City boss Chris Hughton insisted that ‘lessons will be learned’ from this weekend’s 5-0 humbling at Fulham – not the ideal way to open both your own managerial career in Norfolk or the 2012-2013 Premier League season.
Many Canary fans opted to avoid the re-run on Match of the Day.
Whichever way anyone tried to spin it, there was little by way of good cheer.
Two-nil down at the interval, the City faithful have been treated all-too often to half-time turnarounds of the barn-storming variety – invariably capped off by an injury-time leveller dug out at the very death.
On Saturday, however, Fulham walked it as three more goals followed; Norwich going down with a whimper and leaving big questions to be answered come next Saturday’s home clash with QPR.
It all left Hughton in the uncomfortable position of having to justify his selection of just a lone striker up top in the shape of skipper Grant Holt and a midfield flooded with bodies in an effort to put a spanner in Fulham’s passing works – whilst still offering the 31-year-old both service and support going forward.
It was a plan that made it to the 25-minute mark before Norwich began to unravel. And by the time that Steve Morison arrived alongside Holt after the interval, so the performance had already been found alarmingly wanting. Norwich were en route to a hiding.
“You can’t have it all ways – you can’t come here and be an open and offensive team and not expect to concede,” said the new City chief, as his former Spurs mentor Martin Jol saw his charges let rip at City’s expense.
“Our tactic coming here was to make it difficult for them, but also have a threat going forward ourselves,” Hughton told reporters. “And it’s tough to get that balance – but in that balance you have got to make sure that you’re not conceding what I would consider are soft goals.”
As ever, so much reasoned theory counts for nothing if the players fail to perform – individually and collectively – to the level that many have become accustomed to.
Time to get back to basics at Colney today and start to right far too many wrongs for an opening Saturday.
“Defeats are defeats and you have to be able to bounce back from them. And you have to learn from the defeats – and we got a harsh lesson today.
“And the players – and myself – need to learn from this today. That it makes us better, stronger and more resilient.”
City’s opening home game at Carrow Road next Saturday suddenly assumes rather more significance than anyone would like at such an early stage of the season; it was the manner of the defeat as much as the scoreline that would have worried Hughton more – City looked weak in every area of the park, keeper arguably excepted.
It was, he said, merely further proof that this is going to be as big a challenge this year as it ever was last year – and he is not riding on the kind of two years of triumph that Paul Lambert enjoyed, either.
“I haven’t learnt anything I didn’t know – we knew it was a big challenge,” said Hughton, with Lambert’s own best-laid plans coming unstuck at West Ham United.
“We’re up against teams in this division that are technically better than us – and have better players than us. It’s the nature of the game,” added Hughton. “It was the same challenge last season and it will be the same challenge this. But we need to be better than we were today.”
Time to run through the video. Slowly and with considerable, if not urgent purpose.
“You have to go through what you didn’t like about today, the acceptable bits and where you need to improve. And there’s some positives; there’s always positives, but right now it’s the negative ones that hurt.
“But we’ll all come in on Monday morning and start looking forward to the next game.”