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Ian Clarke: Reasons to be cheerful (and fearful) for Norwich City in 2018

Jamal Lewis's return to fitness has come at a good time for Norwich City. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Jamal Lewis's return to fitness has come at a good time for Norwich City. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

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Happy new year!

Alex Pritchard inspired Norwich to victory at Birmingham. 
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Alex Pritchard inspired Norwich to victory at Birmingham. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

At 3.45pm on Monday as we tucked in to our half time sloe gin tartlets (it’s posh at the top of the River End), it looked like it was going to be a pretty gloomy start to 2018.

Fortunately the Lions were tamed, Carra came to life and we saw an insight into what Daniel Farke’s troops are capable of.

After a fortnight of festive celebrations, there are plenty of empty glasses (and bottles and cans).

So as we start another new year, how full (or otherwise) is your Canary cup?

James Maddison is one of the crown jewels at Norwich City. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images James Maddison is one of the crown jewels at Norwich City. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

I’ve probably moaned more than in most seasons this year.

I will always try to remain a positive fan although it certainly isn’t easy to maintain that stance.

So here goes with some reasons to be cheerful for 2018 - followed some things we have to be fearful of.

Reasons to be cheerful:
1 - Jamal Lewis - Wow! Those who regularly watch the City youth teams have for a long time been talking up the left back’s talent and potential. The travelling supporters at Birmingham were effusive in their praise for his performance on Boxing Day. I know the argument about why he was rested for the trip to Burton but I would have kept him in. People who know far more about football than I ever will believe he could have coped with the run of matches. On Monday he gave the Carrow Road faithful a tantalising look at his ability. Lewis has boundless energy, maturity well beyond his years and he can read the game very well. For me he should already be our first choice number 3.

2 - Our Golden duo - Maddison slipped a free kick through to Pritchard who netted exquisitely at St Andrews. Six days later, the pint-sized midfielder turned provider for his pal and the end result was the same. The midfield pair possess flair in abundance and we are so lucky to have them. I mention below the danger of them being poached but while in a positive frame of mind, let’s cherish the fact that they are here. I still hear fans questioning whether they can play in the same team. I feel they are our two best assets and are just too good to warm the bench.

3 - We’ve proved we can do it - This season continues to be a rollercoaster ride for Canary fans. There have been too many low points and too much drabness. When things click I feel we can compete with anyone in the league. The wins at places like Sheffield United and Middlesbrough showed the collective ability to grind out results. We know the creativity is there to unlock defences. If only those positive jigsaw pieces can regularly be put together, we could be on to something.

4 - TNT - The flair lads in the middle of the park are rightly getting plenty of plaudits. They can only flourish, however, thanks to the dirty work done by City’s TNT - Tettey and Trybull. Never under-estimate the importance of breaking up play, winning the ball and providing a shield for the defence. I can’t think of a better holding midfield duo in our league.

5 - New kids on the block - We all know so much of our success in the future will rely on bringing through talented youngsters - and in the likes of Todd Cantwell, Glenn Middleton and Tristan Abraham we have some great prospects.

Reasons to be fearfu1

1 - The vultures circling - If I were Farke and Stuart Webber, I’d stick my phone in the drawer until February 1. I fear Madders and Pritch will be snared by clubs with bigger wallets during the transfer window. If we can keep them it will be a massive, massive boost.

2- Lack of depth in squad - The Christmas period proved that beyond our strongest team, we’re struggling. I was disappointed that those who were given a real chance to make a point at Burton didn’t take it.

3 - Our strikers - A return of eight goals in the league from our two front men this season is simply not good enough. There’s talk of them both leaving during the month and I wouldn’t shed any tears if either went to pastures new. The problem, of course, is getting in replacements.

4 - Season ticket renewal time - It won’t be many days until the envelopes from Carrow Road start dropping through letter boxes. I’ve already heard a lot of supporters saying they won’t be renewing. It’s a tough time ahead for the board at NR1.

5 - The parachute money clock is ticking - If we think we’ve seen tough pruning this season, the inevitable slashing will have to be so much more ruthless if we stay in tier two and the Premier League pots runs out.

OTBC

Raggett’s future is here

“He’s been an unbelievable servant. We should be proud of his contribution and he’ll definitely be a legend to me.”

Any player would be chuffed to get that sort of glowing praise from his manager.

And any club who signs a player with that endorsement should be very excited.

They were the words of Lincoln boss Danny Cowley about defender Sean Raggett, who has returned to Carrow Road after a spell back on loan with the Imps.

The rise and rise of Raggett has coincided with Lincoln’s promotion to League 2, their amazing FA Cup run last year and this season’s fine form which leaves them in fifth position.

He’s only 24 but is a mature centre half with the heart of a lion and all the other attributes of a proper defender, including chipping in with goals.

It isn’t clear how he will fit in at Norwich and there has been some talk of him going on loan again.

I sincerely hope Raggett gets a chance here and I’d give him a debut against Chelsea on Saturday.

Another cup dream

I mentioned above about giving Sean Raggett his chance in Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Chelsea and I’m sure he wouldn’t let anyone down.

The debate always rages about league v cup and which should get priority and whether wholesale changes should be made.

I’ve always been a fan of cup runs and always will be.

I have questioned lots of decisions made by Daniel Farke this term but I will stand by him for the team he fielded at Arsenal and the way he set the lads up.

That night will long live in the memory of the near 9,000 City fans who travelled down to the Emirates.

The players made every one of us proud and we were so close to sealing one of the great cup victories in our history.

The visit of the reigning league champions is another chance to achieve some glory.

The club has got the ticket pricing exactly right and with 4,000 Chelsea fans coming, there should be a decent atmosphere.

Let’s go for it.

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