Same old, same old. Crunch time arrives and it’s yet another meek surrender from the Class of 2017Sun 5 Mar 17 by Gary Gowers
I was sorely tempted to copy and paste my MFW piece of Sunday, October 16.
It was penned in the aftermath of City’s 5-0 capitulation at the Amex and told a sorry tale of eleven half-hearted individuals who purported to be a team but who were in fact anything but.
It told of Sunday League-type defensive howlers, of a beleaguered manager who had no answers and of a senior pro who faced the press afterwards and laid bare the extent of fracture, disharmony, disinterest and disrespect in the dressing room.
In the 126 days between said trip to Brighton and yesterday’s trek to Hillsborough it seems reasonable to suggest that not one single lesson has been learned. Not one.
And if it’s possible this feels even worse, even if the optimists and pedants will point to Cameron Jerome’s goal being the difference, But please…
Yesterday was different because it was the last chance saloon.
Brighton, for all its horrors, offered at least a transfer window and time to turn things around. A rotten, really rotten, day at the office but at least if the proverbial lessons could be learned and appropriate personnel changes actioned then there was still time to regroup and mount a challenge for promotion.
Except lessons were not learned. Again, not one. And any changes in personnel were of the cosmetic variety.
This is a squad and a club in decline. Some have suggested it’s a club rotten to the core but in truth I’m not close enough to the inner sanctum to comment. Yet there’s been precious little evidence to promote a more positive prognosis.
What happened on the grass of Hillsborough was alarming but it was only the blind faith of the football fan that fooled us into thinking it was going to be any different. The evidence was there: away visits to those in the top six invariably end in a capitulation triggered heartache and with a fair sprinkling of defensive cock ups.
On that score they never let us down. I’ll give them that. One solitary win against the top ten, either home or away, pretty much says it all.
But it’s season over; mid-table mediocrity now beckons for the most expensively assembled Norwich City squad ever. Riches abound, at least in Championship terms, have been lavished on this bunch of under-achievers and to no avail whatsoever.
Money can buy you a player with an impressive CV, one who has a deft first touch, who can ping the ball onto a sixpence from forty yards and pull the ball out of the sky as if ball and boot were adorned with Velcro but unless that player has hunger, appetite, desire and is well managed it counts for diddly-squat.
Which is exactly what’s happened – and also happens to be the precise sum total of our season.
The money’s been spent neither wisely or smartly and despite the board’s steadfast refusal to admit otherwise the squad’s not been well managed. Timm Klose and Steven Naismith, both expensively sought and bought in the January 2016 transfer window, were meant to be part of the solution but instead have become part of the problem.
Alex Pritchard and Yanic Wildschut (still early days in the case of the latter admittedly) have delivered little, partly because their game time has been so limited, and one has to question why players with burgeoning reputations come to Norwich and see their careers go in reverse.
Within the current group the number who have come here and actually progressed can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Whether that’s an indictment on the coaching, the managing or the embedded culture I have idea but where once we were a fertile breeding ground for those making their way up the professional ladder, Norwich is now a place where players either stagnate or decline.
The powers that be are unlikely to accept this of course and will likely trot out the ‘we have complete faith in Alex Neil’ line but this club needs an overhaul on the pitch, at Colney and in the boardroom.
The latter of those we understand is being consulted upon as we speak but there needs to be a genuine will to reform in the first place for this to succeed. And then a root and branch review of the football side needs to establish that a new broom needs to sweep through Colney.
The old guard need to be thanked for their service and then politely shown the door, making way for the young guns who hold the key to the future.
The money’s going to run out in the next fourteen months and our self-financing model will fund only a lower Championship budget, so young and hungry will in reality be the only way forward. And that may as well start now.
Of yesterday’s starting XI there are precious few who deserve another chance.
John Ruddy has for a while been a keeper who looks ready for a challenge elsewhere. Of the back-four, only Ivo Pinto looks to have appetite for the future; Mitchell Dijks will be gone in May.
Jonny Howson is naturally worthy of the armband and being the ‘old head’, and Jacob Murphy, along with Josh, simply has to be part of something new but I’m struggling to see others who are this club’s future.
And up front, while no-one doubts the qualities of Cameron Jerome, he’s one whose engine is unsurprisingly showing signs of long-term fatigue.
Yet I have limited faith that those with the power will make the right decisions or even have the willingness to make them in the first place. We’re at a crossroads but to take the right path needs clear and innovative thinking.
No pressure Ed… and Tom.
Oh, and on Tuesday night we go to Bristol City, who have one league win since December 3. I think we know what happens next.