My regular reader (cheers Mum) will know I’ve done little else but whinge and moan about the international break and should therefore be chomping at the bit ahead of City’s return to league action at the weekend.
And I am, but still can’t help feeling a tad anxious about tomorrow’s trip to the Cardiff City Stadium.
For a start there is the potentially painful return of Anthony Pilkington to worry about. While his form since that famous header against Manchester United headed in a southerly direction there was never any doubt that when fully fit and with the aforementioned bit between his teeth he had potential to hurt teams.
Alas in the last eighteen months the perfect Pilkington storm failed to materialise; so much so even when fully fit he found himself on the periphery of the starting XI as opposed to being slap bang in the middle of it. To coin a phrase he flattered to deceive.
The Pilks that twisted and tormented full-backs upon his arrival was a very different beast to the one that departed westwards with his tail between his legs.
We have since learned that for the best part of two seasons he was looking for a move and I guess – with this presumably being common knowledge in the dressing room – his performances reflected it.
But it was a shame. A fully fit and firing-on-all cylinders Pilkington was a handful and allied with his two-footedness he could have had a big say in City’s final, and ultimately fruitless, Premier League campaign.
But with an injury record that pushed Darren Anderton all the way in the ‘sicknote stakes’ his time in trenches was sparse. A move ended up being the only option for both parties.
As you have probably gathered by now, I have a niggle that an ‘up for it’ Master Pilkington could turn up tomorrow and give us all an uncomfortable afternoon.
Let’s face it, the sight of an ex turning it on when faced with a mass of yellow and green jerseys would hardly be a new phenomenon. We only need to cast our collective eye to the Cardiff goal to be reminded of that.
God knows, it’s almost a given that David Marshall will have a ‘worldie’.
Ever since he flew out of the Carrow Road door quicker than you could say ‘wait for me Sammy…’ he has been on the receiving end of the Yellow Army’s wrath. Yet, invariably it’s the Scot who emerges the victor. (A Scot on whom we’re itching to unleash a dose of the old ‘I told you so’ having the last laugh – sound familiar?)
All too often those who – in the opinion of the City faithful – deserve ‘the treatment’ are allowed off the hook. It’s something that, over the years, we have specialised in.
Off then top of my head (*awaits bald jokes*) I can only recall dear old ‘wait for me Sammy’ Clingan falling fully foul of the Snakepit on the day we celebrated promotion. Beyond that joyous occasion I can recall few opportunities where we have had the final say.
And of course there is also the Tom Adeyemi factor to consider. While Tom is not one for whom there is an ounce of resentment from the Yellow Army, one suspects there is nothing he would like more than to remind Norwich City FC of what it missed out on.
Unlike his Academy cohort, Korey Smith – who at least did get a chance (albeit a relatively brief one) to display his wares at first-team level – Adeyemi was rarely afforded the same opportunity. We heard plenty of his academic and footballing prowess but given Paul Lambert’s haste in taking us to the Promised Land the chance to patrol the centre of City’s midfield never presented itself on a regular basis.
While I’m not expecting talk of grudges it would be perfectly natural if Messrs Johnson and Tettey come face to face with a very driven and motivated Master Adeyemi at 3pm on Saturday (First goalscorer – Tom Adeyemi 20/1 anyone?)
Oh, and then there’s Kenwyne Jones. The pain of him bludgeoning the ball home from close range back in February to make it 2-1 for the Bluebirds is still a little raw. And he has previous too.
The Trinidadian also played the role of City party-pooper back in August 2011, when his 90th minute equaliser denied us an early win in our first season back in the Premier League. In fact he is one of an ever-growing band who, while unexceptional for large chunks of their careers, choose to save their best when faced with a team adorning yellow and green.
But… having said all of that, and despite my best efforts to convince myself otherwise, Saturday is a game City can win.
The confidence is high, the squad well-equipped and the manager bristling with bravado. And, as if to highlight the point, in yesterday afternoon’s press conference Neil Adams reminded us, “… it will be the same as every game, we’ll look to try and win it”.
Now who does that remind you of?
While it appears the Cardiff game has arrived too soon for Gary Hooper and Jonny Howson, the rest of the squad – international injuries permitting – appear to be fighting fit. As a result the team news at 2pm will be fascinating.
The biggest conundrum for Adams appears to be who to partner with Michael Turner at the centre of the defence.
While the chances of the Russell Martin experiment being extended appear small, the choice appears to be between new signings Jos Hooiveld and Ignasi Miquel, and only time will tell of Hooisveld’s appearance at the presser was a telling one.
In the attacking third we should expect few changes and a ‘more of the same’ message from the boss; Lewis Grabban’s five in five ensuring his name is currently first on the team-sheet.
So, we head west in decent shape and despite the obvious concerns will still be looking to give Mr Tan another reason to rant. And having had a taste of that winning away from home lark already this season there is every reason to believe we can.
“On the Ball City…”