THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Canaries feels safe in the league

icon cups11 December ~ Tonight, Paul Lambert returns to Carrow Road for the first time since he dumped us for Aston Villa, who lured with him flashy promises of good times he felt we couldn't match. It hasn't yet worked out for him but we'll not be holding any grudges. He will always be remembered and respected for turning Norwich City around, despite the slightly tawdry way he walked out on us.

Still, we don't care any more. We've got Chris Hughton, who's given us back our self respect and knows how to show us a good time – albeit with defensive solidity – beating Arsenal and Manchester United, getting us past 20 points before Christmas and even making Alans Hansen and Shearer cast admiring glances our way.

We're ten games unbeaten in all competitions, having won five home games on the trot. We beat Spurs here in the last round and it's been 20 years since we last reached a semi-final. In fact it feels like its been 20 years since any of our managers took a cup game seriously and we're desperate for a run.

We'll never be able to compete with the top four but if our recent 4-3 win at fellow mid-tablers Swansea is anything to go by, there is plenty of entertainment to be had. We like the kudos of the top table but who needs the pressure of the Champions League? Give us security and cup fun any day.

After a dodgy start to our second season back in the Premier League – not helped by thumping from Fulham, Liverpool and Chelsea – we now feel like a secure, mid-table side whose main hopes for a season rest on beating the odd "big" side and progressing into the latter stages of the cup competitions.

We've won the League Cup twice in our history and we'd love to make it a hat-trick. Chris Hughton has pedigree, part of the double FA Cup-winning Spurs side in the 1980s when English cup competitions were the envy of the world. It makes for a good mix. Villa will be no pushovers but the way Norwich approach the game will be a measure of how far we've progressed in relatively little time. A semi-final is not out of the question. Those of us in the stands believe – we just hope our players on the pitch feel the same. Paul Buller

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