Norwich City tonight decided to drink in the Last Chance Saloon with FA Youth Cup winning manager Neil Adams at the bar after dismissing the ill-starred Chris Hughton.
With five games of the season left.
Yesterday’s 1-0 home defeat by West Bromwich Albion and, in particular, the poison that engulfed the stadium at the final whistle clearly proved to be the final straw as the 48-year-old former Radio Norfolk pundit was given a chance to write himself into club folklore should he keep the Canaries in the top flight.
‘Norwich City can confirm Chris Hughton, Colin Calderwood and Paul Trollope have parted company with the Club with immediate effect – and former Canary winger and FA Youth Cup-winning coach Neil Adams has been appointed as First Team Manager,’ ran a simple statement on the club’s official website this evening.
‘The Norwich City Board has taken the decision to give the Club the maximum chance to secure the points required between now and the end of the season to ensure retention of our Barclays Premier League status.’
For Adams this is a huge opportunity to make his mark on the managerial stage; in a similar mould to that now presented to Tim Sherwood at Spurs. For Hughton – handed a near-impossible task of following on from the unprecedented successes of Paul Lambert – tonight’s news might even come as a blessed relief.
As far as certain sections of the City supporters were concerned, he had been a dead man walking for all-too long.
Adam’s delight was, however, obvious; his appeal to the supporters to urge their heroes on over the final few weeks of the season was heart-felt and much needed. If the club is ever to avoid the drop into the Championship, it has to stand united. That it hasn’t been for the vast majority of the season.
The reaction that followed the Baggies defeat was right down there with the bitter cauldron of anger and derision that ended Nigel Worthington’s tenure at the club. When supporter feelings plumb such depths, any board has to act in the hope that lancing such a boil will have the desired effect points and position-wise.
“People know what this club means to me, and so it goes without saying that we will be doing everything possible to ensure that we maintain our top-flight status for next season,” said Adams.
“These final five games will be a huge test for us, and everyone must step up to the mark. But with the full backing of these magnificent Norwich supporters we will have every chance of achieving our objective.”
To achieve that objective, Norwich will have to prise a result out of the hands of Liverpool (h), Manchester United (a), Chelsea (a) and Arsenal (h).
Fail to beat 18th placed Fulham next weekend and Adams will have a mountain to climb – if he hasn’t already.
Of the above, the final home game of the season against Arsenal looks to offer the best hope; the fact that they could now be locked in a winner-takes-all battle with Everton for that final Champions League berth following today’s defeat on Merseyside might not have helped Norwich’s cause.
As for Hughton’s exit, the board had little option but to act.
The $64m question, however, is whether it is all too little, too late; that horse and stable door might spring to mind in the history of this season.
Adams can’t change the playing staff. That could only have happened in January.
Can he instill the kind of confidence needed by the likes of Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Johan Elmander and Luciano Becchio within a week? Get someone, somewhere to fire the Canaries back into life in front of goal?
It will be Hughton’s epitaph – and, potentially, that of the 2013-2014 Canaries that any Premier League manager (club) is only ever as good as its strikers.
And in that regard the former Birmingham and Newcastle boss failed to deliver – by a country mile. For those paying van Wolfswinkel’s estimated £30,000-a-week wages for the next three years, the sight of the misfiring Dutchman being an unused substitute for a game of such importance this weekend will not have gone unnoticed.
That said, even if Adams were to sprinkle some magic confidence dust over a clutch of key individuals he is not going to make van Wolfswinkel three inches taller or Elmander three years younger.
And it is not only up front where Adams will need to go to work in a hurry. At centre-half, skipper Sebastien Bassong has had a succession of partners come and go – none of whom have made that slot their own.
Likewise, in midfield City blow equally hot and cold.
But here’s the final rub. The most consistent players performance-wise don’t play for Norwich. They play for a Liverpool. Or a Chelsea.
If Wesley Hoolahan played to the level he is capable of week in, week out, he wouldn’t be at Norwich. If he scored goals on a more consistent basis, he wouldn’t be at Norwich.
You get what you pay for. As you do in life.
Tonight Hughton paid the price for money not well spent. But it was not a lot of money by the standards of the English Premier League.
And not a lot of money doesn’t get you very far. Whatever your strengths and failings are as a man and a manager.