West Brom vs Norwich City Preview
In the 2003/4 season, we developed a nice little rivalry with West Brom.
Both teams were pushing for promotion to the Premier League, and often being no more than a couple of points apart in pursuit of not only the top flight, but the Division One title too. Ultimately we both reached the Prem, but whilst we won the league, it was the Baggies who would stay up the following season and Nigel Worthington's sorry yellows who were relegated.
Since then, Albion have been something of a yo-yo team until the last couple of seasons where they've finally knuckled down and consolidated. And they've been playing some good football too.
Roberto DiMatteo was unlucky to get the boot initially, but he certainly laid the foundations for them to push on. Roy Hodgson replaced him, and despite a tough tenure at Anfield in the months prior, he helped the team keep up the good work and finish strongly in the division.
Steve Clarke has led them on a fun journey since taking over in the summer, where the West Midlands outfit have been in the top half (actually, they've mostly been in the top half of the top half) virtually the whole time.
The one thing all three of those managers have in common is that they were tipped to take the Club back down to the Championship, yet all three have not only avoided that, they've collectively made them a solid Premier League team capable of playing some great football and consistently finishing strongly in the table.
It took us a while to follow suit, but Paul Lambert and Chris Hughton have gone a long way to ensuring Norwich can similarly find stability at this level. It remains to be seen how long both clubs can keep progressing, but for sheer effort alone both clubs deserve to be sitting pretty at 7th and 8th going into the weekend.
Last time we met
The Hawthorns hasn't been the easiest ground to visit in recent years for most Premier League sides, but the Canaries were undaunted in 2011/12 registering a victory in both the League and the FA Cup competitions.
A tidy volley from Andrew Surman saw Paul Lambert's Canaries take the lead against Roy Hodgson's Baggies, but Shane Long cancelled that out by scoring his Hundredth goal against us in what was a surprise to absolutely nobody. Luckily, Steve Morison was in rude form at the time and his late-ish header saw City take all three points back to Norfolk. Norwich also won the Cup game 2-1 just a fortnight later with Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson getting on the scoresheet to send them through to the last-16 stage.
Both sides finished comfortably that season, and the reputations of both managers saw them take up new posts elsewhere after the rumour mill started circulating. Hodgson went on to manage England while Lambert went to Villa. Emotions were mixed upon the appointments of Steve Clarke and Chris Hughton respectively, but it's fair to say that both are continuing the shared trend between the clubs of performing better than many expected. Indeed, both have been tipped for relegation scraps this season. Somewhat bizarrely, they might now duke it out for a Europa League spot if they keep up the good work.
Key opposition threats.
Get Shane Long down on your goals coupon as a first goal scorer. He always, always, ALWAYS scores against Norwich. That's no disrespect to Mark Bunn who's been superb recently, but some things in life are just too certain. Death, taxes, and Shane Long scoring against Norwich. Other striking threats include Lukaku and Odemwingie, who also scored in the reverse fixture at Carrow Road last season. James Morrison works ridiculously hard for his team, a player I have huge respect for in that he insists on covering every blade of grass during a game. Ben Foster might return in goal after a groin injury.
What's in store this time?
On paper, there should be some goals in this if recent results are anything to go by. Of the two, it's City who are in better form although West Brom sit two points above them in the table. We already showed them up twice last season on their own patch, so I've got no reason to believe we can't do it a third time. One thing I would like to see is Simeon Jackson getting a run out. As was previously mentioned, he scored here last year and with Morison's current chance conversion ratio of one to about a million shots, I think the little fellow deserves a chance to put his pace to good use.