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Better Know A Canary: Profiling Aston Villa's Next Opponents

NORWICH, ENGLAND - MAY 07:  Grant Holt of Norwich City looks on during the npower Championship match between Norwich City and Coventry City at Carrow Road on May 7, 2011 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
NORWICH, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Grant Holt of Norwich City looks on during the npower Championship match between Norwich City and Coventry City at Carrow Road on May 7, 2011 in Norwich, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
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One summer morning in Norwich, three men sat at the Criterion Café and decided to form a football club. One hundred and nine years later, the café is a budget menswear store and their football club is currently sitting in eighth place in the Premier League. This is the sort of delightfully quaint story that litters the history books of English football, one of the many reasons why the culture and history of football is so enticing, and a healthy reminder that you really should be doing more than just stealing wi-fi and ogling that barista, jerk.  The Canaries are probably best known by people who have a cursory knowledge of football as "Stephen Fry's favourite football club." As it turns out, the beloved entertainer recently took a position on the club's board of directors, and is an avid (if somewhat somnabulant) supporter of the club.

Stephen Fry is an effective representative for a club that, like him, is genuinely likeable. Norwich have a somewhat undistinguished history, marked primarily by a tendency to yo-yo between the top two divisions of English football. Curiously, there was a brief period where they were managed by Martin O'Neill, but old MON decided he didn't like the cut of the chairman's gib and was soon on his way back out the door. 

Like Blackpool before them, the Canaries wear colours that could be considered garish, but are surprisingly aesthetically pleasing (with some notable exceptions.) They are currently owned by celebrity chef/hilarious drunk Delia Smith, who (as seen in the video above) will not hesitate to chasten her own supporters. The expression is overused, but Norwich City pretty much ticks all of the boxes for "everyone's second club" status. But that gentility belies a team that is better than a lot of promoted sides we've seen over the last few years.

Season at a Glance: Norwich currently sit in eighth place, one point up on Aston Villa and three behind Arsenal. However, their schedule has been considerably more difficult than Villa's thus far, having already faced Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool away from home. The Canaries only took one point from those three fixtures, but they surely deserved better, particularly at Old Trafford, where it could be argued they had deserved all three points but suffered from poor finishing and that peculiar sort of luck that never goes your way at Old Trafford. 

Squad: Unquestionably, Norwich's talisman is their captain Grant Holt. The swaggering centre forward, who seems to have been transported in from a bygone era, Holt, who got his start toiling in the Conference for a variety of non-league clubs, is fantastic in the air and won't hesitate to lay a bruising on the opposing defence in a manner that would charitably be described as Heskey-esque. Norwich has a decent array of forwards at their disposal including Steve Morison and Canadian International(!!!!) Simeon Jackson, who contributed a number of late-game goals at the tail end of Norwich's promotion run last season. However, the club's top scorer, Anthony Pilkington tends to cut in from the left wing (Paging Alan Hutton...Alan Hutton, please pick up the white courtesy phone...) John Ruddy, Norwich's goalkeeper, did this to Luis Suarez.

Manager: For all of that, Paul Lambert is Norwich's Most Interesting Man. The Scotsman, who curiously never played in England, made his name as a midfielder for Celtic and won the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund. Yes, that one. In Germany. Generally considered as one of the younger guard of the Glasgow School of Football Management, Lambert places a priority on putting out organized sides that don't know when they're beaten. Lambert was hired directly from Colchester United, after his club had smashed Norwich 7-1 on the opening day of the 2009/10 season. He has subsequently led the club through two successive promotions, and seems to be the logical inheritor of David Moyes' title of "Most Lusted-After Managerial Prospect." Norwich's potential second club status is tempered by supporters of more established Premier League also-rans desperately hoping that the Canaries get relegated so that Lambert becomes more readily poachable.