City among the pacesetters as final leg approachesIn the latest edition of his monthly blog, Senior Club Journalist Ben Mouncerlooks up and sees the climax of the Sky Bet Championship season looming fast.
‘The business end of the season’ is one of football’s finest clichés.
At this time of the year it sits proudly in the verbal armoury of media-savvy players and managers, and not forgetting those wily old reporters, as the campaign’s conclusion draws near.
When ‘the business end of the season’ actually starts is anyone’s guess. I heard one unnamed journalist refer to it in early February, which to my judgement was a tad too soon, but I suppose the modern football narrative needs feeding after the ‘hectic festive schedule’ and the ‘slamming shut’ of the winter transfer window.
With ten matches to go for Norwich City, now seems right moment to stick my neck on the line and finally give it definition; folks, we are officially (sort of) entering ‘the business end of the season’.
What happens between now and May 2, or possibly beyond, will complete a chapter in the Club’s history which at the moment remains tantalisingly open-ended.
The nature of a promotion race means that the directly contrasting emotions of ecstasy and heartbreak are both sitting there, ready to engulf us all. Given the current make-up of the Sky Bet Championship top six, it’s leaning towards staying that way for the next few weeks too.
When speaking to Alex Neil for his Norwich City TV interview ahead of the Derby game, I asked him whether his strongly-held belief that all focus should always be on the next match carries even more significance with the evil temptress of the finishing line in sight. I got the answer I expected.
“You can’t afford to have an off day any more. We’ve had one or two since I came in, but out of 12 games that’s not too bad, but we’ll be looking to improve on that in the next ten games.”
It’s a methodology that has helped galvanise this football club to a position where the prospect of Norwich making an immediate return to the Premier League has hit the radars of the national press.
Suddenly requests for sit-down interviews with Alex are frequent, and according to Sky’s Football League pundit Don Goodman, City are the team ‘everyone’s looking at’ in the Championship.
In little over a month, we have gone from being unspoken of to second favourites with some bookies to lift the Championship trophy. It’s been a remarkable rise.
But there is still more to go. Neil wants his charges to embrace the challenges in the most important stage of the 2014-15 Norwich City story, one where even he admits that the ‘intensity is going to be cranked up’.
That’s the thing about clichés. You can start a blog by having a little chuckle at them, but in the end they ring with truth and clarity.
This is now ‘the business end of the season’. Strap yourselves in, hold tight, and enjoy it if you can – OTBC!