You know it was a bad night when you have to skirt around the word ‘capitulation’.
Alas, I’ve done that a lot lately (as indeed I have using the word ‘alas’) and that in itself tells a story.
City’s painful demise at Craven Cottage was just another away game to forget and, as ever, the sizeable and vociferous travelling army were the ones to suffer most; their unswerving loyalty and faith again being tested to the limit.
How much longer can they, or should they, be expected to witness displays like last night’s?
That very question will have crossed the mind of David McNally overnight. To take their support for granted would be foolish, as indeed it would be to assume the large majority of season-ticket holders will automatically renew for next season.
While many, like me, will do so without even blinking, there are understandably plenty who question whether another season of the current fare is good value for their hard earned pound. And, in truth, I find it increasingly hard to defend.
I wrote at the weekend of the need for a spark. Something or someone to re-ignite a season that is currently in freefall. After watching the latest chapter of ‘the Craven Cottage massacre’ I underestimated. A single spark, as things stand, looks unlikely to be sufficient.
Among a whole plethora of wrongs that currently befall us, the one that troubles me most is the fragility. The lack of response to a setback… like going a goal behind.
Not for the first time, a bright opening was rendered futile by some awful defending; Darren Bent again the beneficiary. And that was it. Game over. Sixteen minutes.
Despite the best, and unconvincing, efforts of the BT Sport commentary team, how many of us expected City to overturn Fulham’s lead? In reality the Sheffield United ticket office were on safe ground if they started printing tickets for the FA Cup Fourth Round as early as 8:01pm.
And that can’t be right.
Much has been written, tweeted and commented in the last few hours around City’s inability to ‘dig in’ when it matters and it’s impossible to contest. The 3-1 win against West Ham – in which we came back to win from a goal down – now seems an awful long time ago and last night’s XI appeared not have the stomach for a comeback of that ilk.
The players’ heads are down, the fight looks to have gone and, I hate to say it, they appear to be feeling a little sorry for themselves.
So where and why is it going wrong?
Ultimately of course Chris Hughton carries the can. It is his and his team’s job to cajole, motivate, chastise, organise and communicate. If it is not happening on the pitch, which it clearly is not, then one or more of those components are missing.
At the moment we have a management team that prides itself on making the team hard to beat but we keep losing. One that likes to ‘keep it tight’, yet we are anything but.
The players too – for whom most of us would gladly swap a limb to be in their decoratively coloured boots – need to look at themselves.
Did Steven Whittaker and Javier Garrido do enough to prevent Fulham continually having joy out wide? Did Russell Martin and Sebastien Bassong defend as you would expect them to against Premier League strikers?
I could go on. Not one part of last night’s team functioned as Team Hughton would have wished it to.
In fairness, Bradley Johnson’s work-rate and desire set him apart from most of his team-mates, but that in itself tells a tale. While the bearded one may have an appetite for the battle that was missing from so many of his colleagues, he is not without his technical deficiencies. That he was our stand out player speaks volumes.
I do not intend to dissect all that went awry (Rick’s brief is only circa 800 words) but having already mentioned the central defenders, it is hard to ignore the time and space afforded to Bent as he struck home the opener. Too easy… far too easy.
I have defended the calls for change vehemently up to now (and have taken brickbats aplenty as a result) and am still unconvinced that managerial change in itself will automatically bring about an upward turn in fortune. But – and I just listened intently to a live BBC Radio Norfolk interview with David McNally – it is clear the board are “desperate” that the current slide is halted.
To quote McNally: “When we were in the bottom three Chris’s brief was to get us out and keep us there”. Defeat on Saturday against Hull would likely see us return and then there will be a big decision to be made. The boundaries have been set.
When questioned about the board’s support of Hughton, the chief executive chose his words carefully and, as befitting a politician, gave the direct answer to a direct question a wide berth. Interestingly the CEO also stated: “I would prefer death to relegation … and we’ll do everything in our power to stop that happening”.
Strong words indeed.
And when it will start to register is if Carrow Road seeps gaps of yellow seats. The board take great pride in a full stadium and a season-ticket waiting list and, while the TV millions may dwarf the ticket revenue in the Premier League, the Championship tips the balance in the other direction.
To ignore those who currently fill the old place week in week out would be a big mistake. And the chief executive does not tend to make them.
We have trusted McNally in the past to deliver and he has never failed us. We have to do the same again now.
Equally telling was the “swerve” by DMcN to the direct question regarding CH having the Board’s support, instead referring to the manager preparing for the visit of Hull. Begs, the question, “how many more straws” can that camel’s back take?
David Bowen says
Strong words indeed Gary, I can’t think of a single one I would change!
I’m old enough to remember some dire times in our past, some even worse than those we are now suffering, but, like many others, our three years under Lambert have influenced my memory of those long ago days, I want this torment to stop!
Like you, I’m not sure a change of manager would bring about that change, but something has to happen and soon, or it will be too late!
Come on Mr. McNally, wave that magic wand again please!
McNally is not the miracle worker you suppose,making a horlicks of the Lambert departure and continuing to behave appallingly when Villa visit.His pay is massive and out of line for a club of our size and with that comes responsibility,decisions to be made.
On the pitch all can see the multitude of problems,can’t score,can’t defend,porous midfield,limited possession.Heads are dropping.The tour of the U.S. was embarrassing and little has changed since then because until now there has been no consequences from poor performances or even devestating defeats.At last reality is sinking in.I’ve just read that Houghton is “meeting his brief”.Astonishing.We must make a buffer of points now before our monstrous run-in of final games which is why urgency within the club is at last being spotted,albeit on the horizon.Let’s get stuck into Hull and score a few!
Hughton is doing no better or worse than a long line of NCFC Managers – for the vast majority of the 25+ years I’ve followed them, 15th the top league is par for the course.
What I haven’t heard discussed at any point this season is how injuries in key positions have limited Hughton’s options and exposed a squad that is never going to have the resources of at least two thirds of the other teams in this league.
I reckon our first choice XI would be Ruddy, Martin, Bassong, Turner, Olsson, Tettey, Fer, Howson, Snodgrass, Pilkington, RVW. Almost all our best attacking players have missed big chunks of the season and forced younger players like Redmond & Murphy (who should be on loan)and limited tryers like Elmander & Johnson to play more than is ideal.
We have a lot to be proud of, a club that is debt free, led by Norfolk people who care about the clubs traditions (& don’t want to change our name or colours), a squad of mostly British players, an increasing pool of homegrown talent and brilliant fans who support through thick & thin. The problem is that too many have grown impatient and some have selective memories – anybody who thinks that Hughton is a poor manager are forgetting Messers Megson, Hamilton, Roeder & Grant.
Derek P says
I have been an “outer” for some time now and it is good that more people are coming around to the same conclusion.
It is quite clear that this current Management Team, and I do mean team, are incapable of securing the points and performances neccessary and so a change must be made. We have a decent squad, they should not be performing as they are currently.
Mr McNally appeared to be suggesting that defeat on Saturday would be the final straw. Personally, I wouldn’t wait for then, I’d do it now. Put Neil Adams in charge and, if he wants it, give him a couple of games to prove himself.
Otherwise, I dread to think of the atmosphere if we go a goal down.
It’s no disgrace to admit the appointment of CH hasn’t worked, it would be unforgiveable, however, to not act now to try and save the season.
Dave B says
We have sacked managers with better records.
reply to Kobecanary
“the problem is that too many have grown impatient”
good heavens,how dare they! Away fans have been on a
constant diet of footballing delights,not!
Every team has injuries.The(for Norwich)record amount of investment means that CH is in a very different situation from almost any other manager and on pitch performance is chronically poor.
just heard an amazing story,you may be able to verify it…..
CH was furious after our victory at the Etihad last season because he was ignored,Grant Holt determined upon crossing the white line that things were going to be done HIS way,fed up with the negative style.
Apparently it cemented GH’s departure and was in some way a parting gift.Legend if true.I believe it is possible.
@8 It’s record investment for Norwich but it’s peanuts to the rest of the Premier League. If you look at the total money spent on our team, our squad is apparently the 4th cheapest in the PL.
Then bear in mind Hooper was out injured at start of season, then RvW was out for several games. That’s a large chunk of our spend that hasn’t been used.
There’s much to be concerned about – lack of ideas, total capitulation etc, but amount of money spent is the wrong argument for the HughtonOut side of the fence. As is castigating the man for not playing 2 up front all season, and then criticising him for playing 2 up front “in the wrong games”!
Really disappointed in McNally – seems to have put his ego before the good of the club. But then he can can’t he? He will, like Hughton, leave Norwich a millionaire. Fans are told to pay more to support rubbish performances but our opinions based on 12 months of decline are ignored. Expect McNally will emerge again soon to announce another season ticket rise.
reply to DC
i was stressing the point that CH has been fully supported by the board unlike some of the managers quoted by Kobecanary and therefore cannot be directly compared. I hope we get it together,thrash Hull and go on a run but can only expect more of the same “freefall” football highlighted in the article.
Michael D says
Lovely story @p (9) whether true or not! Whatever one thinks of CH he does seem to be increasingly sticking his head in the sand denying that a change of approach is needed.
Dave B says
I feel like people are going through the seven stages of grief and right now. We had the promise of a great manager and that promise is dying / dead.
Some are still in denial, most have transitioned to anger, the board appear to be in the bargaining phase, and ‘early outers’ are well into depression.
Now we need the break up and acceptance.
Russell S. says
Confidence is low, it’s been a disappointing season, we haven’t played well..no one can deny these things but there is more than a whiff of mass hysteria in the air and on the internet.
I think ‘freefall’ is out of line – we haven’t fallen from some lofty position. We’re in the mid-table to relegation zone that 12 other teams are in. We lost at Everton – 4th in the table and 2 defeats all season. Fulham are our big bogey side.
Hull is crucial – win and we go up 3-4 places, lose and we could go bottom 3.
I just think it’s wrong to change a manager in the heat of battle – do it end of season if at all. I’m guessing the majority of outers are wanting Malky in?
Gary Gowers says
Russ – while ‘freefall’ in terms of league position may be an exaggeration, in terms of performance levels it isn’t. No wins in seven suggests, to me at least, a slide in the wrong direction with no immediate sign of it being arrested.
I sincerely hope I’m wrong and am made to eat my words on Saturday.
Phil b says
Spot on Gary ! what concerns me greatly is under ch we played negative football but were hard to beat last season and to be fair we finished a respectable 11 th.This season we still play the negative football but can’t defend for toffee which ever back four is picked !! During last nights game it was clear to see that as soon as Fulham scored their first goal the confidence drained from the players And I sensed game over already which is a familiar occurence of late ! I will be there Saturday as always and will no doubt renew my season ticket but as Lincolnshire based supporter the 2 hour drive is becoming a chore to watch such poor fare,worrying times.
Stewart Lewis says
Gary – your last two sentences are slightly at odds with other parts of the piece, but surely the most important. The current Board (esp McNally) have overseen our transformation from choatic League 1 club to exceptionally well run Premiership outfit. Lots of tough decisions along the way, made with utter professionalism. McNally his being accused of going soft, over-loyalty etc – that’s a complete misread of his character. His record warrants more trust from us.
Russell S. says
Gary (15) – I know I’m swimming against the tide but refuse to jump on that bandwagon. I don’t have my head in the sand (apologies if I’ve overdone the metaphors). Two poor defeats to Fulham (bogey side)..yes – otherwise the results (if not the performances) haven’t been overly bad. We’re in the fight with 10 other teams (maybe Southampton too with a managerial change possible there now) and need some confidence – Hull is a good place to start the rest of our season. I look forward to hearing the sound of word munching.
General Norwich says
Really not looking forward to Saturday. The atmosphere will be abysmal with the Crowd just waiting to pounce on every mistake, which will put the players on edge, just what they don’t want when they are already low on confidence. I hope I’m proved wrong, but I think it will be very much like Nigel Worthington’s last game v Burnley. Death by a 1000 cuts. The Board have missed a trick here. I’m not against Hughton, but it just hasn’t worked out. What should have been done was to, let him go with his ‘coaching’ staff & put Neil Adams in temporary charge for Saturday whilst they look for a replacement given the break the week after. This would have given everyone a lift, & the crowd would have been right behind the players from the off, with no recriminations during or after the match whatever the result.
Stewart Lewis says
General Norwich: I see your point, but do we really want a Board that puts short-term appeasement of fans ahead of their best judgement? That way leads to Bryan Gunn.
I seem to be reading a lot about Neil Adams and even Hucks – what madness is this? Employ someone to manage a premier league (or for that matter Championship) side with absolutely no experience of managing a first team at all just because they were good players? Brian Gunn anyone? Come on people I know feelings are running a bit high at the moment but don’t let’s be daft. On a different note though I am delighted that this fuss has exploded still further as a result of an FA cup game, it shows that we the fans still rate the old trophy even if most managers don’t respect it. I notice Man City put close to a full strength side out last night though……didn’t seem to do them any harm. One last thought for Mr Hughton, if you want to win on Saturday play Wes, lesson over.