Friday, January 11, 2013
Tomorrow’s visit of Newcastle is a huge game for both clubs, and it’s a game that Norwich City can ill afford to lose really.
Having lost their last four games in the Premier League they don’t want to make it five with only seven points separating the Canaries in 12th and Wigan, who occupy the final relegation spot.
When you consider there are two tough games against Liverpool and Tottenham to follow, three points against the Magpies tomorrow would provide a massive confidence boost.
Mind you, Newcastle’s need for points is far greater than Norwich City’s. They are on a shocking run of results.
They have lost 11 of their last 14 games and got well and truly dumped out of the FA Cup by Brighton last Saturday, heaping more pressure on manager Alan Pardew, despite his recent signing of a new eight, yes, eight-year contract at the Sports Direct Arena. You very rarely see this length of contract being handed out these days, especially to managers because club owners want success, and they want it almost immediately.
I remember a few years ago when big Sam Allardyce signed a 10-year contract at Bolton, and to be fair he was there for seven of those years before he left for tomorrow’s visitors.
Newcastle are just two points above the relegation zone and haven’t won an away game all season.
Only Aston Villa have conceded more goals on their travels this season. Add to this the recent departure of their star striker Demba Ba for a bargain £7m to Chelsea, then it becomes clear they’re in a relegation battle, and Pardew has acknowledged this.
The recent signing of French international Mathieu Debuchy from Lille for £5m looks to be a great bit of business, but they have a long list of key players out injured (Ben Arfa, Ryan and Steven Taylor, Jonas, Cabaye and Simpson) and suspended, so it could be the perfect time to play Pardew’s men.
However, I’m sure no one will be complacent from a Norwich City point of view.
What a fine professional performance the lads gave last weekend at Peterborough to go through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. When you think that the likes of Sunderland, Fulham, Wigan and Newcastle failed to beat lower league opponents, the lads deserve a lot of plaudits for the way they comfortably despatched Darren Ferguson’s side.
When you are a big club and have been drawn away to a lower league side you have to prepare for the game as you would for any of the big boys from the Premier League.
Your attitude has to be spot on as it clearly was from the lads last weekend; mind you, Chris Hughton and his staff wouldn’t have it any other way. Even though Chris made eight changes to the team who lost to West Ham – Holt and Morison once again being absent through injury (hopefully one if not both will be fit to be involved tomorrow) – the lads were far too good for an underwhelming Peterborough.
The club’s reward for that victory in the third round of the Cup is a very winnable home tie against Blue Square Conference side Luton Town, who caused one of the biggest upsets last weekend after knocking out Wolves.
Norwich fans didn’t have too long to wait on Sunday afternoon when the draw was made with NCFC’s numbered ball being the very first pulled out. It’s a great chance for the club to reach the fifth round for the second successive season. Dare we dream of Wembley?
• I HAVE TO ADMIT I’VE SCORED USING MY HAND
I see Luis Suarez was slaughtered once again in the press this week after his controversial goal against Mansfield last Sunday.
It was obvious that he handled the ball to score Liverpool’s second goal at Field Mill, a goal which ended up being the winning goal as the Stags grabbed a late consolation.
I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon and criticise Suarez. I know he’s no angel and has been punished for his actions in the past, but I think that 99 out of a 100 strikers would have done exactly the same as the Uruguayan forward. I know I would have!
The only player I have ever seen admit to a handball during a game was the brilliant Miroslav Klose, who scored with his hand against Napoli earlier in the season, only for him to run over to the referee after the goal had been awarded to urge him to disallow the goal.
Lazio went on to lose the game 3-0, so I can’t see his manager being too impressed although his honesty must be admired. It’s more of an instinctive reaction with the Suarez goal; you see the ball going past you and your arm comes out to stop it.
I bet he was as surprised as anyone when he turned around to see that neither the referee nor his assistant referee had seen the incident.
To be honest it’s something I did at Carrow Road many years ago when we played WBA. We were attacking the Norwich and Peterborough stand.
I can’t for the life of me remember who crossed the ball, but even though I had dived full stretch it wasn’t going to be enough for me to reach the ball.
So I took drastic actions and sneakily got my left hand to the ball to guide it past the keeper. Needless to say neither the ref nor the linesman saw what I had done and the goal counted.
As I say, players look for advantages in a game to help them win, whether that be through diving or deliberately handling the ball like Luis Suarez did last Sunday.