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Iwan Roberts: What Steve Bruce said to me to temper my play-off pain

Iwan Roberts is comforted after Norwich City's play-off final defeat to Steve Bruce's Birmingham in 2002. Picture: Sam Robbins

Iwan Roberts is comforted after Norwich City's play-off final defeat to Steve Bruce's Birmingham in 2002. Picture: Sam Robbins

You can't always have it your own way and sometimes when you've not been at your brilliant best you simply have to give the opposition credit for doing their home-work and having a game plan to stop you from playing!

This is exactly what Wigan did last Sunday lunchtime.

A bit like Wednesday night at Carrow Road, Norwich weren't at their best, however they dug in and came back home with a deserved point which keeps them a healthy seven points ahead of third-placed Sheffield United.

Norwich have looked a bit leggy and tired in their last couple of games and that is totally understandable having fielded the same starting XI in their previous eight games, before the Reading game when Daniel Farke was forced to change personnel after Emi Buendia's stupid sending off against QPR which opened the door again for young Todd Cantwell, more about him a bit later.

I thought Wigan got their tactics spot on by pressing high up the pitch and trying to stop Norwich getting their fluid passing game going, however had Teemu Pukki scored those two great chances that came his way in the first half then it could well have been a different story.

Add to that the referee gifting Wigan a penalty, when quite clearly Ben Godfrey didn't deliberately handle the ball after it deflected on to his arm from his foot – a decision that's still got me scratching my head.

I saw a very similar incident in the Burnley v Cardiff game on Saturday when Ben Mee headed a ball accidentally on to his arm and the ref Mike Dean awarded a penalty only to change his mind (rightly so in my opinion) after speaking with his assistant on the line that must have explained to him that it was never a deliberate handball, exactly the same as Ben's last Sunday.

I've heard a few negative comments about Todd Cantwell after his last two performances and I think it's totally unfair and uncalled for.

Todd is a young lad starting his professional career with his boyhood club and he needs to be encouraged and supported, not slaughtered for every little mistake he makes.

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Some people have short memories. Todd was excellent earlier this season against Cardiff back in August and after the 1-1 draw at Portman Road at the beginning of September he then started eight of the next nine league games in which the team lost just the once at home to Stoke.

The team won six of the eight league games in this period and it catapulted Norwich from the bottom five in the Championship to the top six, where they've been ever since.

It's obviously not all down to Todd, but he's more than played his part. As an experienced professional it's not nice hearing some of your own fans having a go at you personally, it's happened to me a few times in my career, but it can break a young lad who's just getting started.

Tonight, Norwich play Sheffield Wednesday who have been flying since Steve Bruce took over in February.

They have lost just twice in the 14 games Steve's been in charge, however those two defeats have come in their last three games against Aston Villa, who I wouldn't want to have to face in the play-offs and that narrow 1-0 loss at Elland Road last weekend. They still have a slim chance of getting in the play-offs, but they know they have to take maximum points tonight to keep their hopes alive.

I've a lot of time and respect for Steve both as a player and manager.

He was very humble after our play-off defeat to Birmingham in 2002, I can remember he made the effort of trying to shake every Norwich player's hand after our penalty shoot-out defeat.

I'll never forget what he whispered in my ear as he shook my hand. It was one of the biggest compliments a rival manager has ever given me.

As he shook my hand he leaned into my ear and said: “You can't believe how pleased we were when we saw that you were starting on the bench today.”

It made me feel better for a couple of seconds but then the reality kicked in that I'd never get the chance to play for Norwich City in the Premier League.

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