City boss Glenn Roeder made one simple vow to the 3,000 travelling supporters that sat there and suffered yesterday's 4-0 rout at Leicester City: The unbeaten run starts again next Saturday…
It would, he insisted, be a wholly different Canary team that takes to the field against FA Cup heroes Barnsley next weekend – in both name and attitude, in fairness.
For in amidst the wreckage of yesterday's efforts, Roeder now finds himself with three of his senior players suspended for the Tykes clash. Dion Dublin and skipper Mark Fotheringham both picked up their fifth bookings of the season and will serve a one-match ban, while the red mist that descended on Darel Rusell as he let Foxes' full-back Richard Stearman leave the pitch on a stretcher courtesy of a late, two-footed lunge will ensure that the City boss needs to unearth a brand new central midfield as Russell's 'violent conduct' earns him a three-match ban.
View yesterday's events any which way you want and the word 'disaster' invariably springs to mind. That and 'typical'. If Norwich were ever going to end their unbeaten run, they were always going to do it with their usual aplomb.
The fact that this weekend's away following was the largest turn-out of the travelling troops since that fateful away day at Fulham was par for the course; what followed, all but inevitable.
“It's a little bit of an understatement to be just disappointed,” said Roeder, denied the services of young Chelsea starlet Ryan Bertrand overnight as the 18-year-old went down with flu and was left at the team hotel. Darren Huckerby, meanwhile, was left back in Norfolk.
“We're all pretty angry with ourselves,” added the City boss, who took less than 20 minutes to abandon his directors' box perch as events started to unravel on that pig of a Walkers' Stadium pitch.
“But I'm not going to sit up here and criticise those players,” he said. “They've done so well over the last three months. They're not machines. Human beings will come out sometimes and have a poor day.
“And, I suppose, if they're going to have a poor day they might as well all have it at the same time.”
Heroes were very thin on the ground. David Marshall was the only one to escape the manager's attentions after holding the Foxes at bay before the break; Jason Shackell offered the occasional big block; Ched Evans ran himself into the ground with no reward; Lee Croft sparked fitfully into life.
Thereafter, however, and it was not particularly pleasant viewing – particularly a gruesome second period in which goals from Steve Howard, DJ Campbell and Stephen Clemence condemned Norwich to their biggest defeat under Roeder's charge. Iain Hume had started the rot with his first-half effort.
“The keeper in the first-half made some stunning saves,” said Roeder. “But generally speaking we were well below par and having seen the goals already on the video, we haven't defended as poorly as that for about three months either.”
The City boss had a sense that events weren't exactly going as planned well before Russell's early exit. Reading youngster James Henry – handed his first start first on the left and then on the right of the Canary midfield – had about as much joy and impact as Kieran Gibbs in mid-week, whilst Dublin's final appearance in front of his home city supporters never really took off once he appeared to pick up an ankle knock early in the first-half.
For the next 15 minutes his movement looked very laboured and the 38-year-old never enjoyed the kind of influence on proceedings that either he or Roeder might have liked.
“The way that we were playing which was poorly – we're honest people – when the second goal went in, I thought it was going to be a difficult second period for us. And that's the way it turned out.
“But the one thing I'll never be is negative and shut up shop,” he added, as the Canaries ended the game with three strikers on the pitch on the basis of getting hung for a sheep as for a lamb.
“We ended up with three strikers on the pitch trying to get something out of the game. And that's the way I am. 2-0 can be a dangerous score; get one back and you're on the up. But it wasn't to be.
“But irrespective of whether we had three strikers on the pitch or not, the defending generally was nowhere near good enough. Or nowhere near as good as it has been recently.”
Bertrand's disappearance the night before might have suggested that this wasn't about to be the best of weekends. In fairness to 18-year-old Henry, it was never going to be the best of games to try and make an early impact. The pitch was not exactly tailor-made for his wing-craft – albeit if the half that Norwich attacked first was in far finer fettle than the one that they defended.
“He (Bertrand) took ill over night with flu symptoms. Not just a cold, but really achy muscles; your bones are aching. But he – typical Ryan – wanted to give it a go, but I don't think he would have lasted ten minutes and it would have been foolhardy to have even think about starting him.”
There's one quick contrast with his predecessor. On City's last visit to the Walkers' Stadium, Adam Drury's re-arranged root canals found the City skipper lasting all of four minutes and a goal before the effects of some super-strength painkillers took their toll.
Back to February, 2008, and Roeder's vow to all concerned – that we start again. Next Saturday. At Carrow Road.
“I'm a very positive person,” he said. “That 13-game unbeaten run, we've got to zip it up now and we will start another run next week against Barnsley. And, hopefully, that will continue right until the end of the season.”
His faith remained unshaken; unmoved.
“It might have knocked a weak person, but it hasn't knocked me,” he said. “I've proved to myself too often in life that if you shoot for the stars – and what people sometimes think is impossible – then sometimes you can touch them…”
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