We’re not in a crisis (yet) but it’s time to put the cards on the table. Is Neil the real deal?
*”The current Canaries boss has won over most of his initial doubters with a table-topping mix of attacking play and tsunami of goals. It’s not been perfect (recent first half torpor and a limp early Cup exit) but perched on top, life’s good.”*
These were my first ever words as a MyFootballWriter columnist on the 9th October! I thought I’d fall on my own sword before anyone stuffed them back down my throat. Incidentally I also predicted that the then recently appointed Darko Milinic wouldn’t last beyond Christmas at Leeds – I was being far too optimistic.
We now find ourselves in a very different place to back then – literally in terms of the division and mentally in terms of confidence and outlook. Let me update my opening gambit from October 9th;
“After a promising start, the initial doubts surrounding the appointment of the current Canaries’ boss have come back to haunt after a poor run characterised by misfiring strikers and a leaky defence. Mired in 10th place, life is not good.”
We’re not alone in our general air of despondency – fans of Forest (despite Saturday’s victory snatched from the jaws of defeat), Wolves and Charlton are also suffering a slide down the table after a blazing start. That’s not much comfort though is it?
A pair of awful away defeats last week of very different character but ultimately the same result – nil points. As Brucie (not Steve) used to say – “What do you get for a pair? Nothing in this game.” Prophetic words indeed.
In many ways, the late capitulation at Forest hurt much more than the no-show at the Riverside although if you made the effort and took the expense to go to Teesside, you might disagree.
I’m certainly not in favour of refunds after every defeat – clearly that’s ridiculous. However, for the longest trip of the whole season on a Tuesday night in November, I strongly feel that some recompense to travelling fans was in order after such a miserable performance.
Not the value of the match ticket – that’s the price you pay for getting into the ground and has to be taken as a hit if things go pear-shaped. But in terms of travel expenses and any overnight accommodation, I’m disappointed that no monetary gesture was made by players or the club.
Presumably some of the brave ‘554’ took time off work to make that 450-odd mile round trip?
The genial host of Radio Norfolk’s excellent ‘Scrimmage’ show dismissed the refund talk and suggested anyone thinking that way should give up football and go DIY shopping instead. I’m guessing he was not left out of pocket by the trip on Tuesday night or has at least put in an expenses claim to his employer?
And now of course, the cherry on the poor form cake is the international break until Brighton come to town on the 22nd. That’s gives everyone an extra week to brood and be miserable about recent events.
What the hell has gone wrong? Neil seemed to have won the hearts and minds of those who thought his ‘surprise’ appointment a massive gamble for the club. Praise soon came in spades and we thought we had unearthed a managerial diamond.
In August-September, Neil seemed to be an ace in the pack, perfectly suited to the role. Now he’s accused of being a joker – a busted flush who has played his cards wrong. Has the gamble fallen flat and us fans been dealt a flawed hand by the board?
The manager and players also have much thinking time until the Seagulls swoop into Carrow Road.
In terms of squad options and formation choices, Neil seems to have thoroughly shuffled the pack and, despite his poker interview face, must be feeling desperate. He seems no nearer to finding his best starting 11.
With the exception of the Bolton game, we’ve looked lightweight, toothless and afraid – a bit like an undernourished, gummy rabbit.
The grumblings for change at the top are beginning to mount as fan patience gets thinner by the week. Affirmative action seems to have turned around the fortunes of early strugglers such as Fulham, Bolton and Cardiff.
It’s ironic that Fulham’s recovery has been engineered by the appointment from within of a popular long-servant of the club who had been beavering away behind the scenes in youth development/coaching roles! Let’s see if their ‘legend’ fares any better in the long run than ours.
Clearly the current break will involve much soul-searching and hard work at Colney. Formations and form are obviously crucial to success but so are fight and team spirit.
It’s always ‘dangerous’ to criticise a squad for the lack of such qualities, but if the poor run continues there is little defence (as at Forest in the last 10 minutes) against such accusations and ultimately the manager has to carry the can for such a scenario.
I hope we don’t hop on the kneejerk sacking merry-go-round (albeit first-team coach Mark Robson was shown red on Monday morning) but Neil needs to find one or two tricks up his sleeve before Christmas is upon us – otherwise a red card will be flashed his way.