Thursday, February 13, 2014
No prizes for guessing Norwich City’s prime problem – but what is the answer? MICHAEL BAILEY spoke to former City and England striker Dean Ashton on where the Canaries’ goalscoring cure can come from…
There are a few choice sentiments placed on signs around Carrow Road and Colney Training Centre aimed at inspiring those who read them on a daily basis – and at the moment, it feels like at least one of them reads: “The hardest thing in football is scoring a goal”.
For too many games now, Chris Hughton’s Canaries have looked ravaged by the utopian prospect that taking a chance here or there could actually make life a little easier for everyone of a yellow disposition.
At Cardiff, if was a glut of half-decent opportunities. Manchester City’s visit was more akin to nailing a late sucker punch. And at West Ham on Tuesday night, it was one gilt-edged chance after another – something no Premier League side can afford to turn down, and certainly not on seven occasions.
Creating the chances had been a problem in the past – but not at present. Either way, we’re looking at a genuine football riddle. Such as how Gary Hooper goes from looking so clinical as recently as mid-December, to so profligate in east London.
Former Norwich, West Ham and England striker Dean Ashton knows what it’s like to be flying with confidence – and shackled by drought. And he knows the answer is as elusive as a Canaries’ winner.
“It does come down to confidence a lot of the time, especially for a centre-forward,” said Ashton.
“You saw with Gary before – he got one goal, and then two, three, four followed. And then you suddenly go one or two games without scoring and the tension sets in.
“To be honest, there’s no miracle cure. You have to get out on the training pitch – I’m sure they are – and just keep practising your finishing. You’ve got to believe the next chance that comes along is the one that sticks in the back of the net, and away you go again. It’s just a case of persevering, keep working as hard as you can as a team and having that belief it will come.”
So does that mean additional help like attacking coaches can help? It’s something a proportion of City fans would like looked at. But no coach can score a goal for a player; players with proven goalscoring records.
“Managers, coaches, psychologists – as strikers we’ve all had these things thrown at us,” said Ashton.
“But again, it comes down to the player. You are the one out there. It’s you there when you go through on goal. It’s about making the right decisions; that’s down to the individual.
“The players have got to take a bit of responsibility for that. Nobody will be more disappointed than the players themselves, because they rely on goals and that’s what they are judged on. They will be feeling disappointed with their ratios so far.”
Ashton added: “People have scouted these players. Gary Hooper had scored a lot of goals and had a lot of clubs after him. Norwich weren’t the only ones. And Ricky van Wolfswinkel is a Dutch international, so that’s good pedigree.
“Sometimes it takes players a while to settle, especially coming into a completely new league. But Norwich haven’t got that time now. They’re in a relegation battle and desperate for goals.
“Somebody has got to step forward and score the goals, and you just wonder who that’s going to be. It’s difficult for Chris Hughton, because he can’t get out there and score the goals for them.”
A lack of points and a lack of goals have been Norwich’s issues all season – and it doesn’t take a statistician to work out where that formula will take them come May.
Ashton was at the Boleyn Ground on Tuesday and much like the belief that cured his own occasional scoring droughts, he has faith City will sort themselves out – assuming they have similar self-belief.
“I wish I could just say do that and this, and then you’ll score – but it’s just not like that,” added Ashton. “It’s so reactive, football. You never quite know what sort of chance it’s going to be that comes along.
“It’s frustrating at the moment and obviously the longer it goes on, the more danger Norwich will be in.
“If you’re not creating chances at all, then that’s a real worry. But for Chris, he has to take the positives from his team playing better and creating the better chances. I’m not saying that’s all he can do – but then it’s down to the individuals when they get through on goal. It’s down to them to be clinical, to really believe they are going to score, and then do it.
“I do think they will stay up because there are three worse teams than Norwich, without a doubt. But all that will matter at the end of the season is the points and if Norwich don’t score the goals, then they will be in trouble.”