Preview: Norwich v Watford

Apparently Norwich aren’t quite relegated yet. Could they… surely not? Jon Rogers asked Watford fan and writer Lionel Birnie to give us a bit of hope, and tell us how Norwich can beat the Hornets

Jon: So, Watford are safe. Norwich are CEO-less and down. I thought us yellow teams were meant to stick together? What's gone right for you guys?

Lionel: On the mean streets of the Premier League there can be no such thing as solidarity between us relative minnows. You may have noticed that our shirt this year has a lot of horizontal black stripes on the front. I can only assume this is to make it less bright and therefore less visible to predators. This has, unfortunately, made the Canaries that bit more vulnerable!

Anyway, we'll be wearing black at Carrow Road on Wednesday, which may be suitably solemn... Sorry!

What's gone right? Well, we reached 40 points by beating teams that are worse than us, and the occasional team that's better than us but on an off-day. I've really enjoyed it – even the tedious games where we showed no adventure – because this is the first time in my adult life that we've stayed up in the top flight. Accuse me of lacking ambition if you like but back in August I'd have taken that gladly.

Jon: That is not lacking ambition. People underestimate the pure unbridled joy of 17th. It’s a magical number. It’s where most people learn to drive, lose their virginity, go to college... ALL HAIL THE SEVENTEEN.

Thanks for wearing black too. We've got the funeral march on a button waiting to go, you’ll fit in just lovely.

So, we all know your heroes, but who was the unsung hero this season? The one who won’t get bought by Liverpool this summer, but will be first on the team sheet next year?

Lionel: The last few weeks have been a bit gruelling. Since we lost to Palace in the FA Cup semi-final, the mood has changed and a small but quite noisily persistent number of fans have said the coach, Quique Sánchez Flores, should go. Their argument is that we are inflexible, unadventurous, one-dimensional. The old chestnut that we don't have a Plan B gets raised – although no one ever seems to know what this means. It's the pundit’s equivalent of waving the arms about vaguely and urging for a "big effort last five".

I'm amazed how quickly some fans have decided that trying not to get smashed week-in week-out is not enough. We laboured to beat Villa with two very late goals from Troy Deeney. For me, that was one of the moments of the season – an undeserved win right at the death, the sort of thing that's been handed to us plenty of times. For others it was unacceptable that we struggled to beat the division's worst team.

I try not to get too attached to the players these days because there's a revolving door at the training ground and they'll all move on – some in the summer, others a bit later. Étienne Capoue was excellent until Christmas. Craig Cathcart has been very consistent. But Heurelho Gomes is outstanding. Spurs fans will tell you he's the worst goalkeeper to have ever lived (probably) but it's not for no reason he has the word "hero" hidden in his first name. Two penalty saves against WBA on the day we achieved safety is just the highlight.

Jon: Are you sure goalkeepers are allowed to save penalties? Not sure I’ve seen that at Norwich before. Think you're mistaken there, Sir.

Flores going would be bonkers – and it raises the increasing argument about expectation levels of fans once they get a taste of the sugar.

So Norwich are utter plop currently. We haven't scored in four games, which just happened to be the most important four games of our season. Can you... you know... give us a goal? Just one. We'll be so happy. Think of it as care in the community.

What are you expecting on Wednesday?

Lionel: Well, to be fair, a few days after the WBA game we gave away another two penalties at West Ham and Mark Noble scored both past Gomes. Four penalties conceded in a week must be some kind of record – we've either given away our full allocation for the season or you can expect us to hack all your players down in the box so you can take your chances from 18 yards!

This game means more to you than us and, for the past month, we've struggled to look bothered.

You've got to keep believing until it's mathematically impossible to stay up. If you win and Sunderland lose to Everton you can take it to the final day.

I'm expecting a real atmosphere at Carrow Road. If you attack us we may not have enough fight in us to resist.

It's just a shame I can't be there. I've some happy memories of Norwich away.

Jon: Our CEO quit on Monday.  The one who dragged us form League One to debt free to the Premier League. The atmosphere will be very odd.

I want us to go at you to take it to the last game, but we've got our two best defenders out, and our two best midfielders – so it really is do or die.

And we're gonna die.

So, how do we beat you? What’s your weakness? I'll email it straight to the manager, so no porkie pies.

Lionel: We're a pretty solid side but we play at quite a calm pace. The game plan seems to be to keep it at 0-0 for the first half, thus reducing a game of football to 45 meaningful minutes. Then we try to score and defend our lead. But if the opposition score first, we're generally done for (Aston Villa aside).

Our weakness is that we play like a wind-up toy that gradually runs out of steam. To stop us scoring, simply mark Odion Ighalo tightly. He's a shadow of the man he was before Christmas. Don't let Deeney bully your defenders, even if they are stand-ins they will have to stand up to him. Force our wide players to turn back or cut inside and you can crowd them out. They're not really wingers anyway. Pressurise the central midfielders. They're pretty good on the ball and get themselves out of tight spots but they do make mistakes. Then flood the box, put in crosses that will tempt Gomes to punch (which is most of them) and hope the ball bounces the right way.

Jon: Yeah. Sounds piss-easy now.  4-0 Norwich. So, we need a prediction and who Norwich will get on the first day of the season? Why not?

Well done to Watford by the way. And remember, if you don't want your manager… Ahem.

Lionel: A 1-1 draw. It may not be terribly pretty at times.

On the first day of next season Norwich will have Burton Albion away. Sorry!

I think Quique will do well wherever he goes. For us, there's no guarantee the next guy will be better.

Lionel Birnie is a freelance journalist and publisher, and edits Tales From The Vicarage. He tweets at @lionelbirnie