All Norwich City fans want from this ‘Christmas’ is the inspiration back at Norwich City
copyright: Archant 2014
I could write a long, convoluted metaphor for football supporters and managerial appointments, and make it fill most of this column, so I’ll try to reel it in. But it’s a useful one I’ve brought up before.
Norwich City - pass masters?
City were ranked 69th out of 98 top-flight teams in England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy for pass success last season.
A new manager at your club is like a Christmas present. You rarely get the exact thing your excitement kept you awake for on Christmas Eve, and in the end you have to accept what you’re given.
It makes it sound unspectacular – but it’s the truest analogy.
So are City supporters happy with what they unwrapped late on Thursday? Well again, like any Christmas present receiver they need to smile, appreciate the thought behind it and prepare to make the most of it.
And that’s even if a part of you fears someone’s missed a trick.
In truth, missing the trick with this appointment would be missing the entire context of Neil Adams’ quick-fire journey from FA Youth Cup winning coach and potentially a very useful manager in waiting, to the man tasked with leading Norwich’s – almost certainly – best shot in the coming years to get back to the Premier League. The first shot.
Chris Hughton did some good early work, but a sizeable failing of his Norwich reign as it tripped on – and over – was the Canaries’ lack of identity as a side and a cohesive unit.
What were they trying to do? How were they trying to play? They were questions far easier to answer in season one than season two.
And that malaise last term was ultimately the reason for relegation, as well as for Adams being parachuted in with five games to go.
Identity and philosophy are almost football buzzwords at the moment. Highly in fashion, led by the deemed perfection of paths trodden by the likes of Swansea and Southampton – both clubs to have followed Norwich’s trajectory in recent years.
But likewise, the conspicuous absence of the Canaries’ identity and philosophy not only saw the Swans and Saints leave City behind – they underpinned a discontent not seen at Carrow Road for years.
Norwich supporters are fervent backers while admittedly, usually enjoying more than the odd moan with it.
But come last season, most felt their club had lost its soul – sucked up by a listing attitude and lack of inspiration on the pitch.
Pragmatism over idealism. Passive camouflage over a proud identity to shout from the hilltops.
Norwich City has had that identity – although arguably not the same identity – before. That makes it even harder when you’re being asked to sit there and hide.
Which leads us to Neil Adams. A man who continued to grow into his first-team role as those five games passed last season – in the most trying of any circumstances.
If you don’t think so, just imagine what Tim Sherwood would have been like over the same City tenure.
City fans are not just unwrapping a re-wrapped present from last season. Let’s get it straight here and now – ignore the alarm bells. This isn’t the same situation as when Bryan Gunn got a stay of execution following Championship relegation in 2009.
And there is little worth in comparing what lies ahead next season to how Adams took on the final throes of last. They are worlds apart.
No, this gift comes with manufacturer guarantees – of injecting City with a style of football the fans want to see. Of aiming to score goals, rather than scrape wins. Of moving the ball quickly and of ensuring the club’s youth production line gets a go on the pitch – if it’s doing its job. Adams’ evidence suggested it was.
None of this is to say it will work, of course. Anyone claiming glory in predicting whether a managerial reign would work or fail is just as welcome to do a lap of honour each time they call a coin toss right.
But from the most frustrating and avoidable of relegations, Norwich City fans can say they are being given a fresh identity to get behind in the Championship next season. One many supporters called for, and others had mourned over its loss.
The belief can carry itself until Championship kick-off. Everyone of a City disposition, desperate for yellow and green success, will be willing it. After that, it all lies in the hands of Adams and his chosen men.
If it fails, then you have to appreciate the thought and look to the next present when it arrives. If it works, then once again everyone will know what Norwich City are about.