Jon Punt can't shake the image of Darren Carter wheeling away celebrating a promotion winning penalty at Norwich's expense, even 15 years later. Blues fan and writer Gabriel Sutton can't really remember it, he's THAT young. They both preview this weekend's fixture....
Jon: Norwich vs Brum. As much as I try, I can't shake the 2002 visions in my head of Daryl Sutch missing his penalty, then Darren Carter slotting his home with ease to take you back to the Premier League. I can't forgive you lot, and it's been 15 years or so. I make no apologies for this, it’s just my right as a football fan to dislike your lot forever. I'm guessing your fans feel none of this animosity, but how are the mighty Norwich viewed in the second city?
Gabriel: That play-off final was a couple of years before my time, but I can remember my late father being absolutely over the moon after we finally won promotion, following so many failed play-off attempts. A lot of Blues fans were pleased for Norwich when they got promoted via the play-offs in 2015, mainly because of Wembley goalscorers Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond, who are both fondly remembered here. I think we have some respect for Norwich - in modern football you get a lot of clubs that make kneejerk decisions, whereas you stand out as one that goes about things with a little more patience and loyalty.
Jon: Ah, Cameron Jerome. Much maligned by some sections of the Norwich support, but perfectly able in this league and played regularly will get at least 15 goals a season. CamJam really has divided supporter opinion since his time at the club, much like our fanbase is divided right now following a few less than favourable results. How’s the mood at St Andrews?
Gabriel: I'm very much in the CamJam fan club. He's not the most prolific striker, but did our team become better as a result of having him on the pitch? Absolutely. His pace, work rate, movement and hold-up play was crucial to us in the Championship.
Right now, I think the mood has been lifted more by matters off the pitch than matters on it. We've had a bad start to the league season, our only win coming against Bristol City and we were lucky not to be 3 down to them at half-time. However, we've done some promising transfer business with Jota joining from Brentford, one of 10 additions we made last month.
Ideally we'd have done our business earlier but it became clear last season that our squad needed surgery - at least we've brought some quality in.
Jon: The additions of Jota and Carl Jenkinson certainly point to the quality improving, given both know the English game extremely well and have pedigree. I’ll be honest, I thought you were just going to sign Robbie Keane, Peter Crouch and Niko Kranjcar. I was slightly confused at Clayton Donaldson being let go late in the window though, decent backup at this level at the very least and a handful whenever I’ve seen him. Your additions do suggest ‘Arry is moulding the squad based on experience, and it might take an extreme amount of money to do it. In many ways that’s the polar opposite to Norwich’s activity this summer. Does Redknapp’s cartoon-esque, SSN ready, wheeling and dealing worry you?
Gabriel: Although I couldn't argue with the calibre of player Redknapp has helped attract, I haven't yet warmed to him. There's a sense that he's only taken the job because he was promised investment and while that might be true for a lot of managers, I'd prefer him to be more diplomatic about it. One of the things I liked about Gary Rowett was that you felt like he really valued the job and believed in his players.
Where I would defend Redknapp is the mould of player brought in. I feared we'd bring in a lot of old players he's worked with before, but we've actually got a good mix of ages. The main thing our new players bring is pace, something we've lacked for a while, even going back to the tail-end of the Rowett era.
A word on the Don - I have some great memories of his time here but I don't feel he's as fit as he was a couple of years ago. Wish him all the best at Sheffield United.
Jon: Pretty much every red top in the country would love to see Birmingham promoted this season, if only to have Redknapp vacantly leaning out of his Range Rover’s window like a drugged up hooker in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Can you see him being able to bond the squad together to mount any kind of challenge, especially given your sketchy start?
Gabriel: There's an image! I don't see us challenging for promotion this season. We were so bad in the second half of last season - and our form this season proves that the squad was largely to blame, even though Zola got most of the stick.
I don't believe you can be as bad as we have been, make a few signings while the league season is going on and suddenly be transformed. It's a similar situation to yourselves - we've made lots of changes that needed to happen, but it might not come together instantly. I'd be happy with top half. Out of interest, has the first five games scaled down expectations at Carrow Road?
Jon: Well, expectation levels were correctly tempered but optimistic at the start of the campaign, given the decent job the Carrow Road PR machine had done in pleading for patience. Thing is, the P word has become a bit frustrating for some already, capitulations at Villa and Millwall have sections of the support very worried. Grant Hanley’s experience can only help with our defensive woes so at least we’re addressing the issues that identified themselves. We are leaky at the back though, who can you see starting on Saturday that Daniel Farke should be most concerned about?
Gabriel: I think you've got some good technicians in the team who could cause problems if given time on the ball, but am not sure you're yet comfortable with physical, high-tempo matches. Looking at the goals you conceded at Millwall, I think I'd want to gamble if I were Redknapp. I'd think about playing Lukasz Jutkiewicz - a Morison-esque target man - up top with Jota and Isaac Vassell playing just off him.
Jon: Good job you’re not managing the Blues then, I think you’ve got our number. That being said, Grant Hanley is sure to start and will hopefully cut out the danger at source, leading to a 2-1 victory for the (better) City. Your predictions for Saturday?
Gabriel: I'll go with a 2-2 draw. Jota and Vassell to score for us, Oliveira to get a brace for you. All the best for the season.
Gabriel Sutton runs the successful site www.thefootballab.co.uk , which provides analysis and coverage of the top four leagues in English football. You can follow him on Twitter @_FootbalLab
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