City boss Glenn Roeder emerged from a 45-minute inquest this afternoon in a combative, if not to say steely, mood.
For in a week in which the Carrow Road futures of up to a dozen City players could yet be decided, today's 4-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday merely “confirmed” in the manager's mind which way the axe was about to fall.
If Roeder's post-match mood at Hillsborough was any guide, expect the next week to be both bloody and brutal.
“We have to change the culture at Norwich,” said Roeder, after watching his side take a ninth minute lead through Darren Huckerby only to finish the season as they pretty much started it – in a ugly heap and with an all-too soft a centre as the Owls ran in three, oh-so easy second-half goals to condemn Leicester City to the drop.
“There's too many players that have been used to losing too much – and I need to change that. There's going to be a big change-around this summer.”
The week of the long knives is expected to start on Tuesday as the manager calls in player after player for an end-of-season chat. For those out of contract – headed, of course, by Huckerby – it will be a chance to finally discover whether or not they have a future under his charge. For some under contract, the future might also look less than rosy.
Either way and all concerned are expecting a frantic summer of transfer activity as Roeder sets about rebuilding his squad with a vengence after the Canaries finally finished the 2007-2008 season in 17th spot – three points better off than the League One-bound Foxes.
That, in itself, remains a remarkable feat given the almighty mess that Roeder inherited, but it is clear that the Canary chief sees this as only the start. How many of the 11 players that started today's fixture actually get to start Norwich's opening game on the 2008-2009 campaign will be fascinating to watch.
As things currently stand, less than half have a full-time Carrow Road contract to their name. After reading the riot act for 45 minutes after the game, even those with a piece of paper to their name may have a large question mark hanging over their City futures.
“Some of them need to look at themselves to see whether they've got a future here next year – because I'm not messing around. I'm not bothered,” said a fuming Roeder, as strikes from Ben Sahar, a second for Deon Burton and a final effort from substitute Leon Clarke allowed the gleeful Owls to push the survival party button – all at Norwich's expense.
“As I say, we have too many players that are used to losing too often. That's what we have to change. And it will change – because they won't be here.”
The game had started as all concerned had planned – Huckerby and the retiring Dion Dublin both starting; the latter then producing a fabulous, ninth minute dummy to allow the former to sweep into the Owls box and pick his spot over and away from the horribly exposed Lee Grant.
But once referee Mark Clattenburg opted – wrongly – to award a penalty against Jason Shackell as Burton went a-tumbling, so the game started to slip from Norwich's hands. The fact that chance after chance went a-begging hardly helped ease the manager's post-match mood.
Matty Pattison was the worst offender – somehow managing to give Grant the chance to claw the ball away to safety one-handed with an awkward, left-foot effort when Ched Evans' cross screamed out for a right-foot tap-in. With the score at 1-0, it would have surely broken Wednesday's last hope of survival.
“We had them at full stretch and in serious trouble – it was just our own inability to finish off our chances,” said Roeder, well aware that it was not the first time this season that those words have crossed his lips.
“[It's] been one of our major problems this season. We have to create too many chances to score one goal, but the lifeline that the club got thrown was Mark Clattenburg's really poor decision on the penalty,” said Roeder, already bound for Soho Square to personally answer charges relating to his post-match remarks on Andy D'Urso's efforts at Ashton Gate. Hence he backed away from a second appearance at the Football Association's HQ and sugared the pill re Clattenburg.
“I actually think he's one of the best referees in this country, but he's human like everyone else,” said the City chief. “He [Shackell] got his toe to the ball and when you freeze frame it is outside the box when he makes the challenge – so if he's going to get it wrong, he should have got it wrong with a free-kick outside the box.
“Fortunately we're not here today where we needed a point or three, but having said that you can see by our intentions in the opening 20 minutes – and the rest of the first-half – that we were here to win. For ourselves – not for anyone else.
“And there was nothing wrong with the first-half performance – good football; created chances – other than missing them. The second-half was totally unacceptable – and that's the Norwich that I don't want. And won't have. They know me now – and that's why I kept them in for 45 minutes after the game. That is not acceptable.
“It wasn't just a case of turning up here today, playing a game of football and going asway on their summer holidays. They have been left in no doubt as to how angry I am with that second-half performance.”
Running through each of the second-half goals on the ProZone video had clearly made for grisly viewing.
“If you look at the second one we had seven defenders to their two attackers – and we let the ball drift to the far post. The third one starts – and there's errors after – with Lee Croft not being able to control a simple ball that's played out to him and goes under his studs. Something you wouldn't want to see on a Sunday morning on a park pitch let alone at Hillsborough this afternoon – and from that, we didn't do well.
“The fourth one the big lad just brushed too many people aside. Too weak – the mentality too weak. And it will change.”
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