A point. Against Bristol City. Who are third from bottom. And City were hanging on. But it’s okayWed 8 Mar 17 by Gary Gowers
I guess in the school of slim pickings a point away from home is edging into positive territory.
Except we’re not in that school. Or at least we shouldn’t be.
We should be, at the very least, breathing down the necks of the top six; forcing them to strain every last sinew to hold off the challenge from the Canary juggernaut as it gathers pace ahead of the run-in.
But no. Au contraire.
We’re folding. Losing rather than gaining ground on those above us. Or, to put it another way, holding on desperately for a point against a side who’d won just once in their last ten games. And all courtesy of an ugly, disjointed rearguard action.
And to think, prior to Hillsborough we were still dreaming of sneaking into the top six.
But that’s clearly not going to happen, was never likely to happen in truth, because, spin it however you wish, this combination of players and management is simply not good enough.
We initially fooled ourselves into believing that because the majority of this squad had, at some stage, graced the Premier League stage their technical prowess would be sufficient to set them apart from most of what the Championship had to offer.
We sneered at those with players less gifted and bemoaned those whose form of attack was to stop or stifle our attempts to weave aesthetically pleasing patterns. We were all guilty.
But that haughty and completely unjustified stance was unfortunately shared by those who matter most: the players. And it still is.
It’s okay for us to mock others with jibes of small grounds, small crowds, years spent outside of the top tier, agricultural playing styles etc because we’re football supporters and that’s what we do. Sometimes it’s funny, most of the time it’s not. Sometimes we make ourselves look stupid, but that’s fine.
Yet when that same bravado finds its way into the minds of the players and onto the pitch then we’re in trouble. And we are in trouble.
Just prior to Alex Neil arriving here the EDP’s Paddy Davitt penned an opinion piece in which he, for the first time, highlighted the unworthy “sense of entitlement” among the then group of players.
It was a fine piece of writing that told of a bunch who were basically too big for their boots. That Alex was able to transform that same group into one that won promotion via the play-offs was an astonishing achievement, particularly given its starting point.
But the second we reappeared in the second tier so too did said sense of entitlement. Only this time it came back bigger and stronger and second time around it wasn’t about to slink off behind a shield of grit, determination and bloody mindedness. This time it was here to stay.
And it’s not gone anywhere. It was there at Rotherham, at Burton, at Hillsborough and, while I understand some cojones were in evidence at Ashton Gate last night, it’s been generally far too evident when away from home. And it’s almost certainly in the air at Colney on a daily basis.
Second time around Alex didn’t have new manager ‘bounce’ in his armoury to turn to in order to fumigate the place and rid it of this destructive and unworthy mindset. Neither was he able to harness that unhealthy swagger into anything remotely positive.
Instead, away from their home comforts, this group has been wretched; performance after performance that, as they’ve been reminded several times, has been unworthy of the shirt.
The fact that Alex has been unable to get anything remotely resembling a tune out of them away from home would for most boards be reason enough to call time on the manager’s tenure.
But no. The blame apportionment has gone no further than the players; Alex seemingly absolved of any responsibility.
His pre-Ashton Gate presser told the story of a man who astoundingly is feeling not even the slightest hint of heat from above; of one who is already planning for a long-term Carrow Road future.
It told not of one whose job prospects were being measured, as is the norm for 99.9 per cent of football managers, on results. Instead it told of one who feels unjustifiably bullet-proof.
Quite why Delia and Michael see our club as the one that’s beyond the conventional wisdom of football is a curious one, but I suspect it goes hand in hand with their equally archaic views on the finances of football and the evils of those nasty old millions that continually slosh around.
Watching on while our club continually ploughs its own lone furrow is charming to a point but not when it becomes detrimental to the club’s future well-being.
For last season’s City v Tottenham match programme I interviewed Danny Kelly – him of NME and talkSPORT fame – and when asked to describe Norwich City he described a club that ‘likes to do things its own way’.
He wasn’t kidding.
It was intended it as a compliment of course but as things stand there’s zero comfort to be sought from a board who are doing things so differently they perceive loyalty to their manager as more important than success on the pitch.
To lay it bare, I suspect there’s not a single club among the other 91 who would have kept faith with a manager who, following a spineless Premier League campaign that ended in relegation, proceeded to oversee a Championship campaign that promised much but delivered only a litany of abject away-day horror shows.
It’s been an unmitigated disaster, the manager’s decision making and inability to organise and inspire at its very heart, yet minus even a single mitigating circumstance Alex sits safely on his throne while his subjects take the rap.
Some may argue that a squad rid of those who give off said air of arrogance and disdain would be a better fit for Alex to work with. I’d argue he’s done nothing to deserve that chance.
But the lady’s not for budging, that much is clear. So too her and Michael’s contempt for the fans.
Unfortunately history tells us that the cacophony of noise for change will ultimately reach such a level it becomes unavoidable but then, from the perspective of those on high, it becomes the fault of the fans.
Quite what Saturday will bring is anyone’s guess, although I suspect it will be one of those Derby/Wolves type atmospheres that is placated by City adopting the flat-track bully persona and overwhelming their struggling opponents. And then the cycle continues.