I’ve been elsewhere of late; head down pulling something together.
So all I saw of the Southampton game was the ‘highlights’. Which from a Norwich point of view can be summed up as ‘both of them’.
Which doesn’t wholly bode well for the last, fraught weeks ahead.
And the other point that has crossed my mind of late is a fairly simple one: what more is there to say?
The die is pretty much cast now. It was from the final day of January when the transfer window slammed shut.
The last option is, of course, to heave the manager out. And look for someone, somewhere, to perform a miracle if the ‘tipping point’ is a place in the bottom three.
With Liverpool (h), Manchester United (a), Chelsea (a) and Arsenal (h) awaiting in the in-tray. Best of luck…
So Sunderland (h), Swansea (a), West Brom (h) and Fulham (a) it is; 12 points to keep the Canaries with their noses firmly in the Premier League trough for another season.
Because next season – under whatever manager – is going to be so much different from this.
Maybe that’s a bit harsh. Maybe there is Johnny Fantastic out there who is going to sweep everyone off their feet with fine, flowing football that propels Norwich out of the common herd and into the top half of the table where they can look down calmly on the frantic fray below…
And still not pay anyone over £30,000 a week or whatever to get them there.
Which remains my principal rub; that, as in life, you get what you pay for.
Back to the matters in hand, however, and on the evidence of last Saturday, Norwich’s stomach for a fight didn’t exactly look there; the body language whiffed of trouble.
Because like everyone else out there, the dressing room will have looked at the fixture list and thought exactly the same as everyone else. Hmmmm.
But it is interesting to ponder what the thinking is within the boardroom. Close your eyes and pray might be one school of thought; another wing might be wondering that if we do nothing and we go down, how much of this is going to land on our lap?
I strongly suspect that boards being boards, they will be applying the Teflon armour plate to the boardroom door as we speak; that if a fate worse than death did, indeed, befall the dressing room below that’s where the buck stops. It doesn’t come back on us.
Though there will be one, large school of supporter thought that thinks replacing the manager with, say, seven games to go when four of them are Liverpool (h), Manchester United (a), Chelsea (a) and Arsenal (h) is all going to be far too little, far too late. Horse. Bolted. Stable door. Long. Re-arrange.
There was a sense a few weeks back that to drop into the bottom three was the tip point.
But Norwich could be 17th or 16th on the final weekend of the season and still go down.
And I am not sure that the new manager ‘bounce’ will do much in those final four games. In fact, one of the lessons to emerge from this season is how little ‘bounce’ the majority of managerial changes appear to bring.
Given the restrictions placed on any manager by both the restricted size of Premier League squads and the transfer window, whoever comes in will have to work with what they have got.
RvW is not about to grow three inches taller, be half a yard quicker and half a stone strappier just because he has a new manager.
And is there a man waiting in the wings, ready to arrive in an instant? That part wouldn’t surprise me. That is the kind of forward calculation that this board has demonstrated in the past that it is capable of.
But as each week passes and each game goes, so they are opening themselves up to charges of too little, too late.
For me, the decision point comes mid-Jan. And if you have a glaring hole in the midst of your team – like a wholly misfiring forward line – you have to address that.
Either the manager carries the can for bringing in said misfiring strike force and goes; or you stick with your man and give him the where-with-all to make good. To try again; find someone, somewhere, who can relight your fire. In front of goal.
Steve Bruce’s comment needs to be etched in stone. ‘In the English Premier League, any manager is only ever as good as his strikers…’
Them’s the choices. Neither are easy. And both cost.
Which is the point. Again. To succeed in the English Premier League, you have to take your business brain out of gear; forget everything that 40 years of commercial life has taught you and throw enough silly money at someone and someone’s agent to make this thing work.
And that might be Norwich’s downfall. That they are far too sensible for their own good.
That they are the last sane person left in asylum. And look where that gets you…
Dave B says
While I don’t agree with their decision to stick by Hughton I do have to commend their loyalty.
That doesn’t change the fact that we’ve been shocking in front of goal. To me Hughton should have been strongly advised in the summer to take on an attacking coach. We could all see we needed it.
In January, with no sign of visible improvement, he should he been given the ultimatum to hire one or leave.
Perhaps he asked and wasn’t given the resources. Personally I find that hard to believe. McNally appears savvy enough to understand investing in goals was a priority in the summer. I honestly don’t understand at what level this has gone wrong.
cns lesl says
Superb piece Rick
Staggering to reflect that scoring Premier League goals has been a problem from Hughton’s arrival, which became a serious concern three months later. The argument of the time was ‘we have build from the back first’. Well okay, to a point, but a team has to be developed all over, not just one department at a time or else you find yourself where we are now – still unable to score, low on morale, with a shaky defence due to our survival resting solely on its ability to deny the opposition. No surprise I blame Hughton.
Interesting article Rick. The key point that others have picked up on is the failure to be productive in the final third of the season and this is a carry-on from last season. Echoing a post I made previously, look at the strikers we have used over the past two seasons – Holt, Morrison, Martin, Jackson, Kamara, Becchio, RVW, Hooper & Elmander. These are all good strikers with proven goalscoring records and all capable of doing a decent job (to varying degrees) within the Premier League. Under CH and his team ALL have looked a shadow of what we know they can do. Logically, something fundamental about the coaching and / or how the team is set-up isn’t quite right.
On the decision to keep CH, I think the board have been right (just!). If you are going to replace a manager you have to have somebody better lined up. In Norwich’s case has a track record of being able to get the best of out players like O’Neil and Pulis would have been logical options. I can’t think of any PL managerial appointments this season that would have had a positive affect on Norwich.
The Board clearly felt that Hughton with this squad of players would keep us in the EPL this year. By January doubts were beginning to emerge but I think it was still their belief, shared by many supporters, that Hughton was the man to preserve our status. The football might not be attractive but Hughton knows enough to keep us safe and we look at the position in the summer was a common comment here and elsewhere at the time. On this basis why spend a lot of money when there are some doubts about that already spent by this manager, far better for that money to be part of the reappraisal in the summer?
If, as seems more and more likely, Hughton is not a manager to keep us up with this squad then it will be a misjudgement by the Board. But a misjudgement based on a belief shared by many supporters!
When we eased past Stoke at home last season, I liked what I saw. A hard nosed City team competing with and beating the best Pulis could muster.
Now I see a team devoid of confidence with no clear strategy as to how they are going to win a game of football. Second best in terms of posession. Worse on set-pieces (overall). Hopeless on the break. And with poor game management from the bench.
Personally, I hope the sanity shown by the board gets us through. Three wins is not impossible and a bit of confidence and momentum from Saturday would be a big help.
Mike C says
Sorry, Jon_Notts re your point on strikers – only Elmander of the strikers you mention had any Premier League experience prior to pulling on a Norwich shirt. Martin may return to the EPL with Derby, Holty returned via the back door to Lambert, but are the others on any EPL manager’s wish list? I think not. Unfortunately the gamble taken by not buying in strikers with worthwhile EPL experience may come back to haunt us. As I have mentioned in a post on another thread, just a few more goals from each of our strikers may well have been enough. Steve Bruce is right, but would we be prepared to sanction spending £40k a week on someone as talented (?) as Kenwyne Jones or Peter Odemwingie? Just imagine what a quality striker might cost!
Sensible piece, sensible comments. Looks like we fans have become circumspect all of a sudden. Is it me or is there a growing sense of ‘what will be, will be’ around at the moment?
Stewart Lewis says
Mike C (7), like Rick, hits the nail on the head. A Shane Long might have been a prudent investment for us, even though expensive.
But we are where we are – and we don’t need to be down-hearted. Of course the tame defeat at Saints is uppermost in our minds. But don’t forget we had equally frustrating defeats at Cardiff and West Ham last month – followed by the stirring home performances against Man C and Spurs.
It’s been a rollercoaster, and it isn’t finished yet. Let’s expect the team to perform tomorrow, and do whatever we can to help. OTBC
Mike C (7) – my meaning behind my point about our strikers over the past two seasons is that they all have a track-record of scoring goals (albeit at various levels) but have looked shadows of the players they have been. Holt, Jackson and Morrison did a decent enough job under the previous manager in the PL but dramatically tailed off under Hughton. RVW, Hooper, Elmander and Becchio have similarly struggled.
I do think you are spot on about the need for a proven PL striker though – as Bruce has said its goals that win you games. I wonder whether City’s reluctance to go down that route isn’t so much about paying say 40k a week but the potential financial burden if they are relegated.