What follows is far from original.
I’ve been using the analogy for as long as I care to remember. Where I struggle is finding something similar for life in the Premier League where the usual suspects are invariably involved in a different athletic discipline altogether.
The rest are just left in some God-awful bun fight for 17th place.
But anyway, back to the real world of the nPower Championship and for me, the story of any season is that of a 400m race.
By all accounts, it is one of those distances that requires perfect pacing. But at the same time being just one lap long, most of the field still has a sniff of a medal for much of its course while equally, it is only when the final bend starts to unwind that you get any real sense of who is looking the part, whose legs have gone – and who has timed their run to perfection.
I think we are now into that final bend.
Which makes events of late that much more compelling. And most Norwich fans are that well-versed in the ways of the Championship to recognise that fact – in particular, how important it is to get your timing right.
Hug the shoulders of the early leaders whilst keeping something in the tank and blast off round the final bend. Kick on one last time and leave the rest looking at your heels.
I think that particular thought process is – this year – made even more relevant by the arrival of you-know-who next Sunday.
Today’s long trip to Ewood is one where the mantra will be simple: ‘Just don’t get beat…’
Take a point out of what is likely to be a pig of a night in Lancashire and tee yourself up nicely for the derby.
It might be Alex Neil’s first experience of said encounter, but tribal warfare will be nothing new to anyone from Glasgow. Few cities – if any – on mainland UK can claim to rival it for passionate divides; be it over football or religion. Indeed, some might argue that the distinction between the two is somewhat blurred.
In short, next Sunday’s encounter might be tailor-made for the Neils of this world. I would expect him to rise to the occasion. If his team does too, that’s another big moment on our famed back bend.
Equally, Ipswich arrive to face an unknown in Norwich’s new manager.
And this is the strength to Neil’s perceived weakness – his inexperience. Certainly in terms of Championship football.
Because were a Pulis or a Warnock awaiting Suffolk’s finest, they would know exactly what kind of game to expect. How both set up their teams to play; corner routines; touchline tricks with the fourth officials. It would be nothing that manager and supporters won’t have seen a thousand times before.
Right now, however, they are sailing into the unknown with the unheralded Scot. And that would only add to my discomfort. How good is this guy?
The other point is how much teams have left in the legs at this stage in the season; will they hit the 350m mark and slam into a wall; tire and tighten up with the finishing line in reach.
And here again, Norwich look supremely well-placed.
The wrong players getting injured at the wrong time can sink the best-laid plans of both mice and managers, but Neil’s cup would appear to be over-flowing right now.
Right-back would still be my biggest concern. If only for the fact that getting Russell Martin to step across to his old berth would mean breaking up the kind of central defensive partnership that other Championship managers would dream of.
In midfield, Neil has two fresh pairs of legs to cover for both injury and suspension; City’s transfer dealings in that department may well have had the added benefit of concentrating a few minds amongst the existing members of the department.
Either way, there would look to be enough bodies of sufficient energy and ability to drive on and across the finishing line.
Up front, it is a similar story. I wouldn’t want Cameron Jerome disappearing for any great length of time.
As he demonstrated again on Saturday, he has that knack of grabbing goals out of nothing. Most would have expected at least one touch before that Watford finish; to ping it first time with that level of confidence and accuracy is rare in this division.
He has done it too often for it to be a fluke.
His hamstrings hold out and Norwich could yet pull this off.
The fortunes of Championship war appear to be smiling in their favour; be it through luck or judgement, they may just have timed their run to perfection.
Azores Canary says
Relegation last season was tragic and avoidable, but at least this season has provided infinitely more excitement and entertainment. With my feet firmly off the ground, I still think we’ll finish top, as we accelerate off the final bend and sprint to the line. Another trophy for the cabinet and altogether a great season. In AN, DMcN has pulled yet another rabbit out of the hat to raise the Canaries, Phoenix like, from despair.
Then next season. Can we emulate Southampton and Swansea? Or will it be a QPR/Leicester-esque struggle?
In the long term, The Club is currently achieving its long term objectives as stated back at the start of the Lambert Era: Financial stability and Premier status allowing for one relegation and rebound.
If AN is successful in the Prem, he will leave for richer pickings. Let’s hope we can keep a bit of stability in the boardroom and continue with the club objectives. Oh, by the way, when does work start on expanding The Carra?
Stewart Lewis says
Good stuff. With a quarter of the season to go, the ‘final bend’ analogy is very apt.
Just two quibbles. I’m not sure ‘Don’t get beat’ is Alex Neil’s mantra, even for a game like tonight. At Watford he certainly set us up to stifle the opposition – but with the aim of capitalising on their frustration and winning the game. I suspect the same kind of plan tonight.
On the negative side, I’m worried about the defensive side of midfield. Andreu and Dorrans add significantly to our creative options, but neither is a direct alternative to Tettey or BJ. I’m anxious to hear that Gary O’Neil is fit again.
Despite my first point, I’ll settle for a draw tonight! OTBC.
Brad Wigg says
With all the ups and downs we’ve been through this season, maybe a road cycling analogy is more fitting? Alex Neil and Chris Froome look as though they could have been separated at birth.
We’ve already got the yellow jersey but after negotiating the hills and valleys of form, suffering a few deflating and punctured results and losing some of the weaker members of the team by the wayside, team leader Neil is now directing us through the traffic into the slipstream of the top 2 peloton towards that guts or glory final stage and onto the winning line.
Fingers crossed we don’t ‘hit the wall’ and crash in the final sprint.
Whittaker has been much better in the last two games to be fair to him.
I agree re: Jerome, however Grabs and Hoops have both got goals in them. We will probably end up with three strikers on double figures if they all stay fit!
*when I said double figures I should probably have said 15+ for Grabban and Jerome, seeing as Jerome is already on 15/16 and Grabban has 11! Still think Hooper will get at least 10!
We also have Johnson who looks good for another 5/6 goals at least this year as well!