So, another away day tanking on Saturday.
Our away record in 2014 so far makes for dismal reading.
- P 7
- W 0
- D 1
- L 6
- GF 5
- GA 18
- PTS 1
- GD -13
We’re now on a ‘run’ of six losses from six and have only recorded two away wins all season. Two this season and nine wins altogether (at the time of writing) out of the 54 Premier League fixtures we have played away from home since we returned to the top flight in 2011; a little under 17 per cent of games played for those with a statistical bent. We’ve also, on our travels this season, conceded at least four goals on five different occasions.
Who’s familiar with the phrase ‘Along come Norwich’?
I don’t know how long ago it was first coined, but, for me, it makes me look back to a home game we had against Bradford City in early 2004. We were top of the Championship and flying; we’d won our last four league games and had lost just one game in our last thirteen. Bradford, on the other hand, were one from bottom and hadn’t won an away league game since the previous September.
Then along come Norwich. Bradford won 1-0.
There’s been a bit of that this season. Swansea had no wins in six games before we met them on Saturday. Along come Norwich.
Prior to us travelling to Southampton they’d won just two of their last thirteen league games with just one league win at St Mary’s to their name since early November. Along come Norwich.
Aston Villa? Well, Paul Lambert or not, prior to our turning up at Villa Park on 2 March, they had just two home wins from their last ten played; a dismal run for a so-called “big” club that included defeats to West Ham and Crystal Palace as well as a draw against Sunderland. In each of those three games they had failed to score a goal. Then they won against us – and scored four goals into the bargain. Yes, you’ve guessed it.
Along come Norwich.
Cardiff City had lost six out of seven league games prior to our trip to Wales to play them on 1 February. They’d also failed to win any league game at all since a fortnight before Christmas. And Fulham had lost eight out of nine games before arriving at Carrow Road on Boxing Day.
Reasonable grounds, you would think, in both cases, for us to think that a win was more likely to be the end product of both those games than a defeat.
But no. Along, once again, come Norwich.
Citing the Fulham example above is a little off topic as this piece is meant to be focusing on away game but – no matter what happens against West Bromwich on Saturday – we have an absolutely crucial game to come at Craven Cottage. Our record against Fulham, in the last fifteen games we have played them at league level, is not so good. We’ve won just two out of those fifteen with ten defeats in total; a worrying statistic that has included, at Craven Cottage, defeats of 4-0 (1974), 5-0 (2012) and, memorably, 6-0 (2005).
We also lost to them 6-0 on aggregate in the League Cup in 1999 and, lest I forget, 3-0 at their place in the FA Cup earlier this season.
With such a dismal record to our name down by the Thames – and it’s a shame because, as away days go, it’s one of the most enjoyable there is – there is, paradoxically, a temptation to think that, in true Norwich style, this would be the ideal time to turn that record on its head. With everything against us rather than for us what better time to come back with the three points this time.
Because if we ever needed to do something about our away record and form this year, then that game would be the ideal time to do it – especially if we can beat West Brom on Saturday.
Think about it. Two consecutive wins against West Brom and Fulham will put us on 38 points. With four games still to play. And, in each of the last ten seasons of the Premier League, only two teams from a possible thirty have been relegated with 38 points to their name.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if, despite all our away day woes this season (and pretty much in general since we returned to the Premier League under Paul Lambert) our survival this season could be pretty much guaranteed by only our tenth win in 55 away games, one that would also be our first win of any sort at Craven Cottage since 1986.
There are parallels if you need an omen or two.
The Norwich City side that will travel to Fulham on 12 April will be led by a man regarded as one of the nicest and most respected men in English football; one who also had a spell playing for West Ham United – Chris Hughton. We have an England goalkeeper in John Ruddy; a centre half who has also played for Everton (Joseph Yobo); a player with ‘van’ as part of his name (Ricky van Wolfswinkel) and a striker who started his career in non-league football (Gary Hooper at Grays Athletic).
The Norwich City side that won 1-0 at Fulham on 1 January 1986 was led by a man regarded as one of the nicest and most respected men in English football, one who also had a spell playing for West Ham United – Ken Brown. We had an England goalkeeper in Chris Woods; a centre half who has also played for Everton (Dave Watson); a player with ‘van’ as part of his name (Denis van Wijk) and a striker who started his career in non-league football (Wayne Biggins at Matlock Town).
The goal in our 1-0 win that day was scored by our big money and free scoring striker Kevin Drinkell. What are the chances, therefore, given we are dealing in bucking trends here, that all of those little coincidences above are nicely topped and tailed by us winning 1-0 at Fulham on the day with the goal coming from our big money but not exactly free scoring striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel?
Clutching at straws? You bet. But it still all intrigues me enough to want to put a bet on that being exactly what happens on the day. Wonder what the odds* are?
You read it here first then.
Fulham 0 Norwich City 1 (van Wolfswinkel).
Allowing us to briefly rejoice for once at Craven Cottage before, as Sir Alex Ferguson so wonderfully described it as, go into “squeaky bum time” over those remaining four games of the season.
Until we all go through it all again from August.
Ferguson was also quoted as saying, “football, bloody hell”.
After the brief ups and predominant downs we’ve all been through this season, I couldn’t agree with him more.