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Ian Clarke: I'm calling it - City will finish in the top two

PUBLISHED: 20:00 30 January 2019 | UPDATED: 22:21 30 January 2019

Onel Hernandez jumps for joy after his opener against Sheffield United. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Onel Hernandez jumps for joy after his opener against Sheffield United. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Chesterton

Before a ball was kicked this season, all our NCFC writers and columnists were asked where we thought the Canaries would finish at the end of the campaign.

Emi Buendia, left, congratulates Onel Hernandez on his opener against Sheffield United Pictures: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesEmi Buendia, left, congratulates Onel Hernandez on his opener against Sheffield United Pictures: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Our esteemed colleague Michael Bailey asked us to write a position down and on cue reveal it to the camera with an explanation.

Understandably after the huge disappointments of last term, most went for mid table or slightly better.

Probably because we’re generally three quarters full-type fans, my column buddy David Hannant and I both tipped Daniel Farke’s men for the play offs.

You could hear sniggers around the office.

Marco Stiepermann is a key cog in this Norwich City machine 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdMarco Stiepermann is a key cog in this Norwich City machine Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Five months on I admit I was wrong.

Ahead of the toughest test of the season at Elland Road I’m upping my forecast.

This week has been about yellow warnings for snow. I want to issue a yellow warning that we’ll end up in the top two.

I don’t expect universal agreement and expect more chortling.

Daniel Farke takes Norwich City to promotion rivals Leeds United this weekend 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdDaniel Farke takes Norwich City to promotion rivals Leeds United this weekend Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

It comes from my heart but I’ve also looked to my head. I’ve mixed the sense and sensibility arguments - and still ended with the conclusion that come early May the boys in yellow and green will seal an automatic place in the Premier League,

Let me outline the emotional reasoning first.

Since I was born, Norwich have sealed eight promotions. Two were in my very early days and the first one I remember was in 1980/1.

City went on an incredible run after Martin O’Neill arrived culminating with a phenomenal final day at Hillsborough (which was my first away game. I really thought every one would be like that!)

The home fans display the Yellow and Green before the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267
26/01/2019The home fans display the Yellow and Green before the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 26/01/2019

Call it boyhood exuberance or an assured hunch but during the back end of that season I was convinced we’d make it up.

The same wave of optimism came over me in 1985/6 when after relegation following the Milk Cup win, a Kevin Drinkell-inspired team stormed to the title.

I can repeat a similar story through campaigns in ‘03/4, ‘09/10, ‘10/11 and ‘14/15.

In recent weeks - despite some imperfections with our team - I’m getting the same feeling.

Norwich players in the pre-match huddle in front of the home fans displaying the yellow and greenNorwich players in the pre-match huddle in front of the home fans displaying the yellow and green

That’s enough of emotion - what about facts? How can I back up the instinct from my heart? The starting point is that we’re currently in one of the promotion berths,

We would all have loved to have beaten the Blades.

However, it maintained our position in the top two and means City have now only been defeated twice in 24 league games.

Having had three reversals and just one win in the first six games, Farke’s troops have picked up 49 points from the next 23.

Moritz Leitner of Norwich during the Sky Bet Championship match at Ewood Park, Blackburn
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267
22/12/2018Moritz Leitner of Norwich during the Sky Bet Championship match at Ewood Park, Blackburn Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd +44 7904 640267 22/12/2018

I’m no mathematician, but that’s 2.13 points a match. Repeat that for the remaining 17 games and City will end up on 90.

That total would have ensured automatic promotion in all of the past 10 years - and top spot in four of them.

Ian Holloway knows a little bit about second tier football.

As he analysed Saturday’s draw on the Quest highlights show, Olly purred over City’s “beautiful slick passing” and said: “Norwich really look like the real deal at the moment.”

He’s absolutely right about the fantasy football. Onel Hernandez’s delicious first goal was as beautiful a team goal for some time. Throw in those tricky runs from Emi Buendia and Marco Stiepermannn in front of the River End and there was real evidence of how Farke’s style is really paying off.

Less positive followers will dwell on the 38 goals we have leaked this term and sloppiness which has crept in.

I’d come back on that with the evidence of the goals we’ve scored, wins we’ve had and the unbeaten matches plus the impending returns of Messrs Klose, Leitner and Tettery which will all be key.

The run-ins for the promotion chasers is also a real factor.

Much cleverer people than me have crunched the figures and tipped City to have the most profitable end to the campaign.

Anything we can get on Saturday at Elland Road will be great.

We all know what a lottery derby matches can be but after that we only have two matches against those in the top seven - and play all but one of the bottom seven.

Those teams will be scrapping for their lives. However, they’ve got to give us a really good chance of getting points from them.

Add in to the mix Derby, Bristol City, Boro and WBA still in the FA Cup (the latter two still facing midweek replays) and it’s another factor in our favour. E-i-e-i-e-i-o.....OTBC

It’s not all about Lambert

Despite having a massive game at Leeds in two days, the minds of many are going beyond Saturday to next week’s East Anglian derby,

It will be a huge match for both teams.

Norwich really need three points to keep them in the promotion tussle – and extend the long, long unbeaten run against the Tractor Boys.

The Blues are desperate for points as the trap door to the third tier opens further - and they are gagging to finally get one over on the old enemy.

As if the Old Farm Derby wasn’t big enough already, the return of a certain Scot will ramp up the intensity countless notches.

Paul Lambert is so, so eager to win.

The debate is raging about whether City fans should cheer the man who did so much for the club or boo him after all that’s happened since he left.

My view is we should’t worry about him. Don’t give the attention he craves.

Concentrate on getting those three points. That’s what really matters.

Thanks to Delia and Michael

It doesn’t seem possible that it’s two decades since Delia and Michael took over as joint majority shareholders at Carrow Road.

They’ve put so much in to the club in terms of finance, energy and passion,

The duo gave a fascinating insight into the high highs and low lows of their tenure in a podcast at the weekend.

Not every decision they have made has been perfect. Plenty of times their judgments have been questioned in some quarters.

But I can guarantee that there are countless supporters of so many clubs who would give anything to have owners like them,

Delia and Michael are incredibly committed to the club they love and we love.

They are tough enough to realise criticism comes with the territory but some of the flak they have revealed has been bang out of order.

I think Norwich City Football Club is in a really good position at the moment.

And much of that is down to them. Thank you Delia and Michael.

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