Club skipper Mark Fotheringham admitted today that events of the weekend had been “difficult”.
His response, he hoped, would speak volumes after throwing himself into training yesterday with renewed bite and determination.
“It's never nice to be dropped from the team,” said the 24-year-old Canary skipper, speaking ahead of today's Norwich City Golf Day at Dunston Hall.
“I'm a professional and I'm always looking to play in the game, but I respect the manager's decision. He's the manager and he does what's best for the team. But it is hurtful when you're left out of the squad.”
It was one of the bigger calls of Glenn Roeder's 11-month reign as opted to pair Darel Russell with a fit-again Sammy Clingan in the middle of that Canary midfield. It left no room at the inn for the skipper. He now has the fight of his Canary life to prise the pair apart again ahead of the trip to Bristol City on October 18.
That fight started in earnest at Colney yesterday as the one-time Celtic starlet rolled his sleeves up and refused to dwell on his own, individual misfortune. Time to make his point to Roeder.
“I'm going to be fighting for my position – and I proved that in training yesterday,” he said. “The gaffer came round and said that you were the best player in training today and you need to keep that going. And that's the only way that I can show him that I want back in the team.”
Roeder himself revealed that Fotheringham had taken the news of his demotion to the bench like a “true professional”; he just, however, felt that the skipper's form had dipped of late. The 0-0 draw at Barnsley was the low point as the six-foot two-inch Brazilian Anderson de Silva was allowed to boss the game in the middle of the park.
The 2-0 defeat against a teenage Southampton side in mid-week failed to ease the manager's mood and Clingan's return from that serious shoulder injury offered the chance for a change.
“I'm an honest and I just need to get back to what I'm good at – and that's dominating the midfield,” said Fotheringham, with refreshing candour for a modern professional footballer.
“And maybe in the last few games I've not done that. But, in saying that, I don't think the teams been playing as well as what they could have been.”
But with that armband comes responsibilities – like carrying the can; taking the flak. Neither of which, to his credit, he was about to duck.
“Obviously with me being the skipper and that, I'm the leader of the team and I think I've been taking a bit of criticism at the moment.
“But, in all honesty, I'll accept any criticism that comes my way because I'm the figurehead of the team. If the team's not winning and we're sitting fourth from the bottom in the league, then the buck stops with me. It's my responsibility to make sure that we're winning games and the boys are playing well.
“And I'll help them as much as I can – and if that means me being left out of the team due to a dip in form then I need to do everything I can to get back playing at my best.
“To get back to the way that Fozzy, Matt Fotheringham plays – and that's getting on the ball and making the team play.”
To lay the sins of the squad at the feet of just one man – albeit the skipper – would be rough indeed.
But as the dust starts to settle on a particular poor week at the office – one point and a single penalty strike to show from away to trips to then bottom-of-the-table Barnsley and a teenage Southampton side followed by that home clash with a ten-man Derby County – and it is clear that the rebuilt Canaries are far from performing to the sum of their individual parts.
Man for man, player for player they are leaps and bounds better than the squad of players that Roeder inherited. Right now, however, and everyone is looking for a team to emerge; waiting with growing impatience for those 11 individuals to click together and play as a unit, as a whole, as a team.
“Everybody's disappointed – the luck's just not going our way in the games as well. We've got some good players at the club and we're all disappointed where we are in the league at the moment.
“But, as I say, there's good players there and I'm sure we'll climb up the table sooner rather than later,” vowed Fotheringham, as all eyes now turn to that trip to Ashton Gate in 11 days time.
With the home clash with Wolves to swiftly follow, City need to fire their season quickly back into life. And find that missing ingredient.
“I don't know what it is, to be honest with you. I just think that we're not really taking our chances at the moment and we're not killing teams off,” said the skipper. “And that's the main thing – that when you create chances, you need to score goals. And we're not scoring enough goals.”
Ideally, today's golf day will ease the anxious mood around Carrow Road.
“We've not had a lot of wins just now, so it's nice to just get out and take your mind off football for a day or two,” said Fotheringham.
“And we've got two weeks now to re-group before a massive game at Bristol City. So it's good to switch off for a little bit, but in this situation you never stop thinking about the games.”
And nor, you suspect, his own, individual situation.
“I'm sure I'll be back in the team in the next few weeks,” he said.
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