RF: Slap bang in mid-table, how do you feel about Norwich’s season as a whole? Given that there’s been a lot of changes at the club, do you feel like you have something to build upon next season?
TP: Considering the wholesale changes to coaching, scouting & playing staff combined with balancing the books now the parachute payments are going to stop; 12th is probably the best an objective fan could have hoped for.
We have a coach learning the league/English football and some of us (we don’t even all agree within our podcast regulars) aren’t confident he’s shown enough progress or improvement in the last few months to suggest he’s not been one of the factors holding us in mid-table.
As for something to build upon next season, that’s a tricky one - a lot of what’s been positive this season has centred around the talent of James Maddison, who is highly likely to be plying his trade in the top flight next season.
RF: It looks like we’ll be playing in League One next season, something Norwich experienced fairly recently. You emphatically bounced straight back up though, so what do you do that you think Sunderland could emulate next season?
TP: We absolutely loved it. The new grounds, the feel of watching something a bit more pure than the premier league environment. It was also nice for an in-betweeny sort of club like ours with traditionally strong support but a partially stocked trophy cabinet to suddenly be one of the biggest fish in the pond (we shared with Leeds, clearly a fatter trout).
That league is a slog and the winning combination we found was an ambitious manager, plus hungry players with a point to prove and a chip on their shoulder. I still believe it’s where Paul Lambert has struggled since he left Carrow Road, he has the magic formula for motivating nearly men to be world beaters, but the privileged arrogant millionaires of the premier league maybe don’t thrive on the same fire he put in our lads in that run from League One to the promised land.
It’s the character of the players that, as an outsider, it looks like Sunderland need to get right this summer. People who can’t believe their luck to be playing for such a big club. On a rainy night in Gillingham, that drive and determination is what helps you over the line when things aren’t quite clicking.
RF: Who’s in good form for Norwich right now? Anyone in particular we need to be keeping an eye on?
TP: If you don’t know about our Championship team of the year star James Maddison, you’ve not being paying attention. But away from enjoying him nutmegging and trolling his way around your midfielders, special mention for our left back (or left wing back if it’s a 5), Jamal Lewis.
Lewis made his first senior appearance in December and after just turning 20, looks like the next prospect to build up a big transfer fee after another season or so development. He’s super quick, keen to get forward (he scored in the cup at Stamford Bridge), but also shows real maturity and poise for such a young defender.
RF: And what about our lot? Which of our players do you think can cause some problems?
TP: Looking through the squad it’s not a team that should be seven points from safety if games were played on paper.
I see George Honeyman has a couple of goals recently and he seems a tidy player, but McGeady stole the show in the Carrow Road defeat at the start of the season and had a hand in all three goals. We have changed system since those early season encounters and don’t allow the open field romps through the middle that he enjoyed that day.
RF: What do you expect Norwich’s approach to be and what do you think the starting line up will be?
TP: We’re playing for nothing, and since that’s been clear we’ve been playing a more relaxed style, meaning getting forward a bit faster, but also easier to open up which give Sunderland an opportunity if they’re bang up for it.
Having said that, Villa were chasing promotion and couldn’t break us down much on Saturday. Maddison will perhaps overplay like he did at times against Villa, as he’s intent on adding to an already impressive highlights reel. One thing to expect is Murphy having an awful game, as he was MoTM on Saturday with two assists and an incredible 30 yarder. If he could string two game together like that, he would be in the Premier League right now like his twin brother.
Starting XI: Gunn, Pinto, Hanley, Zimmerman, Lewis, Leitner, Reed, Vrancic, Murphy, Maddison, Srbeny.
RF: Finally, can we have a score prediction please?
TP: 0 - 2. Sorry, playing for nothing in front of a tense support tends to be easier than playing for safety!