Drama at Norwich City leaves me with burning question: who will Neil Adams select at Fulham?
PUBLISHED: 06:30 11 April 2014
What a joy it is to support Norwich City Football Club - and the last few days have simply highlighted the fact.
My Norwich team for the Fulham game
Ruddy; Martin, Turner, Yobo, Olsson; Redmond, Howson, Johnson, Snodgrass; Hoolahan; van Wolfswinkel. Subs: Bunn, Whittaker, R Bennett, Tettey, Pilkington, Josh Murphy, Hooper.
Success or failure? We’ll never know
When relegation is (hopefully) avoided and the last few weeks of Chris Hughton’s time at the club don’t feel quite so raw I wonder how we’ll judge his tenure?
Success or failure, or perhaps a bit of both? It seems likely many will say Hughton and his team failed. Failed to move the club on, failed to bring cup success, failed in his transfers and failed to play the type of attractive football Canaries fans appear to continue to long for.
And while some of that is undoubtedly true, I’d argue that would be a very harsh assessment.
The true answer probably lays in the middle ground. Ironically the middle ground is where too much of Norwich’s football has been played in recent weeks.
From the very first moment he walked into Carrow Road it appeared Hughton was in negative balance amongst some – simply because of the fact that he wasn’t Paul Lambert.
To follow the man who some still see as the messiah was always going to be a hard task.
What some Norwich fans don’t seem to have grasped is that sometimes progress in the Premier League does mean appearing to stand still.
Yes, Norwich may have spent millions more than they ever have done under the now sacked gaffer, but it becomes something of a false economy when that’s exactly what other clubs are doing as well. It seems £30m is the general outlay these days simply to stay in the league – unless a manager is particularly skilled at finding new standards in apparently average players.
Ultimately a manager’s main area to be judged on has to be league position – and 11th position in that first season was an achievement. It doesn’t matter that it was assisted by that 10-game unbeaten run and two ‘dead rubbers’ at the end of the season – City were still the 11th best team in the country.
This view doesn’t mean I’m lacking ambition – just realistic that there are 19 other clubs fighting for their own place in the sun.
A cup quarter-final last season was fun, but should have gone on longer, and we did secure several memorable victories on Hughton’s watch.
On the flip side, it was increasingly clear in the last few weeks the management team had run out of ideas, were lurching from one game to the next without any obvious plan and Norwich were in danger of sleepwalking into the Championship.
That Hughton was a decent, honourable man has been rightly said time and time again.
Whether he had it in him to secure another season for Norwich in the promised land, we shall never know.
‘WHAT?’ I hear you say as you spit out the coffee or tea being drunk while reading this column and throw down the paper in disgust.
“!!!! OMG what is he on about? #losttheplot #powlesout” I should imagine you are about to furiously type into your social media outlet of choice.
But hang on a second – let me explain.
One of the many reasons I love the sport I’m lucky enough to write about every other week is the pure and simple drama of it.
On the field it’s all about the goals, the tricks, the sweet passes, the rugged tackles, the twists and turns and the controversy.
They are the things that have us furiously debating the game afterwards in the pub or switching on to Twitter and Match of the Day to see what other people think. Bring in too much television technology and you lose some of the above.
Off the field, even if it has been created by a torrid few weeks at the club you love, admit it, haven’t the last few days kept you gripped?
I can guarantee you more conversations have been taking place in offices and homes around Norfolk about Chris Hughton and Neil Adams than they have the long-running, but crucially important, incinerator debate. Though, sad man that I am, I love a few political shenanigans as well.
Granted it’s horrible and unfortunate that when fall-outs such as that at Carrow Road happen, real people lose their jobs.
But ultimately football is a sporting form of entertainment – and events off-the-field play as much a part in that as those on it.
Lose sight of the fact that thousands of people pay their hard-earned cash week in, week out to be entertained (and win of course) and it’s a slippery slope.
Ultimately that’s something Hughton never seemed to grasp and I’m adamant had Norwich been in their current position, but playing attractive, fast and entertaining football, with goals at both ends, he would have been given until at least the end of the season.
But the drama hasn’t ended yet. We now have a rookie manager, loved and respected by most and who (we assume) wants to play the ‘right’ type of football.
What will be fascinating next is who lines up in the squad for Saturday’s match against Fulham.
It’s always interesting when an internal candidate replaces a sacked manager as it grants a glimpse of what others think about the decisions that have been made.
Will Adams turn to those young guns who served him so well in his successful Under-18 FA Youth Cup run? Could we see the return of Josh Murphy, who fell bizarrely off the radar after Christmas, despite continuing to score for fun for the under-21s?
Anthony Pilkington could return, Luciano Becchio may start, alongside Ricky Van Wolfswinkel maybe. Will Adams favour Wes Hoolahan in the middle of the park – or perhaps not even in the squad at all?
‘What team would you start with?’ promises to be the topic of choice ahead of the next instalment of the Norwich City story. The most intriguing decision will be what happens up front. Were it me van Wolkswinkel would get the nod, in front of Wes Hoolahan in the free role.
But beforehand, I’d get hold of the Dutch striker, remind him time and time again just how good he can be and why the club signed him, play him a video of his goals and then spend time getting the rest of the team to base their style of play around feeding him through balls.
I’d drop Sebastien Bassong and Johan Elmander and give Alex Tettey a rest. Put Robert Snodgrass and Nathan Redmond on their natural sides and go for it.