The phrase ‘It’s a real six-pointer…’ didn’t actually cross the manager’s lips.
That was left to many a Canary supporter ahead of tomorrow’s home clash with bottom-of-the-table Reading.
It is the first of three, crunch home games for the Canaries before the end of the season. Nine, huge points being up for grabs as Chris Hughton’s men look to get across the 40-point finishing line before they need anything out of an away trip to Manchester City.
Nor is an away trip to Stoke City one to look forward to. The answer to many a prayer will come from the home games against Reading, Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion. That is where Norwich’s fate will be decided.
And if – for once, of late – officialdom can smile on the battling Carrow Road side, so boss Hughton is confident all will be well.
Last weekend’s gut-wrenching 3-1 away defeat at Arsenal might have left at a sour taste in the mouth, but it also left the manager insisting that confidence was undented, pride undimmed, belief unshaken.
“We’re on the back of a very good performance at the Emirates Stadium last week, and there is that confidence in the team,” Hughton told the club’s official website.
“We’ll go into the game in very confident mood because, around here, the spirit has been very good. We have to capitalise on that.”
The success of the club’s Under-18s in reaching the final of the FA Youth Cup will have buoyed spirits further – as might the return of goalkeeping hero John Ruddy, whose season was cut short with that serious thigh injury away at Everton.
With two warm-up games now under his belt, the England international could yet feature before the end of the season.
Hughton will make a decision overnight as to whether or not to risk Ruddy tomorrow – or keep his powder dry for potentially bigger games to come. Aston Villa (h) principal among them.
He also has to assess the fitness of midfielder Bradley Johnson who picked up a knock in that trip to The Emirates.
“These are decisions that we have to make, but what is very important for us is that John will continue to put himself in contention by the fact that he is training and he’s played two games,” the manager said, appearing to veer towards a ‘Safety first!’ approach.
Much the same might apply to Johnson with Jonny Howson and Alexander Tettey able to hold the fort in his absence.
“We’re also conscious that he’s been out a long time. At the moment, we’ve got a goalkeeper in Mark Bunn who has done very well. We’ll make that decision over the next day or so. We’re also hoping Bradley Johnson is going to be fit enough to feature.”
For the visitors, one player that City fans could really do without seeing on days like tomorrow is lightning-fast winger Jimmy Kebe for whom the crunch trip to Norfolk would appear to come a mite too soon.
Without a win in his first three games in charge – albeit with a commendable 0-0 away draw at Liverpool under his belt, Royals boss Nigel Adkins hasn’t been helped by a significant injury list – Kebe among them.
“Jimmy has been doing some good running. I watched him glide across the ground so that was really pleasing from my point of view,” Adkins reported to the Reading Post this week.
He knows the significance of tomorrow’s game all-too well – the numbers have long been stacked against the Berkshire side. They have, likewise, long been drinking in that famed last chance saloon.
“We go to Norwich with a positive mindset,” he stressed. “And the boys have worked really hard on the training ground. I’ve been pleased again and it has been highlighted that we’ve got to get three points.”