Dean Smith hopes a decent FA Cup run can help reignite Norwich’s bid for Premier League survival.
The Canaries – bottom of the table – head to League One Charlton on Sunday, back in action for the first time since playing Crystal Palace on December 28 after a Covid-19 outbreak and mounting injuries saw the New Year’s Day trip to Leicester postponed.
Norwich’s 3-0 loss at Palace was a fifth straight league defeat, yet they remain just three points from safety – albeit having played a game more than Watford and with a far worse goal difference.
Smith feels having the likes of forward Milot Rashica, captain Grant Hanley, goalkeeper Tim Krul, who contracted coronavirus for the second time over Christmas, and veteran frontman Teemu Pukki all in the mix again can help provide a much-needed lift heading into 2022 – as well as having a cup run.
“Hopefully the players that are coming back now can reignite our season and start the year well,” said Smith, who took over from Daniel Farke at the end of November.
“Going on a cup run can give any team a boost. I like the FA Cup. Why not go all out to try and achieve something?”
Smith added: “We have been forced to play three games with a minimal squad, but it is nice to have players back and build that confidence that we had when we first came in.
“It is a real balancing act now because we have got a lot of players who haven’t played since early December that need minutes and then players who played at Crystal Palace who haven’t had many minutes before.
“We have got plenty of options, with the games with West Ham and Everton in seven days as well, and will do what is best for the team.
“We believe we have got enough quality within the squad to go and win this game, but we have to be respectful and make sure we are 100 per cent in terms of what we do on the game.”
After experiencing a new-manager bounce when Smith replaced Farke in the dugout, it proved a grim end to 2021 for the Canaries, who failed to score a goal during December.
Former Aston Villa boss Smith, though, feels their downturn in fortunes need to be put in perspective against a backdrop of a decimated squad.
“It has been a real tough Christmas period,” the Norwich head coach said.
“We played really well against Manchester United (in the 1-0 defeat at Carrow Road) and then we have had three poor results.
“Sometimes I have to go and reflect on it and two words came to mind – perspective and context.
“I looked at Liverpool last year and they lost Alisson, (Virgil) Van Dijk and (Joe) Gomez and slipped out of the top four for a period.
“We have had 10 players out. Seven or eight of them are typical starters for us – and have been since they have been at the club.
“So, for me it has been disappointing, but sometimes you have to put it into perspective.”
Smith added: “Three games ago we were walking off the pitch against Manchester United and after I was bumping into fans saying ‘that was as well as I have seen Norwich play for 10 years’.
“Unfortunately since then the team has been decimated, so hopefully with the players that are coming back now we can can start the year well.”