As with any cup draw, the fans of all clubs rather hope to be tied with a big name at home, usually for the chance to see some of the top names of the game playing on hallowed turf. Sadly, for Blackpool supporters, it is just Norwich City at home, although it must mean that there are hopes of a win and a bigger name next time around…
For Norwich supporters it is another away fixture loaded with banana skins. It is against a club that Norwich would normally be expected to beat, but league performances this season, along with a terrible history in cup runs, especially against "lesser" clubs, opens the door to the real possibilities of an upset.
What makes this particular game interesting for many Norwich fans is the "W" factor. Both clubs had Nigel Worthington as manager. Blackpool has the benefit of time to have recovered from Worthington`s legacy, whereas Norwich is still trying to recover from the damage inflicted.
Damage? What damage? Well, whilst at Norwich, Worthington had a habit of letting players go without having a replacement on the books. Many outfield positions are left without cover, and a good number of the transfers that he did make have turned out to be nothing more than underachieving journeymen. Although Peter Grant has been in command since October, the squad remains weak due to the club`s financial position.
Another problem that we are still battling with is the list of Worthington`s favourites. Picked week in and week out, regardless of their performances, they have slipped into what we are referring to as a "comfort zone". Unfortunately, this list includes some players that many clubs would break the bank to buy for themselves. No names, no pack drill, but it isn`t hard to guess at some of them.
So Peter Grant is fighting an uphill battle to get these players to perform to his expectations. As a result, Norwich will often take to the field and disappoint t its own supporters for an apparent lack of effort and team spirit. Oh yes, Norwich can go up against teams like Birmingham and West Brom and beat them on their own ground, but teams like Southend and Hull can come to Carrow Road and make Norwich look more like a team that should be lucky to survive in Division One.
There are no two ways about it; Norwich could easily lose at Bloomfield Road. Not that Blackpool won`t have deserved to win, mind, but because Norwich deserve to lose if they allow themselves to be beaten.
That may sound boastful, coming from a Norwich supporter, but the form books suggest that Norwich should win, and many of the players on the books would normally be expected to run Division One players of the park. But the banana skin is set up and ready, it now depends upon which way Norwich decides to go on the day.
Blackpool is able to enjoy the confidence of a run of successes, to top it all, whereas Norwich is now struggling to stay out of the relegation zone. Doubtless, both teams will be out to put on a good show for their fans, but Norwich City still needs to make up for a number of sorry shows. Even against Tamworth, in the previous round, Norwich could easily have gone two or three behind in the first twenty minutes or so, as anybody who saw the game on the Beeb will be able to confirm. City didn`t really put their stamp on the game until twenty minutes had ticked by.
Robert Earnshaw will definitely miss out, due to a groin strain that will sideline him for the rest of the season, although new signing Chris Brown (from Sunderland) could show Norwich City fans what he has in store for us. Usual 'keeper, Paul Gallacher, has been guilty of some pretty poor decisions that have led to some ignominious defeats so he will probably be replaced by David Marshall, on loan from Glasgow Celtic. Luke Chadwick remains unavailable having sustained a serious knee injury in his debut game when he came in on loan from Stoke before becoming a permanent signing. Jason Shackell, one of the very few academy players to earn a regular place under Worthington`s realm, should have shaken off an ankle niggle to play in central defence, and Darren Huckerby and Lee Croft can be expected to play out wide on either flank.
Peter Grant has told the fans that he is not the sort to put out a second string of players, so a full strength team is certainly what is expected from the faithful. On the day it will be down to Blackpool to seek out the weaknesses and exploit them. Considering three of your opponents from last season, in the shapes of Southend, Hull and Colchester, all managed to do it, there is no reason why Blackpool shouldn`t continue that trend. Norwich will be playing more for pride than a successful cup run, so an entertaining match should be forthcoming.
If Norwich should win the game, it will be a case of "well, we were expected to and we were just too good for them on the day". If they lose, then the ref will be from Lancashire, have a holiday home in Blackpool, and Norwich players allowed Blackpool to walk all over them. Not much will be down to Blackpool being the better side on the day…
Good luck to Blackpool on Saturday and, if you should take the spoils, my article on Vital Norwich will certainly make your blood boil…
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