Inside Carrow Road

Tuesday 24 December 2013 09:49

Boxing Day sees Fulham face Norwich City at Carrow Road – a ground we haven’t lost at since 1986. We caught up with Canaries fan Jim Allen to get his take on the festive encounter.

It’s probably fair to say that your results this season have been a bit inconsistent – what have you made of the campaign to date?

It has been quite a difficult season for fans this year. With record signings in the summer, there was a sense of excitement around the city, but so far very little progress has been made. At times, we’ve struggled to score goals and been very leaky at the back, which is very frustrating for the fans. We have the best squad we’ve had in years, so with a bit of confidence and consistency, there’s a lot to come from this Norwich team. Hopefully we can strengthen the problem areas in January and really push on in 2014, start playing some entertaining football and getting results, which is every fan’s dream!

You touched on it there that the team is finding goals a bit hard to come by – is that a surprise considering how much was spent on strikers in the summer?

To an extent, yes. Spending a record fee on Ricky van Wolfswinkel, and with the addition of Gary Hooper, I did expect goals to be a bit more free flowing! We were unlucky losing Hooper to injury in pre-season which is obviously not the ideal way to settle into a new club, and a new league. Then RVW picked up a knock and our squad wasn’t strong enough to cover those two. It's pleasing that a couple of the midfielders have stepped up and added a few goals. But ultimately we haven’t got that spark in midfield that will provide chance after chance for the forwards, meaning they have to put away the one or two opportunities they get in the 90 minutes. And it is rare to find a centre forward that adjusts to the rigours of the Premier League quickly, so I think give Hooper and RVW some time and they’ll soon adapt.

Speaking of transfers, what have you made of the new arrivals so far?

Overall, they’ve been very pleasing. Hooper looks very tidy, has a great first touch, knows where the back of the net is and does the simple stuff very well. RVW hasn’t really got going in terms of goals, but he isn’t short of effort or talent; he has bags of potential. Leroy Fer looks like a quality signing by Chris Hughton; he seems to be strong, fast, clever and cheap! Nathan Redmond has a lot of work to do, but one day he could be a very important asset for Norwich, and England. Johan Elmander, on the other hand, has struggled somewhat. I can see why CH brought him in, to be the big battering ram up front to replace Grant Holt, but hasn’t really set Carrow Road alight as yet.

Which Norwich players will Fulham have to be wary of?

Hooper has found his touch in the last few weeks. He's very intelligent off the ball and has a natural eye for goal, so Fulham’s back four will need to be on their toes to keep him quiet. Robert Snodgrass is due a good game too. He’s recently back from injury and has been quoted this week as being fully fit and eager to get playing regular football again.

And, likewise, which Fulham players would you like in the Norwich team?

On his day, Dimitar Berbatov is one of the best footballers to have played in the Premier League. He has fantastic technique, with unquestionable talent. Darren Bent will always be a threat with his pace, if he can find his shooting boots, but I’m hopeful that Sebastien Bassong and Michael Turner can deal with that former Tractor Boy! I also think Steve Sidwell is a great all-rounder, with plenty of talent and energy - an impressive asset to any squad.

Have you seen much of Fulham recently? What do you make of the side?

I saw more of Fulham last season, and was very impressed with the squad, so it's a shame to see them struggling this year. Many neutral fans have great respect for Fulham after their journey from the bottom to the top of the English League pyramid. It would be terrible if your 13 years in the Premier League came to an end this season. I think the Whites have had similar away difficulties as Norwich, but unfortunately Fulham’s home form hasn’t been stable enough to climb the table. If René Meulensteen can fix the home form, Fulham’s squad and individuals are too good to go down!

We have had a bit of a resurgence under Meulensteen – is that a concern for Canaries fans?

New managers always inject a bit of confidence back into a club, but I’m hoping the honeymoon period might be over. Meulensteen will be looking at Fulham’s next three games looking to get some points on the board, so yes, I think René will be going all out for the win. I’m just pleased it’s at Carrow Road as we’ve looked pretty solid there in the last few weeks. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs in his first transfer window. We'll see if he learnt anything from Sir Alex Ferguson. With a new Head Coach and a new owner, this could be a very exciting transfer window for FFC. Thankfully this fixture comes before he can get to work.

What’s a realistic target for Norwich this season?

At the start of the season, I was hoping for a top-half finish, to at least improve on last term’s 11th, but judging on our first half of the campaign, I would be pleased with anything above 17th! I do hope that a bit more money is spent on a creative midfielder and then we won’t have the worry of relegation hanging over our head come April/May.

Where’s a good place for away fans to go before the game for a pint?

There are plenty of pubs in Norwich seeing as it is a student town, but I tend to see away fans in The Compleat Angler as it is a stone’s throw from the train station and an easy 10-minute walk to the ground.

What’s one song we’re bound to hear you sing during the game?

‘On The Ball City’ will be echoing around Carrow Road on Thursday. Norwich’s anthem is a fan favourite and you’ll be able to hear the Carrow Road faithful in full voice on Boxing Day!

What score prediction are you going for, and why?

2-0. I think Hughton will be keen for a strong defensive performance, and importantly a clean sheet to build on our recent home form. Hopefully the three points will be staying in Norwich.