Fulham have cropped up just a little too often in the recent history of our football club.
The 21st century has been littered with disasters that have occurred when Canary and Cottager collide, the most obvious and painful being the 6-0 that twelve years on is still difficult to talk about.
In truth the large-scale catastrophes have been confined to that tranquil setting by the Thames but that’s not to say Carrow Road has been a bundle of laughs when Fulham have been visitors.
Only once (once!) in 21 years have we managed to beat them and that was an almost forgotten game at the very back end of the 2015 play-off surge when most were preoccupied with who our play-off semi-final opponents were going to be rather than a quietly impressive 4-2 win.
In addition to the 6-0 there was of course the 5-0 early on in the Chris Hughton era – another stellar afternoon for the travelling hoards – and who can forget the 1-0 on the first day of the Neil Adams epoch, most notable for Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s infamous ‘ghost’ pass.
They’re just the low-lights of course and in the main the clashes of yellow and white have, for us, produced the usual litany of missed chances, rotten defending, wayward passing and listlessness; things that tend to go hand in hand with games against bogey teams.
And then of course there is Craven Cottage on the evening of October 18, 2016. Two goals up at half-time courtesy of two Graham Dorrans penalties, it looked as if the Canaries had recaptured the knack of winning away from home – following on from a good away win at Wolves – and had consigned the 4-3 defeat at St James’ Park to its rightful place.
What followed has alas found its way into the Canary annals for all the wrong reasons and was the first clear signal that all was not well in the corridors of Colney. Second-half goals from Stefan Johansen and, typically, Chris Martin turned the game on its head and from a position of strength City were grateful to hang on for a point. Seldom have two thrown away points felt so crushing.
At this point the away defeats at Birmingham and Newcastle – in similarly excruciating circumstances – became more than just blips on the way to an assault on the top two. Flaws in the way the Canaries performed outside the city walls were suddenly laid bare, never to be rectified.
All of which makes the Cottagers own charge for the final play-off place, while we tread water in mid-table, sufficient to stick in the craw.
But I’m not about to go down the ‘it should have been us route’ because there’s no ‘should’ about it. We haven’t been good enough away from Carrow Road and across the whole piece, regardless of experience, CV and size of wage packet, our form has ‘mid-table’ written all over it.
Quite what tomorrow afternoon will bring is anyone’s guess but, unlike last Saturday, there is at least an element of jeopardy involved – even if it’s not ours. Fulham have Sheffield Wednesday in their sights and the whiff of play-off in their nostrils and so will be desperate to depart with something. And that in itself adds an edge that was missing against Reading.
City’s season has turned to mush. In the true tradition of sport the least they can now do is their best to scupper it for others and, given the unquestionably impressive home form, Fulham will be well aware that a yellow and green banana skin awaits.
What they have tucked up their sleeve however is some away form that puts the Canaries to shame. In 20 away games half of them have have yielded three points for the Cottagers and only five have been lost; compare this to City’s four wins and twelve defeats.
And while on the road we ship goals at rate of two per game, which bears no resemblance to Fulham’s average of only just over one a game.
Whether any of this will assist Fulham as they enter the pressure-zone of chasing sixth will only be revealed at 3pm tomorow but for us, if nothing else, it’ll be intriguing to see if the the Webber/Irvine effect (if there is such a thing) can have a significant impact for the second time in the space of six days.
Meanwhile the Webber revolution continues apace with reports that Messrs Darnborough, Martin and Spearing are soon to be no longer of this parish.
In a move that has been met with almost universal approval – I’ve yet to stumble across anyone who can see anything but good emerging from a complete clear-out of the scouting/recruitment team – it appears a case of out with the old and, eventually, in with the new as Stuart Webber lays down an early maker.
The Friday interview round done by Webber was refreshing in its honesty and clarity, and it didn’t require any reading between the lines to see how well he understood this club’s inability to successfully recruit players of a suitable quality and mentality. Therefore it should come as no surprise that three said gents are to be shown red.
What did come as something of a shock is just how quickly the axe has fallen. Very un-Norwich City like.
But as we enter a new era perhaps this is how things are going to be. Not since the Lambert years (Quote: “The most impatient man I’ve ever met”) have we been in anything approaching a hurry but, by the sound of it, Mr Webber, from the seat of sporting director, is of a similar ilk.
That Ricky Martin’s seemingly inexorable rise to the very top looks to have been halted will be celebrated by some, not least because precisely what he has been bringing to the party has never been made clear, but equally it tells us that the talk of sweeping changes is more than just words.
Words are indeed cheap but when they’re backed up by decisive actions folk tend to sit up and take notice.
It also sends out an unequivocal signal to those swilling around the current set-up – players, coaches, support staff etc – who are considered unfit for purpose that the door is only a chat and a piece of paper away.
So the early signs are that the cuts are going to be deep, possibly brutal, and made with no regard to years served. And that’s a fine start.
Only time will tell if the new broom is able to fill the voids with individuals who are fit for purpose but one thing is for sure: the MFW editor is not going to be scratching around for content this summer.