I love the FA Cup and, like everyone else, I watched the Third Round draw in anticipation. It’s fair to say that we could have got an easier opponent, but I’m quietly confident nonetheless. This is one of the most famous competitions in world football, and it’s fantastic to be part of that. For me, the spirit of the cup is very much alive, and I think we’ll see that for sure at Carrow Road because fans young and old savour it. I say that even though we haven’t had much to celebrate in this competition!
What are your standout memories from watching the Canaries in the cup?
My early football memories start in the mid-90s, and from that period, it has to be said that our cup run has never really lasted very long. I got my hopes up last season following an impressive 3-0 defeat of Peterborough United, but we then went and lost against Luton Town. I remember us taking Chelsea to a Replay in 2002 when they had the likes of Marcel Desailly, Gianfranco Zola, Frank Lampard and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink playing. But I suppose the FA Cup is about hope and what may unfold.
What sort of game are you anticipating on Saturday? Having lost to Fulham at home recently, you’ll be hopeful for a change in fortune?
In my opinion, we’re due a little bit of luck and I’m firmly of the belief that a good run in the cup can give you a real boost. It’s about confidence and building momentum, and that’s what I hope we can do from this game. We know the situation both teams find themselves in right now in the league, so it will be interesting to see how they approach this one. I think both Chris Hughton and René Meulensteen will be looking at the Barclays Premier League as their priority, so it’s a chance to use the squad. I think it will be tight, and with both teams expected to make changes, a lot will come down to the players that come in. Which ones will seize the opportunity and make a difference?
What did you make of the Boxing Day game between the two sides?
I thought we played really well in the first half and, in fairness, it was a game that could have gone either way because Fulham played some decent stuff too. To Fulham’s credit they kept on until the very end, and Scott Parker’s strike was a worthy winner. At 1-1, Leroy Fer had a header cleared off the line and had that gone in, I like to think we would have seen the game through. But that’s football.
You mentioned that this game is an opportunity for players to show what they can do. Which of those coming in for Norwich do you think could make the difference against Fulham?
I’d like to see Ricky van Wolfswinkel make a start, as we’ve seen him come off the bench in recent weeks. He scored on his debut in the 2-2 draw against Everton, but since then he hasn’t found the target. I was really excited when the club announced his signing, and I maintain that he'll be an important player for us. He has clever movement, good feet and ability in the box. If he can get a goal against Fulham, I believe he’ll go on to score a few more.
And, likewise, which of the visiting players do you think could provide the biggest threat on Saturday?
As mentioned, I think both teams will make changes. I’d be surprised if we didn’t see Clint Dempsey make an appearance at some point, and in his first game back, he’ll be looking to make a difference. He’s a fantastic player and one we’ll have to be very aware of. Adel Taarabt is enjoying a good run of form and on his day he can be unplayable. Fulham have a lot of youngsters coming through at the moment, so it will be interesting to see if any of them appear – I’ve heard good things about the young Moussa Dembélé.
I don’t think I can hope for anything other than survival – which is the case for a lot of clubs. We finished 11th last season and, of course, that was the benchmark at the start of the campaign. But this is a tough league, and it’s very tight in the bottom half. We took five points from our six games in December - I thought we would do better than that. But there’s a lot to play for, and a good run in the FA Cup would certainly be nice.
I’m a big fan of Hooper, and having scored so freely at his former club Celtic there was a lot of pressure to do the same at Norwich. But he’s playing in a very different league now and there was always going to be a bit of an adjustment period. He had to shake off an injury, too, but arguably right now, he’s our in-form player. He’s an opportunist in front of goal, and I think he has a massive part to play during the second half of the campaign.
There’s loads of bars and pubs in Norwich, but for an away fan it’s probably easiest to stay in the ones nearest the ground and station. A lot of travelling supporters go to The Compleat Angler which is right by the station – it’s also a quick walk to the stadium.
I like to think that the Fulham fans will be surprised by the atmosphere. I go to a lot of away games, and I think we do a good job at Carrow Road. I know a couple of Fulham supporters, and both have said that they enjoy the Norfolk banter. It’s a welcoming place, and as an away trip goes, it’s not too far out of the way.
I think it will be another 2-1, but this time it will be Norwich that claim the win.