So… here we go again. The closest we’ll ever get to two seasons overlapping, which is a bit unfortunate considering the last one was really sh.it.
I was determined to avoid using the word beginning with h, ending in r and which alludes to that feeling of nausea and a thumping head that follows a night on the shandies, but how can you?
So much depends on the start City are able to make. It’s, therefore, impossible to ignore the potential impact of too many Premier League Jägerbombs.
Traditionally, we’re slow starters, especially under Daniel Farke, and as many alluded to in the MFW prediction piece, a very Norwich City thing to do would be to stutter over the first couple of months before waiting until late autumn to find some form.
Without delving too deeply into our recent history, we do tend to enjoy late autumn more than we do early season or mid-winter, which I invariably find myself describing as bleak.
But, while acknowledging the Championship is very much a marathon and not a sprint, I’m not sure, given the understandable levels of expectation, there’s going to be too much patience floating around the Canary Nation.
Rightly or wrongly, said slow start, let’s say starting with a defeat at Huddersfield, would not be well received, not least because it would signal 13 competitive defeats on the spin.
Let’s not go there.
What makes me doubly nervous is that, to quote Huddersfield fan Matt Wilson in the TNC match preview podcast, tomorrow’s opposition are “a bit of a mess”.
And it’s not a one-off, rogue view either.
On the Pink’Un’s Terrace Talk podcast, hosted by our own (I still call him that) Connor Southwell and including Billy Dunthorne, another Terriers’ fan, Richard Kosmala, is equally damning, with “lots of doom and gloom” and “we look weaker than last season” among the phrases used to describe the current state of play at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Makes you nervous too?
Clearly things are in a state of flux in Huddersfield as new manager Carlos Coberan – formerly assistant coach to Bielsa at Leeds – attempts to pick up the pieces left by the now-departed Danny Cowley, and, in stark contrast to City, their pre-season has just consisted of games against Bradford and Manchester United Under-23s, and the Carabao Cup defeat by Rochdale.
That’s it. Hindered by some positive Covid-19 tests in the camp, the Terriers head into tomorrow’s game what some would be described as under-cooked.
Not me though.
In the purest sense of along come Norwich, tomorrow represents a proper test for Daniel Farke’s men. And yet it’s the type of test we’ve failed so many times before, especially on the first day of the season.
Okay, so on the opening day of 2018/19 we somehow conjured up a win at Blackburn, but it was a rarity with draws and crushing defeats tending to be our go-to results on day one.
And while Farke is no believer in jinxes or hoodoos, there’s no escaping that we rarely start the season off with a win – even against teams whose fans are convinced will struggle.
The player turnover at Huddersfield has been significant over the last few weeks and while Kieran Phillips, Conor Falls, Brodie Spencer, Sonny Whittingham, Danny Ward, Pipa and Joel Pereira (loan) have been brought in, the list of players who have left is longer and includes Steve Mounié and Elias Kachunga, among many others.
It’ll be a new team by and large.
In terms of playing style, Coberan has started to change the dour-but-effective aims of the Cowleys to a more fluid, playing-out-from-the-back style – one that Farke thinks is already starting to bed in – but with such a big turnaround of players, there’s a huge element of the unknown around what Huddersfield will deliver tomorrow.
City too bring an element of the unexpected to proceedings with eleven ins and just one out – Tom Trybull, Josip Drmic and Mo Leitner can effectively be added to that one, even if they’re yet to physically leave the building – and so there will be a new-look City that takes the field tomorrow.
Given the huge squad Farke currently has at his disposal, trying to name tomorrow’s starting XI is quite the challenge and Twitter has been awash with folk trying to name it. For what it’s worth, and assuming it’s too soon for Ben Gibson, I’ll go with…
Whether that XI, which in fairness only includes three of the new faces, will be able to play with the freedom and clear heads that Farke and Stuart Webber have worked so hard to achieve is what will ultimately decide tomorrow’s outcome. If ever we needed to go ahead in a game…
Part of my angst in the build-up to the new season has been around City’s failure to compete when presented with empty, passion-less stadia – something that was beyond them in that rotten run-in – but a tweet that popped up on my Twitter feed this morning offered some hope…
I’m now in #TeamJohn.
So, not long to wait now before the nerves, palpitations and sweaty palms return. If it boils down to the best XI then I guess City should win – at least if the Terriers’ fans are to be believed – but there are too many variables for it to be that simple. If only football was an exact science!
Let’s just hope by 5pm tomorrow #ncfc Twitter hasn’t exploded in a maelstrom of recriminations, anger and despair.
If we can avoid that, then, as opening days go, that’ll be job done.
Never Mind the Danger.
Where’s the prediction?
Oh… well… if I must:
Huddersfield 1 City 2.