The irony of Norwich City travelling to face Alex Neil at this juncture of their Championship promotion push will be lost on no Canaries fan.

Six years and eight days on from the Scot's Carrow Road departure, the position City find themselves in is remarkably similar to the one that cost him his job.

Of course, the pressures surrounding the club are not so homogenous. David Wagner's status as a Dean Smith replacement means he sees far less of the frustration that Neil was subject to in his final months as Norwich chief.

Wagner has experience of the squad issues his counterpart faced, however, with an ageing core, lack of hunger and inconsistent quality all criticisms levelled at his players this season.

The make-up of the current City regime means sporting director Stuart Webber takes the brunt of that blame, but it's hard to escape the feeling that things are again sliding towards undefined mediocrity - an unacceptable fate for Norwich at this level.

Fans have spent the majority of the season straddling hopes of a promotion push and a serious overhaul of their players, and such an ill-defined future feels reminiscent of those times under Neil.

Even Webber's words of the difficult squad he inherited ring true - perhaps to a lesser extent - about the current situation, an undoubted disappointment after the work that's gone in since his appointment.

The Pink Un: Current head coach David Wagner has struggled to find consistency since his arrival.Current head coach David Wagner has struggled to find consistency since his arrival. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

Much of this may be reactionary - the play-off hopes have lurched from guaranteed success to definite failure from week to week, as epitomised by a horrendously frustrating few days.

But that's the Championship, and its trademark tendency for rapid meander is a quality Neil also had to deal with. Whether an impending rebuild is needed is not Wagner's short-term concern, and he'll be searching for the answers needed to address their recent slump in form.

Prior to that single point from six, there had been wonders over whether the right Norwich City group had been likened to this one.

The Pink Un: A frustrated Alex Neil, during his final game as Norwich City boss, at Bristol City in March, 2017A frustrated Alex Neil, during his final game as Norwich City boss, at Bristol City in March, 2017 (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

Perhaps, after months of suggesting that Smith's side could capitulate as the 2017 one did, was it more accurate to link this team to the glorious Wembley year of 2015?

They had, after all, seen a good start fade before being galvanised by an energetic new coach. With the play-offs the only realistic route to promotion at this stage, that optimistic comparison was understandable.

A charge the like of which Neil produced is hard to come by when this unreliable, however, and the comparisons look likely to stop there.

In fact, a good result for the Potters today likely consigns their visitors to the 2017 bracket they're looking to avoid. The bad news on that front is that Stoke have just started to hit their stride under Neil's stewardship.

They held high-flying Middlesbrough in midweek and beat Blackburn Rovers 3-2 last weekend, but it's the 5-1 demolition of the Black Cats that will worry City fans most.

Such a ruthless dismantling of one of Neil's former sides may not go as far as foreshadowing a nightmare for Wagner's men, but it certainly highlights how clinical their opposition can be.

That quality, combined with the Scot's trademark drive, is what propels them into this clash with a confidence that contrasts City's own fragile holding.

It's what makes this an anxious trip for the yellow and green faithful, and what has Stoke fans dreaming of the fresh start Norwich have needed potentially for years now.

However, the focus remains on the present as an injury-hit side take on a daunting away task.

Wagner's Norwich City ride may already have been too bumpy to truly replicate Neil's first season in Norfolk, but he'd be happy just to see the same ending this term.

Salvaging that from the jaws of a 2016-17 repeat would be an extraordinary feat, and it may have to start with a return to form in the Potteries.