After that fantastic extra time triumph over Chelsea on Tuesday night, we go into the crucial home fixture with Norwich on Saturday with at least something to cheer. However, having marked the West Ham and Norwich games as ‘must win’, a draw at the Hammers means we really need three points on Saturday to keep our slim survival hopes alive. Really, really need three points!
The History Books:
The two sides haven’t met that often in the league over the years but Norwich is another side in the current top-flight where the lads come off worse in the head-to-head. The Lads have won just 17 times (31%) against the Canaries’ 24 wins (44%) with 14 draws.
The two clubs will forever be linked by the 1985 Milk Cup ‘Friendly Final’. Despite beating the Canaries 3-1 at Carrow Road just 8 days before we faced off at Wembley, we all know what happened at the Twin Towers and how the long wait for silverware goes on and on. What I hadn’t realised until recently was that the 3-1 win on 16th March 1985 was the last time we beat them in the league at their place. Thankfully things are a little rosier at home. Although it’s difficult to shift the dreadful 1-1 draw against ten-man Norwich in the dying throes of Martin O’Neill’s regime, prior to that, our home record against Norwich in the League is decent. That drab affair was preceded by 4 wins for the Lads at home, scoring six times without conceding.
Well, despite feeling as though we’ve been playing better of late, we still have a pretty dismal return of just 2 points from the 5 league matches since our regulation 1-0 tonking of Man City. Decent against Chelsea but woeful against Stoke and Spurs; good away performances (at least in the context of this season) against Villa and West Ham but failure to convert a string of presentable changes meant 4 points dropped rather than 2 gained.
The Canaries recent form is erratic: unbeaten in their last two games with a vital win at the Baggies and a useful home point against Swansea preceded by their usual thrashing by Suarez, an edgy 1-0 win at home to Palace and an unlucky 2-1 reverse up the road.
Norwich’s biggest problem has been defensively with a third-worst record of 29 conceded (just one better than are 30) and a division worse away record of 21 goals conceded. While us Mackems take heart from this, the Canaries will look for solace in Gary Hooper finding his shooting boats and claiming 4 goals in the last 6 games.
The Player Focus:
Always a few options to look at here but, come on, who wants to read ANOTHER article about Steve Bruce? Or Chris Brown? Ben Alnwick anyone? Yeah, thought not, especially when we could talk about Gary Rowell instead.
For future Mackem-related pub quizzes it was Norwich who our legendary goal scoring went to once his time was up on Wearside. After over a century of goals (103) in almost 300 appearances Sunderland fans stopped living in a Gary Rowell World every Saturday when he joined the Canaries in the summer of 1984, under Len Ashurst’s brief, doomed spell as manager. [On a personal note, my granddad always referred to ‘Lenny Ashurst: Banana-foot’ in relation to his tendency to slice the ball. However he did manage 450+ appearances in a red and white shirt so must have done some things right.]
Sadly for Gary Rowell – and Norwich – his time in East Anglia was blighted by injury and he started just twice for the Canaries (+ 4 subs) and netted just the one goal. Gary moved around a fair bit after that with spells at Boro, Brighton, Dundee, Carlisle and Burnley before hanging up his boots but remains a Mackem player and fan, through and through.