This afternoon’s FA Cup fifth round draw did Norwich City Football Club all manner of favours as a home tie with Leicester City proved their reward for yesterday’s 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion.
‘Anything at home…’ is the traditional managerial mantra at such points in the season and Canary chief Paul Lambert will be delighted at the outcome.
It is, if truth be told, unlikely to feature heavily in the thoughts of the TV types as they sift through the likely live clashes for the weekend of February 18 – Crawley Town’s home clash with Stoke and Spurs’ trip to Stevenage look favourite for that money-spinning gig – but that may prove no bad thing.
It is the sort of innocuous tie that can enable a club to sail into the last eight without anyone really noticing.
Equally, it avoids the kind of banana skin that either a Crawley (a) or a Stevenage (a) offers; or, indeed, the likes of a Chelsea (a) where Norwich’s last ‘run’ of any real note ended with that 4-0 defeat in 2007.
Leicester (h) is about as good as it could have got – the Foxes sit slap, bang in the middle of the Championship in 13th – and will merely fuel the growing feeling that 2012 might, just, be Norwich’s year to make an impression.
The only downside to the draw was that it failed to pair two of the bigger guns together again in the manner of the third round clash between the two Manchester clubs and yesterday’s Liverpool vs Manchester United showdown.
The form-book would suggest that Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs will all be in the quarter-final hat – should Norwich progress beyond the last 16.
“It’s a home tie and I think that’s all you ever look for in a cup draw,” the Canary chief duly confirmed to the club’s official website this afternoon – following the traditional managerial script to a ‘T’.
“It was always going to be hard, but being drawn at home is good for us,” he added.
The Foxes – now managed by Nigel Pearson following the exit of Sven Goran Eriksson – booked their place in the fifth round with a 2-0 win over Swindon Town.
The fact that it is all change at the top management-wise will ensure that the Canaries head into cup battle warily – and don’t draw too many conclusions from last year’s ‘double’, autumn’s 4-3 Carrow Road thriller being followed by a 3-2 win away in the spring.
“We played them twice last year in two, really tough games, although it’s a new manager now,” said Lambert. “It’ll be a really tough game, but it’s one that we will look to go and win.”
With yet another Carrow Road full-house likely – and £180,000 on offer to the winner – it is a not insignificant pay-day for the football club; one, traditionally, that they do not budget for.
Equally, the chances are that each of the four, quarter-final ties will be screened live. There’s another cheque to add to the coffers, if Lambert’s men can prevail and make their hard-won Premiership status count.
With the wind fully in their sails league-wise – the Canaries remain unbeaten in 2012 – and a decent cup run starting to thrill and delight the locals, all is set very fair this spring. It remains a glorious time to be a City fan.
None of which will come as any consolation to Baggies boss Roy Hodgson after goals from Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson – coupled to an outstanding debut from rookie keeper Jed Steer – combined to give the Canaries their second 2-1 success at The Hawthorns in the space of two weeks.
“I am sad to lose because the performance was one where we did not deserve to lose the game, although we didn’t really want to go to Norwich mid-week for a replay,” said the Baggies chief afterwards. To him was left the traditional line of the losing manager as to where their over-riding priority now lay.
“Now we can concentrate on our main priority, which is staying in the Premier League,” he said.