FA Cup dream may have to be left on the back-burner for another year by Canaries
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As the Canaries discover they will face Portsmouth in the FA Cup third round, David Freezer assesses how City’s record in the world’s oldest club competition compares to their Championship rivals.
“It’s about time City had a cup run” – for once, this may be the season we won’t be hearing such statements from Norwich City supporters.
With Daniel Farke’s side proving most fans and pundits wrong by leading the Championship table as the halfway point of the campaign approaches it’s looking unlikely the FA Cup third round home tie against current League One leaders Portsmouth will get much precedence in January.
Too often have I had to write in recent seasons about the club’s dreadful record in the competition in recent years, but here it is, let’s get it out of the way...
Since the Canaries made it all the way to the semi-finals in 1992 a succession of City teams have fallen at the first hurdle, 17 in 26 seasons to be exact – 18 if you include going out at Carlisle in the second round in 2010.
Each of the last five campaigns have started and finished in the third round, although last season was only on penalties at Chelsea, losing a shootout 5-3 after a valiant effort having taken the Premier League giants to a replay at Stamford Bridge.
In the eight seasons Norwich have been in the fourth round in that time, that was as far as it lasted on four occasions and the remaining four were all exits in the fifth round – the most recent of which was 2012, when top-flight City were beaten 2-1 at Carrow Road by Leicester, then in the Championship.
And breathe, the scary part of this article is over.
For a club with three FA Cup semi-finals ingrained in the memories of supporters of a certain vintage, that really is not good enough. However, with the riches involved in promotion to the Premier League and Farke’s impressive side performing so well, it’s looking unlikely that a strongest line-up can be risked in the competition.
That has already been illustrated by this season’s run to the fourth round of the Carabao Cup. Weakened sides against lower level teams Stevenage and Wycombe were little surprise but Farke even made wholesale changes against Premier League teams Cardiff and Bournemouth.
That a win in Wales and giving the Cherries an almighty scare in the fourth round came despite such changes perhaps demonstrates the strength of squad which is contributing to such a successful league campaign.
However, a conversation with my colleague Michael Bailey got us wondering how City’s record in the FA Cup compares to their rivals, so I decided to check it out...
The Canaries are one of just five clubs in the Championship to have never reached an FA Cup final, with 12 of the current second tier crop having lifted the trophy at least once.
Fourteen PL clubs have won it and five have made a final, with Bournemouth the anomaly having made it to the fifth round for just the second time in their history in 2016.
There are even seven winners in League One – if you give AFC Wimbledon their rightful historical honour – and a former finalist in Luton, as the Canaries know all too well from 1959.
• Aston Villa – 7 wins
• Blackburn – 6 wins
• West Brom – 5 wins
• Bolton, Sheff Utd – 4 wins
• Sheff Weds – 3 wins
• Nottm Forest, Preston – 2 wins
• Derby, Ipswich, Leeds, Wigan – 1 win
• Birmingham – 2 finals
• Bristol City, Hull, Boro, Millwall, QPR, Stoke – 1 final
• Norwich City – 3 semi-finals
• Swansea City – 2 semi-finals
• Reading – 1 semi-final
• Brentford – 4 quarter-finals
• Rotherham – 2 fifth rounds
Many of those cup triumphs may have been from long ago but Villa, Hull and Stoke have all been in the final as top-flight teams in the past decade, while Portsmouth beat Cardiff in the final in 2008 and were runners-up in 2010 before their financial implosion.
Even Millwall reached the final in 2004 – so it can be done.
Swansea, Brighton and Wigan all made it to the quarter-finals last season, Middlesbrough and Millwall did likewise in 2016-17, when Lincoln also made it all the way to the last eight as a non-league side.
An FA Cup final has to remain an ambition for the Canaries but it seems that dream can be put very firmly on hold for the time being. The intensity of modern football means top-flight stability makes chasing that Wembley hope much more likely.
For now, let’s just take it one dream at a time and see if Farke can keep an unexpected promotion challenge on track, with a style of play which has ensured the entire Canaries faithful are giving the head coach their full backing.