To try and second guess what will unfold when City head to Rotherham is a futile exercise at the best of times. To try and predict how the Class of 2016 will handle a shiny, modern but still intimidating New York Stadium tomorrow is virtually impossible.
I will however stick my head high enough above the parapet to suggest it won’t be dull and uneventful. It rarely is these days.
If recent history is our guide then the comfortable 3-1 win for City at Carrow Road in October points to it being another small step on Alex Neil’s road to redemption – but three months is a long time in Championship football and our world was very different back then.
We finished that game top of the league.
Since then of course the trajectory has been downward; one that appeared irreversible until the recent timely plateau.
But we still kick off tomorrow fifteen places higher than the Millers, who were 24th when we played them and who have not moved since. Add in the fact that their most impressive performer at Carrow Road, Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown, decided that his CV would be better served by a move across Yorkshire to Huddersfield and it starts to look like ‘there for the taking’ territory.
But life’s not like that if you bleed yellow and green. There’s no such thing as a given.
For good measure our last two visits to the New York Stadium were not short of talking points either.
The 1-1 draw en route to the 2015 Championship play-offs, when Jordan Bowery’s late equaliser cancelled out Gary Hooper’s opener, was notable for the damage it did to City’s hopes of an automatic spot.
And the now infamous Capital One cup tie just four months later, which City won 3-1, was notable not only for Ricky van Wolfswinkel actually finding the net but more so for Lewis Grabban doing a Dimitri Payet (although it’s doubtful the Frenchman’s protest will involve a stroll to Rotherham railway station).
So, few clues to be had there other than to say it will be an improvement on the latter if the whole squad manages to make the trip from hotel to stadium. (I suggest handcuffing Olsson to Frankie – will give him something to do).
Quite who will be making the trip will be revealed by Neil in this lunchtime’s presser, which in itself will be intriguing.
With the aforementioned Swede seemingly bound for South Wales it will need an informed judgement call from Team Neil to decide, if he is indeed available to play, if his appetite for the game is at the required level.
And there may of course be others whose proposed moves have yet to reach the public domain.
All will be revealed… possibly.
But there can be no doubting that whichever XI starts the game, and regardless of any dressing room uncertainty, City should be good enough to bring home three points. No question. No excuses.
And in that regard this is a massive one for the manager.
The uneasy truce brought about by a three game unbeaten run has been most welcome but it’s fragile. Neil and his players know that they have zero credits in the bank and every backward step, or sideways in this instance, will be pounced upon.
The Southampton game was different and offered not only respite but a free shot – only a thumping defeat would have caused further waves – but Rotherham offers opportunity and peril in equal measure.
If the same mentality as offered against Derby prevails then expect a convincing win, and some extended leeway for a manager who has already been afforded grace aplenty by his employers, but a repeat of the lethargy of Oakwell will only serve to reopen festering wounds.
And that’s the rub. No-one, least of all the manager, can predict which iteration will pitch up tomorrow afternoon. False dawns have been two-a-penny this season and none of us dare predict with any degree of confidence what will unfold at 3pm.
In terms of comings and goings, the departure of Olsson – if indeed his long held desire to depart Norfolk finally comes to fruition – may finally offer Neil the opportunity to add to a 16 year old Icelander but, with good reason, many of us have limited confidence in the club’s ability to meet its recruitment targets.
Yet making judgements on the club’s success or otherwise in the midst of any transfer window is as meaningless as writing 800 words on a game at half-time. What appears informed and reasonable at the time can soon be rendered nonsensical and snapshot views merely second guess the bigger picture.
Frustration is however the name of the game, and history tells us that the Yellow Army’s patience in any given transfer window generally goes unrewarded, but still best to reserve judgement until the awful thing slams shut.
And then, if the powers that be are unable to reinvigorate and re-energise this squad by cleverly recycling funds raised by the sale of some big earners the questions will rightfully resound.
Until then however my powder is staying dry.
In the meantime, here’s to three more points and a disaster free afternoon.
On the Ball City