Norwich City supporters and players head in different directions – with Premier League survival at stake
18:35 16 March 2014
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
Usually you would want players and fans on the same page – but at the moment for Norwich City, that simply isn’t the case. The final eight games of a laborious Premier League campaign is all that’s left to prove whether that current state is a good thing, and who is in the right.
The Canaries were the epitome of submission for 85 minutes against a Southampton side clearly confident in their game and their approach.
City’s players – five of them freshly introduced to starting berths – may have belief in their own version of those qualities. But it didn’t show on the pitch, and it wasn’t shared by the impressive pocket of yellow shirts that once again this season simply didn’t get what they deserved from their side.
The fans know the plight. It’s a discussion point as to whether the players would be better off succumbing to the same doubts – or avoiding the pit of despair and instead, do what they’ve made a habit across two seasons: deliver when they have no other option.
It’s a debate that Jonny Howson looks set to ignore entering into.
“I’ve obviously done a few of these this season and for some reason, everyone keeps saying about looking over your shoulder and looking down,” said Howson. “I haven’t looked at the table but I’m sure if you get a win or two you’ll be 10th. People can look at this how they want, maybe it’s a bit over confident or what you like – but rather than looking over your shoulder, I’d prefer to be looking up.
“We’ve seen how tight it is and how many teams are in it, and it’s not the last game of the season. So there’s still a lot of football to be played.”
There was a lot of football played on Saturday too – most of it by the hosts, who may be a year younger than the Canaries in terms of their Premier League rehabilitation. But the fact is Southampton are chasing a top-eight finish, some way clear of their former League One sparring partners who would gladly take top-flight survival if offered now.
“You can understand why the supporters would be worried,” added Howson. “But I’ve said before if you look at West Ham in January, they hadn’t won in however many, they had been beaten heavily. Then they go and win three on the bounce. That’s how football can be. It can change. Maybe you just need something to go in your favour.
“It’s a good group in there. Nothing will affect us. We’ll keep trying to go out there, do as best we can and I’m sure it will change.”
“I wouldn’t say there was nervousness today. I don’t think it’s anything to do with confidence. I just think it comes from maybe too many mistakes.”
And City boss Chris Hughton’s five changes to his starting XI?
“I think that was just a one-off,” sad Howson. “He’s not really done that before, so it’s not a case of the squad being unsettled. That’s just putting the changes together with the performance. It was just poor out there.”