Life on the Norwich City roller coaster is anything but boring
06:30 09 April 2014
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There’s never a dull moment at Carrow Road is there? I saw Norwich City described over the weekend as the Premier League’s least entertaining team.
Let’s hope Neil is not all talk!
So what of Chris Hughton’s replacement? Neil Adams is someone I know well, having clocked up thousands of motorway miles, hundreds of radio commentaries and dozens of in-car quizzes with over the years. It will be surreal to see him on the other side of a microphone at the weekend.
His success at guiding Norwich City to FA Youth Cup glory this time last year got him noticed. I had it on good authority that the inspiring run had convinced the Carrow Road board that they had a potential future manager on their hands.
It’s worth remembering that the two-legged victory over Chelsea in the final was not one built on gung-ho attacking football. In both games, the Canaries’ more illustrious opposition had spells where they dominated possession and Norwich’s youngsters had to dig deep to keep their hands on the trophy.
What Neil did with that team was get the best out of the attacking options at his disposal. The pace of the Murphy twins on either wing and the strength of Carlton Morris in attack were used to good effect. He has just under a week to crack the code which can finally unlock the same potential in our senior pros.
His approach to away games will be fascinating. With seven straight defeats, it’s the form on the road that really has caused City to sink.
Neil knows what those long, late-night journeys can be like after watching a defeat. We’re well versed at keeping each other’s chins up on the A14 after several hours on the road.
Perhaps he’ll get his quiz book out to occupy his troops on the way to Fulham. He has some very good questions and it may be just the sort of distraction they need on such a high pressure weekend. I just hope he can get out his biro and add a new question on the way home:
“Who guided Norwich to a rare win at Fulham just three years after stepping out of the commentary box?”
The last 36 hours should be held up as proof that life on the yellow and green roller coaster is anything but boring.
If a herd of cows had been waiting outside Carrow Road on Saturday they would all have been sitting down by six o’clock. A storm was evidently brewing. Chris Hughton was struck by some bright yellow cardboard lightning as several of those clappers rained down on the pitch, accompanied by loud rumblings of booing from the stands. The forecast for his Norwich City future looked bleak. There were reports of arguments between fans and players and when that starts to happen the point of no return has been reached.
The deep depression which hung over the ground after the defeat to West Brom was reflected in the Director’s box. The Canaries’ top brass sit just behind our BBC Radio Norfolk commentary position and although no one said anything, it was impossible to escape the feeling that the camel’s back may just have been broken by Morgan Amalfitano’s early goal (below) and Norwich’s fruitless search for an equaliser. Some very important brows were significantly furrowed as we packed away our broadcast equipment for another weekend.
The most alarming aspect of Saturday’s game for me was that it was all so familiar. Go back to September and Norwich’s 1-0 home defeat to Aston Villa. We conceded a soft first-half goal, huffed and puffed, but never really looked like grabbing an equaliser. When it happens in your fifth game of a new season it can be put down as a work in progress, but when the same problems remain evident in match number 33 you have a big problem. It is that inability to affect change which caused the ultimate dugout downfall of Chris Hughton. Ironic that in a county with a supposed fear of great change that a manager who was so constant in his outlook should end up being so unpopular.
The fact the electronic scoreboard at the top of The Barclay wasn’t working all afternoon suggested that somebody might have told the operator that free-scoring Liverpool would be the ground’s next visitors and the thought of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Co running riot against a beleaguered City defence had been enough to send him for a lay down in a darkened room.
It was predictable that Norwich City’ decision to act five games before football’s summer holidays would be slammed by the wider Premier League public. If West Brom, Sunderland or Cardiff were making similar calls now I’m sure we’d all be joining in with the collective arm waving and teeth gnashing about unfair it all is. However, those who have actually been watching Norwich City play lately will understand why Grand National weekend felt like the right time for a gamble. There’s a convincing argument to say that sticking would have been braver than twisting. Norwich probably only need one more win to ensure another season of Premier League football and if the board feel a breath of fresh air is more likely to lead to it they had no choice but to act, regardless of what the calendar and fixture list say.
Despite Carrow Road’s cardboard shower on Saturday, no one wanted Chris Hughton to fail. His players had, until three days ago, routinely delivered on ‘must win’ occasions, which proves there is enough potential in that dressing room to keep us up. The ringing endorsements from Darren Huckerby about Hughton’s active interest in the club’s academy and from the dozens of Norwich supporters towards whom the now ex-boss was never short of time, pointed to a formula that everyone desperately wanted to succeed. The mood changed terminally on Saturday and there was no longer enough to doubt to give Hughton the benefit of.