I’m always wary of teams who play in yellow. Its nothing personal, it stems from the late Conference and early Football League return seasons, when we regularly faced teams who wore that shade. The choice colour of Oxford, Mansfield, Torquay and seemingly every Conference away kit produced meant that every other week opposition corner kicks were heralded with a bellow, as painful as it was monotonous, of “Yeeelloooooowwwwwsss”. After a while that kind of thing becomes irritating, like the beep from a dying smoke alarm battery, and so to this day the prospect of playing a team in yellow brings an involuntary cringe.
If any club can haul me away from that reactionary instinct then its Norwich City, as in all honesty, I kind of like them. It probably helps that I know a number of Norwich fans, as the University in Lincoln seemed to be the destination of choice for Norfolk’s undergraduate population. Also they were big when I first got into football, I was ten when they finished third in the inaugural Premier League, and so spent a large swathe of Junior School play-times trying to recreate Jeremy Goss volleys and remember running home from school to see their UEFA Cup match with Internazionale. Other cases for the defence include their vast local support, the creme de la creme of celebrity fans in the form Stephen Fry, and the very friendly and attractive waitress who served us when in a Mexican restaurant not far from Carrow Road when Rovers last visited. In conclusion they’re all right by me.
It would seem that my acceptance of Norwich is reciprocated by City manager Paul Lambert’s appreciation of our own club. Ina piece on the Norwich City official website this week Lambert was quoted as saying of Rovers; “If people think they’re a small club then I’m sorry I’ll disagree, I think they’re a good side and they’ve done great. They’ve been up there for a good few years now and Sean has done really well with them.” No The Likes Of Doncaster remarks to be found here; tally another mark on the positives column. In fact the lead up to this game has been something of a cross-website love in with Sean O’Driscoll equally full of praise for Norwich on the Rovers official website, concluding his pre-match whispers with “Norwich are as good as the best sides in this division.” Forget the football, lets just have a lovely big cuddle.
We’re now five games into the Championship season, or just over a ninth of the way through for the fractionally minded of you, and Rovers have only lost once. We’re tenth too. And without putting in the kind of complete ninety-minute performance the team is capable of. So reasons to be cheerful all round… unless you happen to read a Rovers messageboard. In which case your world will soon cloud over with doom-laden talk of falling attendances, a terrible defence and a lack of available transfer funds. Woe is us. It really isn’t all bad, and as one voice of reason did point out on the messageboards this week. The late points secured at Watford on Saturday and at home to Bristol City last month are the sorts of games which would have ended in defeat in recent seasons.
Like Rovers Norwich too fought back to secure points on Saturday, as they scored two goals in the final twenty minutes to come from behind and beat Barnsley 2-1 at Carrow Road. That victory, City’s third from their opening five games lifted them up to seventh (briefly sixth as Burnley left it late against Preston) in the Championship, a position which still means they’re the worst ranked of the three promoted sides at this point. Of those three, despite the impressive start from Millwall and the ‘rightful place’ guff talked of Leeds, its Norwich who look the most equipped to continue their start throughout the season, and it will take a good Rovers performance tonight to inflict a first defeat on the Canaries since the day before the opening day of the season.
Rovers remain without their trio of relatively long-term absentees; full-back James Chambers and centre-back Wayne Thomas are both-ruled out with knee injuries, whilst James Hayter’s hamstring keeps him sidelined. According to the BBC website “Rovers midfielder Byron Webster is still struggling with a foot injury and is likely to miss out again,” which may give centre-half Webster ideas above his station. The statement may be wrong on all counts too, as Webster was also spotted warming up with the squad before Saturday’s match.
Norwich City should welcome back goalkeeper John Ruddy for tonight’s fixture after he missed Saturday’s game against Barnsley with a leg injury. Impressive midfielder Andrew Surman also missed Saturday’s win over our cloth-capped neighbours though he is not expected to return to fitness in time for tonight’s game. The BBC website suggests that Zak Whitbread and Steven Smith are both likely to be absent owing to calf and ankle problems respectively.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-2-2-1-1) Neil Sullivan; James O’Connor, Shelton Martis, Sam Hird, George Friend; Brian Stock, John Oster; Simon Gillett, Martin Woods; Jamie Coppinger; Billy Sharp
subs: Gary Woods, Adam Lockwood, Mustapha Dumbaya, Mark Wilson, Ryan Mason, Dean Shiels, Steve Brooker
Travelling to the Game
Norwich City supporters have only had one option to visit the Keepmoat Stadium already, so Viva Rovers guide to the (relatively) new ground may be of assistance to visiting fans; you’ll find it by clicking on the ‘Keepmoat Stadium’ tab at the top of the site. On that page you’ll find directions to the ground for those travelling by car, or by public transport as well as suggested local pubs and where to pick up tickets. We’re comprehensive like that.
Sadly, as is the way with midweek home games Viva Rovers infamous live match Twitter Feed will not be active though we will be tweeting second-hand information as and when we get it. Our Norwich City supporting friends from the Little Norwich blog should be there though so if you are a Twitter user you may be able to keep up on proceedings by following @littlenorwich.
Live commentary is available for this game via the official club website’s Rovers Player service. You do have to subscribe and pay for the service, but the commentary from the hardest working press officer in show business, Chris Mortley, should be worth the expenditure. If you begrudge paying and you’re near a computer then try the ‘live text’ service via the BBC website. Its light on descriptive detail, but it is heavy on facts and you will at least know with which foot every deadball is struck. And lastly, if you’re near enough to East Anglia to pick up Norfolk local radio you’ll no doubt be able to listen live too.