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It’s time for the big 6 pointer in Norfolk. Brentford come head to head with Norwich to avenge the 3-0 defeat from earlier in the season. BillytheBee catches up with author/copywriter/broadcaster and My Football Writer blogger Edward Couzens-Lake (@edcouzenslake) on hard Scottish managers, the tinpot army and Iwan Roberts.

Norwich have had a great start to the season but dipped off a bit. Any reason for that?

I wouldn’t say we had that great a start to the season. In fact, I think it got the media more excited than some Norwich fans. Former Canaries striker Chris Sutton didn’t exactly help matters in September when he said, “… I think it will be a failure on Norwich’s part if they don’t win the league by 10 points”.

Stuff like that doesn’t help anyone.

Some of those early wins were rather fortuitous – to say the least-take the game at your place. A great three points but 3-0 flattered us. We went a goal down against Blackburn who then had a good call for a penalty turned down whilst Watford had a key men sent off barely a couple of minutes into the game-we won that but you could see they were a good team. For the most part, the early season performances were middling, we had good spells in them but then we juxtaposed that with lots of faffing about and lots of defensive errors which, fortunately, weren’t always punished-that is, until we went to Middlesbrough when we got turned over 4-0.

We were misfiring really but, for the main part, getting the run of the green. No-one was getting carried away and when we had our bad run our level of performance had, in truth, only dropped a little bit. It’s not that we were playing badly early on, it was more about us getting through games without really dominating or playing as we thought we might be capable of.

Our best performance of the season so far was probably the 2-2 at Derby. Some real fight in that game as well as quality – we’ve seen that combination all too rarely at Norwich since Lambert left. It was an encouraging result all round and I genuinely think that, after that game, no-one dared expect Neil Adams to be gone so soon afterwards, me included.

You’ve had manager shenanigans of late with Neil Adams resigning saying “He’s not up for the job”. It’s not for me to say but sounds like someone’s had a word and said “Close the door on the way out. And don’t tell anyone”. It’s obvious your management believe it’s your divine right to get promoted at the first hurdle.

I despise this belief in football that people have – not just fans but people that run clubs as well – that their clubs ‘deserve’ else merit a ‘rightful’ place in a higher division or level of competition. Its self indulgent nonsense.

No club deserves to be anywhere than wherever they are at a given time or season. We’re in the Championship at the moment because we were, for the most part, very poor last season-negative and lacking any kind of leadership-a combination that struggles to even get half decent performances, let alone results.

Of course promotion is important-if anything, it’s become too important now, bordering on the obsessive. You should want promotion because it gives you the chance to compete against bigger clubs in a league that, realistically, you’re only in to make up the numbers. For the club its more about the financial rewards rather than the football-success seems to be cherished in the boardroom first and the pitch second. But then there are a lot of fans at a lot of clubs thinking the same way.

If we don’t go up then the summer will be busier than if we did, that’s for certain. The playing budget and priority will revert to the ‘young and hungry’ model that Lambert utilised so well. We’ve already been allowing for that I think, long term. Conor McGrandles, a midfielder who we signed from Falkirk in the Summer, Louis Thompson, another midfielder who we signed from Swindon and loaned straight back to them, plus some of the youth team-in particular Harry Toffolo and Cameron McGeehan, they’ll be the players who we’ll be relying on more next season if we’re still in the Championship.

We could still finish top 2 this time around but we’re going to need to win 8-10 games on the trot and i can’t see it happening, no club in this division is capable of being that dominant. I see Derby and Middlesbrough taking the top 2 places and us finishing in a playoff place-where we may see you lot again!

The new boy Alex Neil from Hamilton Academical is a left field choice – like something we would do. Will he survive after the “new manager grace period”?

I think been brought in the possibility of another season in the Championship in our boards minds. If that is the case and we’re still here come August, he’ll be expected to do for us what he did at Hamilton-get a side of predominantly young players, many of whom will be playing at a higher level than they’ve previously competed at, to form the core of what will be a very different Norwich side to the one we’ll see on Saturday.

He’ll certainly still be with us in August whatever happens now-his tenure will not depend on us getting up this season.

Good points? Early to tell. He seems very sure of his own ability and the way he wants his players and team to perform, there is a plan, method and a conviction that everyone will know what their job is-do it, great-let him down, well…just don’t let him down. His youth and inexperience might be seen as a negative, time will tell. But, then again, it’s great to have someone with so little of a past to judge him against.

And let’s face it, Mark Warburton was hardly a stellar name when you appointed him, were there grumbles and doubters then? Brave appointments can work-providing you have the greater courage to back them and give them time to work. Sacking Neil at the end of the season if we don’t go up would be ridiculous, sooner or later, we have to stand by a manager and genuinely let them get on with it.

He looks like a quite hard Scotsman. Or am I shamefully stereotyping? He was a bit of a hard nut on the playing field for Barnsley and Hamilton Academical.

He’s intimated that its very much a case of ‘my way or the highway’. If we have some players who won’t respect him or don’t think they can play for him-great, see you later. It’s not as if any of them have coated themselves in previous glory.

He has a lot to prove, they have a lot more-we haven’t seen it from many of them at all. I don’t know if he was a hard man as a player-he was a defensive midfielder, you’re always going to have to put yourself about a bit if you play in that position.

Steve McClaren reckons the Championship is a lot stronger this season with no real stand-out teams. Does that worry you for your promotion aspirations?

The Championship has always been a strong league with lots of good clubs-the last real stand out team through a season at this level was probably Newcastle in 2010. But it was still a strong league that year. Of the teams that missed out that time around, six have since been promoted themselves.

When it comes to your own promotion chances, you have to disregard stuff about if it’s a strong league or not or what teams can do what, when and where. Too much attention can be paid to the peripheral stuff.

We should just focus on ourselves and our game rather than get bogged down in detail.

The likes of ‘tin pot’ Brentford and Bournemouth doing so well seems to have pissed off so called ‘bigger’ teams. Does their positive progress make a complete mockery of this insistence that teams have to spend millions on transfer fees and wages to make an impact in the championship?

I am absolutely bloody delighted to see Brentford and Bournemouth up there and challenging-it’s great for both clubs and good for the game-and it’ll be catching. Those two clubs plus Ipswich have shown this season that it is, as you intimate, possible to do well without having a sack load of money to spend-infact, sometimes having the money makes you complacent as you think all that needs to be done is get in the best players and everything will come right on the pitch. That’s a shallow approach.

What’s really important is for clubs to have a wider vision, one that encompasses getting in the very best coaches, facilities and young players, young players who will know they’ve got a chance.

Someone in the game once said to me that whenever a club signs a player, they must always look to sign someone who sees the move as a step up in their career-you then get eleven players all pulling together, desperate to impress, succeed and eventually take another step up the scale.

We signed rather too many players last season who might have thought they were doing us a favour by coming to Norwich but hey, the money’s good. If you don’t invest the money you do have properly then it can cause as many problems as it can if you don’t have it.

Yourselves, Bournemouth and Ipswich all seem to be working to that plan.

Enough said.

As for people moaning and saying such clubs – or any who want to make something of themselves rather than conform to stereotype – are ‘tinpot’-get over it.

But seriously though, what teams worry you in this league?

Every team worries me in this league – that’s the joy of it, there isn’t such a thing as an easy match or a foregone conclusion.

Get to the Premier League and yes, there are games and teams that terrify you.

But not in the Championship.

Derby are still up there. But if there has to be a ‘best team; in the league at the moment, I’d say its Middlesbrough.

Millwall were woeful mind, they look to be in terminal decline.

To be fair, Ipswich have made a good show this season. And they’ve spent less money than you. Will it be a disaster if they go up this season and you guys don’t?

In all honesty, Ipswich have never bothered me! I just can’t get worked up about them. They’re based in another county for goodness sake!

I think the rivalry between us has got, on the wider scale, a bit like the one between Leeds and Man Utd have gone -Leeds still hate Man Utd but Man Utd have moved on and are completely indifferent to Leeds.

You only have to visit Canary messageboards or go to Portman Road to see how obsessed they are about us, how much they hate us. But do we feel the same way about them? I don’t think so. They’re just another club to be honest.

Talking of inflated prices, we talked about Norwich charging an outrageous £35 entry in our podcast this week. Surprisingly some Norwich fans were happy with the pricing saying “Charge as much as you can get”. Some say supply and demand. Others say they get cash but not goodwill. What are your thoughts?

No, it’s a little bit naughty. Clubs make enough now from all the other financial streams coming into the game to more than make the proverbial living, charging you, or anyone, £35 to see a game at Carrow Road is not on, not on at all.

It’s all very well saying its supply and demand and the charge is justified because people will pay it anyway-great, does that mean any inflated price can be justified?



Utility bills?

It’s too much money to see a Championship game of football. End of.

So back to the football, who should we be looking out for in the Norwich team?

Cameron Jerome and Gary Hooper are looking very decent together. Hoops tends to play a little deeper mind, so it’s more of a 4-4-1-1 than a traditional two up top you’d see in a 4-4-2. You’ll have your work cut out keeping them both quiet.

Nathan Redmond is always a threat. He needs to start scoring more goals mind-just 2 in the league since he joined us. Defenders hate playing against him. He’s quick and a quick thinker. I reckon he might be one of our scorers on Saturday.

Brentford made a decent show of themselves against Norwich in September before conceding 3 late goals. Your forwards were impressive once you turned the screw to be fair. Do you expect the same again?

I would expect you to have more of the game this time around. We’ll probably press from the start. That is normally the way with us at home and certainly seems to be the way Neil wants to play in that situation. But, good as we are in attack, our defence is fragile and you will get chances – and good ones.

We won’t win this one by three clear goals, that I am certain of.

Here’s our made in Norwich section

Stephen Fry or Jake Humphrey?

Oh Fry for me, every time. Jake is a little too slick, too polished and too much of a product. Stephen Fry is who he is, angst and all. Plus we had the same drama teacher at Kings Lynn Tech – he was there before me mind!

Bernard Matthews or Delia Smith?

Delia. Bernard Matthews made a lot of being based in Norfolk with all that ‘bootiful’ nonsense. But Norfolk was nothing more than a marketing accessory for his company. He never got involved with the Canaries either. Even during some pretty bad times when he might have been able to help.

Delia genuinely loves Norwich and her football and doesn’t care who knows it.

Love her!

Iwan Roberts or Chris Sutton?

Iwan. The man’s a God. And a very nice bloke as well. Sutty was a great player but we were just a step on the ladder for him, nothing more.

Iwan had his best years at Norwich and, even though the club dumped him a year too early. He’s sticks up for us and has remained a fan. A top, top man.

Norfolk’s Woodfordes Wherry or Briarbank Suffolk Pride ales?

Woodfordes. No contest-proper beer-taste, colour, consistency.

Head to head, Norwich are just shading it winning 22 games to the Bees’ 20 with 8 games drawn. Do you think you can carry the run on?

We should. But the Cardiff game showed that, good as we are in attack, we aren’t so clever at the other end. Depends on the first 15-20 minutes. But it’ll be close.

Give us a score prediction

2-1 Norwich-but it’s going to be very close and nip and tuck to the end. Am expecting it to be a very good game.

Where do you recommend away fans hang out pre-match?

Away fans tend to congregate at the Compleat Angler – a few mins walk from the station and only ten mins from the ground. The Holiday Inn, which is at the ground is also popular and caters for football fans-but its lager only I’m afraid, no decent ales there!

There are loads of bars on Riverside which is a big complex of bars and restaurants, again, very near the ground-but think big and relatively cheerless bars than traditional pubs with good beers.

If you are looking for the latter and have the time, try The Murderers. We’re pretty friendly and will happily chat and mingle with away fans. The Coach and Horses on Thorpe Rd also is a good pub for home and away fans.

There’s a Morrisons near the ground as well if you fancy a pre-match fry up.

Enjoy the day. We may yet meet again…

We would like to thank Ed for giving us the lowdown on Norwich. You can catch Ed on twitter (@edcouzenslake) .

His ‘Fantasy Football’ book, which tells the story of Norwich’s amazing 1992/93 season and interviews many of the players involved, is on offer for just £5 by clicking the link below.

Ed is currently writing a book on the history and evolution of football formations with special reference to some of the great coaches in football history who devised and implemented them-the likes of Jimmy Hogan, Hugo Meisl, Vittorio Pozzo, Gustav Sebes and Helenio Herrera. The way things are going for the Bees, he might have to add Mark Warburton to that list as he certainly seems cut from the same cloth.

Check out his latest book ‘Gossy-The Autobiography Of Jeremy Goss’ – available from Amberley Publishing and all good bookshops as well as all the usual online outlets.

Norwich fans earlier this season at Brentford




Norwich Fan Book Offer


Buy ‘Fantasy Football’ for just a fiver by clicking here.