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Chris Goreham: How you can’t predict Norwich City in the Championship

Picture your favourite incarnation of Doctor Who running the results from the weekend through the machines in their Tardis. Frantically pulling levers and bellowing “but none of this makes sense!” towards an increasingly panicked looking companion.

Sunderland beat Southampton 5-0, Leicester lost at home to Hull City and winless Huddersfield won at West Brom. The Baggies had taken 39 points from a possible 51 at home since Carlos Corberan was appointed head coach last season.

At The New York Stadium, Norwich City arrived with the division’s most prolific attack. No-one had conceded more league goals than Rotherham United who, for good measure, had been thumped 6-1 at Stoke in The Carabao Cup four days earlier. So what happened? Of course, in the Championship the team that hadn’t won beat the team that hadn’t lost.

There was further proof as to what a mixed-up world Norwich City currently reside in when the teams were read out to the crowd. Before each player’s name the stadium announcer dutifully credited their respective kit sponsor. “Number 7, Cafu, sponsored by Rapid Skips” was my particular favourite. In the Championship you can’t have an exotic sounding midfielder without it being immediately undermined by something that keeps you grounded.

I have so far been unable to ascertain whether the great Brazilian defender of the same name was ever backed by a skip hire firm in his days at AC Milan.

The modern day Cafu had a good game. It was his cross that Jordan Hugill (remember him?) headed home to put the Millers 2-0 up before half-time.

His match-winning moment felt inevitable the moment we arrived at the ground on Saturday. On announcing that we were from BBC Radio Norfolk the very welcoming steward enquired as to whether we would like to take Hugill back with us.

Norwich Evening News: Jordan Hugill came back to haunt City on Saturday

A bold move considering we were close to the player’s entrance. It was the striker’s reputed pay packet rather than his footballing ability that had most irked our fluorescent jacketed friend. Hugill earned his money on Saturday. Typical that he should do so less than 24 hours after Norwich City had completed their search for a striker to deputise for the injured Josh Sargent. That used to be Hugill’s job.

Perhaps the transfer deadline closing the night before a round of matches is a plausible explanation for the set of results that followed. The focus for many of the Championship’s decision makers had been elsewhere.

Andrew Omobamidele left Norfolk on Friday as a Norwich City player, in the squad to play against Rotherham. He returned the next day as a Nottingham Forest defender. It seems that Norwich only officially completed the signing of his replacement, Danny Batth, on Friday night with seconds to spare.

Omobamidele hadn’t started a league game for City this season so his absence should not be an excuse for their poor first half performance on Saturday.

The reality is probably that the main reason for players ending up in the Championship rather than the Premier League is levels of consistency. Each club in the division has a set of talented players and those that can hit their levels on a reliable basis are the ones that will eventually succeed.

Its unpredictable nature certainly adds to the appeal of second tier football. David Wagner and Angus Gunn spoke to reporters afterwards and both were keen to use the surprise defeat as a reality check.

There has been much to admire about Norwich City’s start to the season but it’s only the very start of negotiations. The challenge is to keep doing it across the slog of 46 league matches. As soon as you start to think you’ve cracked it, the Championship rug will be pulled from under you.

It’s a division in which ‘Schadenfreude’ is not an expensive deadline day signing from the Bundesliga. If it was he would have to be sponsored by firm that cleans wheelie bins just to keep him honest.


Easy as ABC…


David Wagner has impressed with the way he’s managed Norwich City during the first month of the season.

It was still a shock to see that he’d taken them above Newcastle United and rewritten the alphabet in the process.

Norwich City were the subject of a bit of Carabao Cup confusion last week. After the Canaries beat Bristol City the draw numbers for the third round were announced. The 27 teams to have qualified by the close of play on Tuesday were listed in alphabetical order. Well, almost.

Norwich City had crept above Newcastle United. It might be quite some time before that happens on the pitch but it’s even more remarkable for the Canaries to be ahead of them on alphabetical order. In the end being number 19 meant a trip to Fulham while Newcastle, at number 20, got Manchester City at home.

There is no suggestion of any conspiracy because the numbers were decided before the draw so I refuse to believe this was anything other than an alphabetical accident.

Former players tend to help with cup draws now.

One suggestion would be for the EFL to break with that tradition for the next round. Perhaps Big Bird from Sesame Street should draw the home teams and pass on a bit of gentle knowledge of the ABC’s while he’s at it.

Who knows, a giant yellow bird involved might actually give the Canaries a better chance of a home draw. Then the conspiracies would really start.


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