Exclusive interview with the ex-City bossNIGEL Worthington’s own experience of the play-offs with Norwich City may not have had the ending he wanted – but the Canaries' former manager is a big fan of the knockout format.
City face fierce rivals Ipswich Town in a mouth-watering semi-final over the next two weekends after they finished third and sixth respectively in the Sky Bet Championship, with Portman Road hosting the first leg on Saturday lunchtime.
Norwich suffered a cruel penalty shootout defeat to Birmingham City in the play-off final back in 2002, and memories are still fresh for Worthington, who went on to complete six-and-a-half years in charge at Carrow Road.
“We got to the final and I can still to this day see the yellow and green and the blue and white, the colours of the two sets of supporters in Cardiff,” he told canaries.co.uk.
“There was a huge disappointment at the end but also great pride that we’d gone on such a terrific run to get into the top six and reach the final.
“The play-offs have caught everybody’s imagination. There’s not just the end of the season now, there’s a lot of excitement after it because of the play-offs.
“There are two targets: the first is trying to get to the final, and then there’s the financial and footballing gain of getting to the Premier League. There’s a lot to play for and a lot of excitement.”
30 years on from the last time Norwich met Town in a semi-final in the Milk Cup, the two sides are set to compete for a place at Wembley once again, with anticipation quickly building since the conclusion of the regular season last weekend.
Alex Neil’s City beat Fulham 4-2 on home turf, and Worthington says the Scot’s impact on fortunes at the Club has caught the eye.
“He’s done a super job. There wasn’t a lot known about Alex, but he’s been a terrific appointment and the results that he’s achieved since he’s been here have been fantastic,” he said.
“As a supporter myself, I’d just like to see him get these next three results and get back in the Premier League for the people of Norfolk, because they’re so passionate about the Club.
“Neither club, manager, players or supporters will want to lose but at the end of the day, somebody will. From Norwich’s point of view, they’ve had a terrific season and they’ve got momentum.
“They’re scoring goals freely, and if they can do that over the next three games they’ve got a great chance of being in the Premier League again.”
The 53-year-old, who most recently held the reins at York City, looks back on his time with the Canaries fondly, adding: “My spell at Norwich was a wonderful time in my career, in football in general. I saw the club grow over that period.
“The one thing that’s stood out in my mind, to this day, is the way that the supporters have stayed with the club all the way through. That speaks volumes for Norwich City’s supporters.
“When you’ve been with the football club, you always look for their results. Having been here for a long time, I always look to see how they’ve done and this last year has been good viewing.”