, this weekend’s game is just as important for Norwich’s overall momentum as the following derby clash.
A four-point gap to the team in fourth or fifth becomes a little bit of clear, blue water – with about half a dozen teams filling the gap in between given how narrow the margins are in this particular division.
The other point to the next two games is the need for Lady Luck to smile once more on the Canaries; yes, you get the luck you deserve in this division – to quote one cliché – and, yes, your luck will even itself out over the course of a 46-game season, to quote another.
But there a little moments in the course of every campaign when you need fortune to keep the wind in the sails.
Which clearly didn’t happen down the M4 last weekend once Mr Oliver went to work.
In one sense, common sense did prevail when Grant Holt’s red card was over-turned; the Canaries won’t now have to face this particular turning point in the season without their skipper for three games.
But as no doubt has been mentioned before, the damage has already been done; the horse – in the shape of those two, extra away points – has already bolted.
OK, you can never say for certain how the game would have panned out without Holt’s red – perhaps boss Brian McDermott might have been able to transform Reading’s fortunes with a half-time swap-round of Lambert-like proportions – but there was every sense that that game was all-but done and dusted. Job done.
Had the ‘result’ stood – as ever, all ifs, buts and maybes – the Canaries would be going into this weekend’s game flying. More importantly, those two additional points would have found them looking down on Leeds… not looking up and hoping to keep hold of their coat-tails as Simon Grayson’s team start to gather a little momentum of their own.
The point is, of course, that Lambert knows all this.
He knows how such ‘little’ decisions on one day can have big implications for the course of a club’s season; particularly when – in The Championship – the margins for error are so, so slight and the rewards for those that get it right are so, so huge.
Little wonder he could be found venting his fury and frustration on the touchline – actions that, of course, might now hit him in the pocket via that disrepute charge.
But this is all the nature of this Championship beast. Fate is so, so fickle; fortune so, so changeable.
In that regard, nothing changes. It should, equally, make for quite a derby occasion – irrespective of whether Keane is still there to see it.