As everyone knows, there are no small games in the English Premier League.
Every game is a big game; and, at the end of the day, a win is just a win – whether it be against a Manchester United or a Blackburn Rovers, it is still three points.
And so many a managerial mantra will run. Every game is little or no different from the last; win, lose or draw, you just take any season one game at a time – and never look beyond the next 90 minutes of football.
All of which, I perfectly get; there is a simple, uncomplicated logic to all of the above; don’t get too down-hearted when you lose, don’t get too excited when you win. Keep yourselves on an even keel.
All of which, I perfectly get; there is a simple, uncomplicated logic to all of the above.
The trouble comes when you place such rational thoughts in the mind of your average football supporter; people who – come three o’clock on a Saturday – tend towards the darkly complex and the stubbornly illogical. That’s just the way they roll.
All of which is a long way of saying that Saturday’s home clash with Wolves has gained rather more by way of importance than possibly might be healthy for the great Canary Nation at this stage of the season.
It is not a must-win game; rather a ‘be-very-nice-to-win-it’ game. But it is not just A N Other game – however much managers and players alike will insist otherwise this week.
For one thing, it is Wolves. After the neighbours down the road, there is little love lost between the two sets of supporters. Memories long linger in this corner of the world; Kevan Muscat occupies a special place in the Canary Hall of (In)Fame.
And if Norwich can hasten Wolves’ exit to the Championship this weekend en route to putting themselves within touching distance of the finishing line then it will be a sweet, sweet moment to savour for the City faithful.
For this still-glorious season will have been put comfortably to bed; a point here and another there will keep the Norfolk club in the land of milk and honey for another 12 months; everyone can sit back and enjoy Jonny Howson bed himself fully into his new surroundings before being centre stage next term.
What no-one wants is a scratchy end to the season in which Norwich are left to either dig something out of a trip to Spurs or Arsenal – or bank on a big win against Blackburn Rovers securing their top flight status for another year.
I think all concerned deserve better than that; indeed, all concerned are worthy of more – of basking in the knowledge that a huge job has been done, now go out and enjoy your football for the last half-dozen games of the season…
Fulham (a) a week later has all-too many nasty over-tones to it; Everton (h) the week after is the one for bagging that final point before mingling with the top six boys again in the business end of the season.
At which point you don’t want to be still looking over your shoulder; wondering whether – miracle upon miracle – that the pack down below rallies en masse and starts to snap at your heels in the final few weeks of the season.
I don’t think yesterday’s narrow defeat at Newcastle – on its own – needs to set the alarm bells ringing. You get what you pays for and Norwich were done by a £9 million finish.
But it’s putting that result in the context of coming between a lame draw against Wigan Athletic and a home clash with fellow strugglers Wolves that makes for an element of discomfort this week.
Because Norwich supporters know better than to expect a comfortable ride; that they follow a club whose relationship with the footballing gods is rarely straight-forward; and for whom encounters with bottom of the table clubs invariably conjure up a nasty surprise. Can Saturday not be the exception to this rule?
One final point. I think Paul Lambert’s managerial achievements over this and the last two seasons deserve a comfortable end to this campaign; that the Canaries are long over-due a simple, canter over the finishing line; that they have no need to put themselves at the mercy of a photo-finish.
So, please, let’s just do a job this weekend and go on and simply enjoy the final chapters of this season’s glorious adventure.