Manchester City and Norwich City both endured tumultuous times to reach the top and are kindred spirits in their love of mercurial good football. They should be the best of friends. Let's have it.
Throughout the course of most of our lifetimes both Manchester City and Norwich City have yo-yoed through the divisions, passing each other along the way, re-enacting the lyrics of The Beatles’ Hello Goodbye.
After years of taking it in turns to plumb disheartening depths broken up by all-too-brief highs both clubs can now finally store away their route maps to Barnsley and Walsall in the attic and look to a brighter future. The blue City is giddying itself for a searing future of high-achievement, underpinned by a wealth beyond logic, whilst the Canaries are flying through the rarefied air of the top flight for the first time since 2004 with a team sprinkled with individual flair and adventure. Attractive, open football seems to be embedded in the club’s DNA but now crucially it is allied with a collective spirit that should see them through the bleak times when form and luck desert them. In Paul Lambert they also possess one of the shrewdest gaffers around.
Hopefully there will be no more passing each other in the night because there’s a string of connections between the pair that dates back several decades that encourages a decent friendly fixture. We also once shared a common Bond but the less said about John perhaps the better.
From Asa Hartford to Kevin Reeves, Darren Huckerby to Spencer Prior each club has benefitted significantly from the others’ resources down the years which probably amounts to a score-draw overall. Additionally both have shared surreal moments such as Delia’s wine-soaked meltdown on the pitch in 2005 where her slurred call-to-arms brought to mind a Glaswegian WI meeting. ‘Let’s be having ya. And ye Battenberg is shite an all’. Both sets of City fans shuffled with embarrassment and disbelief. Okay, most just laughed.
To continue the love-in both Citys also share a healthy dislike of a certain team in red. United ruined the Manchester contingent’s lives. Perhaps even more perniciously they stole the East Anglian’s scarves.
In early October 3000 Norwich fans packed out the away end at Old Trafford and loudly declared ‘We’ve come for our scarves’ while their team very nearly came for the points.
You have to fancy Yaya, Barry and Milner to gain control of the centre circle and orchestrate some sustained pressure.
With the away allocation already sold-out for this Saturday’s game it should make for an equally boisterous atmosphere (unless there are noisy visiting fans to buzz off the Etihad can be a little flat at times) while once again Lambert’s men will look to overturn expectation with ambitious intent and leaving the team bus on concrete not grass in the car park.
While it is highly likely the Canaries will employ a 4-5-1 formation and seek to flood the midfield with numbers - echoing the system that recently worked for Napoli and Liverpool - my fear for them is that the personnel involved lack the combative qualities of a Gargano or Lucas. Bradley Johnson will be key and there are few finer targetmen around for graft and covering ground than Steve Morison but even so you have to fancy Yaya, Barry and Milner to gain control of the centre circle and orchestrate some sustained pressure.
Possibly Norwich’s best chance of attaining an upset is to go for broke right from the off. The blues have been woefully slow starters in the majority of games this season almost as if they are sizing up the opposition before moving in for the kill with a flurry of goals. There has been some sensational virtuoso performances so far and I am certainly not complaining, but I do wish the tuning up was done in the changing room beforehand and not during the opening exchanges. Perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect a perfect storm without a preceding breezy spell.
Off the field let’s hope that the club have fully stocked up on potatoes and double-check their equipment prior to the game in order to avoid another chip-less afternoon. The solemn announcement at half time against Newcastle – ‘we regret to inform you that there will be no chips sold on the concourse’ – was a moment of genuine comedy but with Delia in attendance City really should ensure their culinary house is in order. Though, going on a previous encounter, she may be preoccupied at the bar.
Click here for more Manchester City stories
Click here for more Football and Sport stories
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook