In the top flight, it is a rare thing for footballers to suddenly get a week off from action. Norwich City’s surprising FA Cup loss to non-league Luton Town last month meant the Canaries didn’t have any scheduled action this weekend. Next up is a visit from Everton on Saturday.
This has allowed Chris Hughton and his coaching staff to work on dedicated training regimes, and also hold one-to-one sessions with players who haven’t been able to match the standards that were set last term.
With just four points from a possible 27 collected – the worst form in the bottom seven of the current Premier League table – the nerves might well be getting more frayed with fans of the club.
The ambitious talk of launching a surprise European challenge in December has ended with disappointing home defeats in both domestic cup competitions, and a run of form in the league which has relegation written all over it.
It is a good chance though to better integrate new signings Kei Kamara and Luciano Becchio into the first team, allow partnerships to develop and enable players to build confidence away from the pressures of playing competitive football.
A number of players will also take time to mingle with the besotted supporters of a club that is one of the best at not only giving back to the fans, but also is one of the best in the league for controlled ownership. This comes at a time where power, money and foreign investment seem to hold a bigger prominence on the English and continental game.
This week, Alex Tettey, Ryan Bennett and Anthony Pilkington will be among the players signing autographs and speaking to fans, while Robert Snodgrass and Russell Martin visit the Yellows American Bar and Grill at Carrow Road to judge a children’s cookie competition.
It is great to see clubs push their players to do these kinds of commitments, and fits perfectly for many kids with half-term commencing next week for the majority of schools across the UK.
The players can get a real boost from these events too. After all, it is the fans that pay the ticket prices to come and watch them and ultimately, help pay the high wage packages the modern footballer enjoys.
The rest from competitive action could be a real tonic for Norwich. For all the glamour and prestige a magnificent cup run would have given them, plus the TV exposure and tournament prize money, the rest could invigorate the players for another surge towards the magical 40 point barrier.
History would suggest that 40 points will keep you in the Premier League. Only one side – West Ham United in 2002-03 – have been relegated have amassed more points. With 29 points already collected, four wins should be enough to keep the club in the Premier League, but they would want to start quickly on a decent run, especially with away trips still to come at Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Norwich