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Norwich City A-Z: You don't have to win on opening day.... but it helps

PUBLISHED: 17:29 18 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:29 18 June 2018

Wes Hoolahan celebrates his goal at Wigan on the opening day of the 2011-12 season Picture: Paul Chesterton

Wes Hoolahan celebrates his goal at Wigan on the opening day of the 2011-12 season Picture: Paul Chesterton

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On the eve of the big reveal - the new season's fixture list - it is appropriate that I is for Ipswich.

Norwich 'keeper Michael Theoklitos misses the ball for the first of Colchester's seven goals in 2009 Picture: ArchantNorwich 'keeper Michael Theoklitos misses the ball for the first of Colchester's seven goals in 2009 Picture: Archant

How loud would the explosion be if City were given the old enemy on opening day?

It won’t happen, because that is not the way the fixture compiler’s brain works. And frankly, it’s perhaps not the very best use of the opening day excitement.

Whenever City play Ipswich, excitement mounts so what’s the point of playing them on a day when we are all in a hyped-up mood anyway, having gone without our fix of Championship football for all of three months?

No, much better to leave the derby to one of those dull periods of the season, the down times.

Mark Robins - scorer of two goal at Arsenal Picture: ArchantMark Robins - scorer of two goal at Arsenal Picture: Archant

Looking at the home and away derby fixtures there is no real pattern, although in two of the last three seasons City have been in the Championship we have seen games nice and early in the campaign.

So, who knows what City will get tomorrow: home, away, tough or not? Most will say it matters little because you play everyone twice, but there may be something to be said for an ‘easier’ start… just depends on who you consider to be easier teams.

Thing is, opening day results don’t always give you a good idea of what is to follow. However, opening days haven’t been kind: City have won only three of the last 20, drawn seven and lost 10.

But their best finishes, irrespective of their division, have come in a season which they started without winning.

Steven Naismith celebrates after scoring City's fourth goal at Blackburn
 in 2016 Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdSteven Naismith celebrates after scoring City's fourth goal at Blackburn in 2016 Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

They drew 2-2 at Bradford in 2003-04 – a campaign they ended as First Division champions under Nigel Worthington.

The next time they won promotion – season 2009-10 – came after that awful 7-1 defeat at home to Colchester United on the opening day. A week later Bryan Gunn, with Paul Lambert leaving Colchester for Carrow Road to begin a stunning spell under his stewardship.

Lambert took City up two seasons in a row – but no opening day win: they lost the Championship opener at home to Watford and then drew 1-1 at Wigan on the opening day of 2011-12 - Wes Hoolahan getting the goal.

Chris Hughton’s reign began with a 5-0 drubbing at Fulham in 2012... of course.

Then there was the 3-1 defeat by Crystal Palace in 2015, when referee Simon Hooper disallowed a Cameron Jerome effort for a high boot - and immediately became public enemy number one. It was a shocker, even without the efforts of Joel Ward to artificially stick his head in what the official perceived to be the ’danger area’. Not that we’re bitter...

However, the only man to have managed a Norwich City team to an opening day victory since Worthy in 2002 is Alex Neil, whose team won 4-1 at Blackburn Rovers in 2016.

City have now played 91 opening days and it has, obviously, been a real mixed bag.

Colchester was perhaps a new low, but losing 4-0 at Millwall in 2001 raised a few hackles – perhaps not as many as it did with the fans of 1926 who saw their team lose 6-1 to the Londoners.

Rotherham beat City 4-1 in south Yorkshire in 1981 – wonder what their manager, Norfolk-born Paul Warne would think about an opener against the team he supports?

But for every opening day stinker, there’s a belter – Mark Robins getting a pair in a 4-2 win at Arsenal in 1992, perhaps, or another 4-2, this time at Everton, in 19179, with Justin Fashanu the two-goal hero?

Just remember – what happens on the opening day won’t necessarily dictate how City’s season will go – but a win would certainly help... whoever it’s against.

The fixtures will be released at 9am – see pinkun.com – and there will be a special four-page wall chart in Friday’s newspaper.

THE LAST 20 YEARS

Season Result Final position

2017-2018 Fulham 1 City 1 14th

2016-2017 Blackburn 1 City 4 8th

*2015-2016 City 1 Palace 3) 19th

2014-2015 Wolves 1 City 0 3rd

*2013-2014 City 2 Everton 2 18th

*2012-2013 Fulham 5 City 0 11th

*2011-2012 Wigan 1 City 1 12th

2010-2011 City 2 Watford 3 2nd

**2009-2010 City 1 Colchester 7 1st

2008-2009 Coventry 2 Norwich 0 22nd

2007-2008 Preston 0 Norwich 0 17th

2006-2007 Leeds 1 City 0 16th

2005-2006 City 1 Coventry 1 9th

*2004-2005 City 1 Palace 1 19th

2003-2004 Bradford 2 City 2 1st

2002-2003 City 4 Grimsby 0 8th

2001-2002 Millwall 4 City 0 6th

2000-2001 Barnsley 1 City 0 15th

1999-2000 WBA 1 City 1 12th

1998-1999 City 2 Crewe 1 9th

* Premier League ** League One

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