It’s Leeds with no lead for Norwich City on Thursday night but the Canaries are still standing. 

It was only the third play-off semi-final that Carrow Road has ever seen but no-one was able to conjure up a magic moment. There was no towering header like Malky Mackay against Wolves in 2002 and no blistering finish at The Barclay to match Nathan Redmond’s against Ipswich nine years ago.

The aspect of Sunday’s goalless draw with Leeds United that will stay with me is the atmosphere the Canary crowd created. I’m told their songs could be heard from our back garden, a good three or four miles from the ground. The last time that happened (as far as I know) was when Elton John performed at the stadium back in 2022.

That story has become the one I tell people about the time I heard Elton John sing live in my back garden. Which just goes to show that whatever situation you find yourself in, it can be spun into a more positive one if you learn to look at it from the right angle.

Conventional wisdom would have it that a blank in the first leg on Sunday means Norwich City have missed their best chance to progress to Wembley. It’s going to be much more difficult to get the job done at Elland Road. It’s hard to argue with that sentiment but there is no point going to Yorkshire with that attitude. The only white flags must be the ones being waved by the home supporters.

So, with the City songs still ringing in my ears, is it possible to make a case for the Canaries taking the scenic road to Wembley via a win at Leeds?

The goalless draw has made Norwich City’s task on Thursday more straight forward. It’s a one-off game and they have to find a way to win it. While it would have been preferable to have a 2-0 advantage to take up north on Thursday it wouldn’t have guaranteed a thing.

I’ve been at most of City’s away games this season and have learned not to trust them to hold on.

They ended the regular Championship season with the 19th best away record. It could have been so much better if they had been able to protect a lead.

Across their travels this season David Wagner’s team spurned 23 points from winning positions on the road.

The temptation if they had kicked off at Elland Road with a any sort of advantage would have been to park the bus.

As understandable as that approach might be it has tended to invite trouble when they have tried it this season.

An attempt to protect a 1-0 lead at Leicester on Easter Monday ended with Norwich unable to get out of their own half and they lost 3-1. The following week they were 2-0 up at Sheffield Wednesday with 12 minutes to go and ended up hanging on for a 2-2 draw.

City have looked at their best this season when their attackers have been to the fore. Gabriel Sara, Borja Sainz, Jonathan Rowe and, assuming he’s fit, Josh Sargent are players that need to be involved in the game. That’s not to say they should return to the gung-ho approach that became a feature of the opening weeks of the season when teams were picking them off with ease. There is a balance and if they can keep it tight there is enough attacking talent, at least in the starting line-up, for David Wagner to rely on.

There have been slim pickings for City supporters in recent years. Relegation and then winning promotion under lockdown were followed by another meek Premier League demotion and a mid-table Championship campaign.

The Pink Un: City fans created a great atmosphere in the home leg on Sunday

Sunday’s atmosphere suggested a fan base that was relishing the prospect of being able to throw their collective weight behind their team once more.

Yes, Leeds will be favourites, but let’s not give up just yet.


Strong foundations?

In the build-up to Sunday’s game it was a pleasure to catch-up with the man who was Norwich City manager when I did my first few commentaries, the great Nigel Worthington.

We enjoyed reminiscing about ‘Worthy’ leading a City team which had finished sixth into the play-off final with a tense victory over a much fancied Wolves team over two legs in 2002.

The Canaries would go on to lose to Birmingham City on penalties at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Despite the heartbreak it felt like a watershed moment in Norwich City history.

At that point the club had been in the doldrums since Jeremy Goss, Bayern Munich and all that a decade earlier.

I still remember the city rediscovering its sense of pride in its football team. It was the first time the club had achieved anything of note since I’d hit adulthood and I’d never seen Norwich City shirts being worn in the pubs and clubs in such great number before.

The Canaries’ average attendance in that 2001/02 season was around 18,500. By the end of Worthington’s final full season in 2005/06 it had risen to almost 25,000. The new, improved South Stand helped but belief in the club had returned. The next 22 years have brought numerous ups and downs but the seats have nearly always been full.

That class of ’02 really felt like the start of something for Norwich City. The challenge now is for the club to build on its latest play-off push and make sure it at least provides foundations for the next wave of memories to be good ones.