At the back end of last season, with relegation all but confirmed, I sat in the BBC Radio Norfolk studio with Rob Butler and Andrew Walker (him of ‘The 92 in 92‘ fame) and we mulled over who should take over the City reins.
We discussed the usual suspects – Neil Lennon, Tim Sherwood, Malky Mackay (*sighs*), Gianfranco Zola et al – and Rob asked us both for our preferred choices. As ever, my penchant for fence-sitting came to the fore but at a push I mumbled “Eddie Howe”.
“How about Neil Adams?”, asked Mr B.
“No!”, was my, for once, emphatic reply.
Any remnants of credibility gone in an instant.
But at the time, in my feeble defence, I was not alone. The furore that erupted upon the announcement of his appointment suggested that those in favour were in the minority.
My own flawed view was skewed by two particular issues.
The first was the sight of Neil in those seconds leading up to kick-off at Manchester United, where he was drowned by those luxurious red, padded leather seats, and looked – for the want of a better description – like a boy being asked to do the job of a man.
The second was that afternoon at Stamford Bridge where, in any other circumstances, the goal-less draw eked out by the Canaries would have been seen as a massive result. Except, in those circumstances, it wasn’t.
In reality a win was the only show in town and many questioned why, having held firm for 80 minutes, City didn’t ‘go for it’ for the last ten.
As it happened, of course, those extra two points still wouldn’t have still been sufficient to save City from the drop.
Yet, while at the time it seemed reasonable to judge Adams on what we had witnessed, in hindsight the chalice was far more toxic than any of us imagined. And even then, behind the scenes, he clearly did enough to convince David McNally that he was capable of doing the job.
Whether McNally just got lucky, or whether it was yet another masterstoke, will have to wait for another day but one suspects even the chief executive will be rubbing his eyes at the start Adams’ new charges have made to the season.
Top of the league; five wins from seven; more than two goals scored per game; less than a goal per game conceded. What’s not to like? And all achieved by playing in a style (and there is no getting away from it) that was last witnessed in these parts when that surly Scot led us on us a whistle-stop tour of League One and the Championship, en route to the Premier League.
Last night’s win at Griffin Park was a classic example.
To have gone in at half-time goal-less only thanks to the brilliance of John Ruddy was, in itself, a sharp reminder of the fine margins of the Championship, but the old adage of class always telling in the end as ever came to the fore.
As Adams alluded to afterwards, it was very much a case of City waiting for the Brentford storm to blow out and then, once it did, to make hay. The City boss told the club’s official site, “3-0 is a good result, I always felt we would win the game, I just thought it might take 60 minutes, 70 minutes or even 80 or 85.”
And so it proved. Like all good sides, City had found a way to win.
Having been on the receiving end for most of last season during which they became well versed in losing to the top six having been the better side – Manchester United and Chelsea at home are two games that spring to mind – it was heartening to witness City doing the same with the shoe on the other foot.
Let’s make no mistake – Brentford deserved better. While a win wouldn’t have been out of the question, their endeavour and intensity deserved at least a draw; yet they were left with nothing but a bloody nose. The record books will forever show a 3-0 thumping. And while that’s hard to take, no-one knows that feeling better than Norwich City.
But under the cosh and staring down the barrel, Adams had engineered a win. He had used the better players at his disposal to eke out a win when it looked unlikely – and that is an art all of its own.
The Cameron Jerome story also continues apace. A brace to go with the goal and match-winning performance in Cardiff has likely edged him ahead of Kyle Lafferty in the striking stakes, and it would take a brave man not to unleash him on one of his former employers, Birmingham City, on Saturday.
It’s early days of course, but maybe it’s time for one who has, to date, enjoyed something of a nomadic existence to put down some footballing roots. Now aged 28 and in his professional prime, what better place than the Fine City to do just that.
He certainly offers City something different in the attacking third and while we’ve had our fair share of power up top (Grant Holt and Iwan Roberts two obvious examples) we’ve seldom had it allied to one with pace. That he offers both in one muscular frame must be a defender’s nightmare – and long may it continue.
So… another glorious away-day for the travelling faithful and one that has again raised the bar a notch higher. For now those Premier League nightmares are but a distant memory and, for the next eight months at least, the Y’Army can travel with a collective spring in its step.
And Neil Adams? You can bet your life he is loving it, not least because he’s proving wrong those numpties who questioned his suitability for the job.
Honestly, some people!
For those hoping to read an Ed ‘nostalgia Wednesday’ piece, it has – due to the Brentford game – been slipped to Thursday. But it’ll be worth the wait and appropriately looks at a certain J Ruddy.
Alan Medis says
After those two away results, it’s surely time for Adams to go….to the top of the class. Great result if flattering scoreline from an average (6-7/10) performance last night.
I too was a major Adams doubter and still think the eulogies should be reined back until we see where we are by Christmas, but it’s hard to be a curmudgeon while we sit astride the division.
Cameron Zishan Rana-Jerome (to give his full title) has been a revelation over 1.5 games and maybe brings to mind a comparison with Justin Fashanu in terms of pace and power. Grabban’s been overshadowed and you have to feel sorry for Lafferty – he’s done little wrong but seems destined for a sustained period of bench-time now.
Neil has options all over the park – he has to keep everyone happy and involved but so far he’s done us proud.
Kevin O'C says
Well I can proudly say that I wanted Neil Adams as fully involved in first team affairs, with a view to him eventually becoming manager, a long time ago. I can’t pin down exactly when but it was obvious during his commentary days that he was an intelligent analyst and communicator. His ability to learn and develop coaching ideas showed in the brilliant progress of his youth squad. He not only out-motivated, but also completely out-witted, the over-privileged Chelsea set-up to cap it all off. To some extent he also did this to their senior squad and their sour manager in that end of season draw because only a very fine intervention from Cahill prevented Snoddy pinching a winner near the end. The only worry was whether senior players within the club, and, more importantly, players we were needing to sign, would know enough about his very respectable playing experience and coaching talent. In other words – would he be seen to have enough ‘clout’, gravitas, stature etc. Although I have been an admirer for a while I have been really impressed with how he has conducted himself but still longed for a bit of luck and a good set of results in the first 10 games to get the doubters on his side. Hallelujah! It all seems to be clicking into place. The next test will be how he copes with the inevitable patch of poorer results. Come through that ok and we may be looking at the NCFC manager for many years to come and be able to sample the benefits of long term managerial stability.
I know…and you’d have probably kept Hughton in charge.
Gary Gowers says
‘Alan’ (1) – Agreed the eulogies are a tad premature, but still the start that dreams are made of. And huge respect for use of the word ‘curmudgeon’.
Jimbo (3) – Not sure if that was aimed at me, but I don’t know anyone who didn’t agree that Hughton’s time was up. Looks like we’ve moved on…
Ian Lamedi says
Jimbo (3) – I’m no Hughton apologist but his record with two different teams in the Championship is excellent (points and goals scored). Had we been in the Championship under him, there would have been an entirely different approach to that which caused our demise in the PL. Similarly, it’s ridiculous to think that should we get promoted, that Adams will adopt the same strategy in the PL as now – last night’s (and Cardiff) 1st half was a classic example – we would have been 2 or 3 down by half time against top-class strikers.
Bucks Canary says
Agree with just about everything.
Tremendous results,, but too early to eulogise, BUT…………..
1 – after two miserable years ion the top flight, we’re all reveling in our (current) success in the second tier. Match day is, once again, something to look forward to.
2 – I hope it never clouds his judgment, but Adams clearly has green and yellow running through his veins. When was the last time we witnessed that? (Gunny excluded, of course)
Roll on Birmingham!!!!!
Michael D says
Like Kevin O’C (2) I was rather bemused by the vitriol against Adam’s full time appointment in the off-season, and did not fully understand why, especially when some were comparing his lack of experience with Bryan Gunn. That just seemed wilful ignorance, but in general people seemed to underestimate his intelligence, courage and undoubted ability as shown through the achievements of his youth squad – although most seemed to discount the latter as not real management.
Nevertheless, even if quite happy with his appointment, what Adams has done since has been much better than I’d hoped. The last two second half performances have obviously been amazing, but hidden in them have been little incidents that for me really show the team spirit Adams has built. One was Hooiveld’s celebration of the fourth goal against Cardiff, another, Odjidja’s celebration of the last yesterday. I thought Odjidja might be not happy at having taken a while to get onto the pitch, but it would appear not a bit of it. NA’s ability to manage his squad well and keep everyone happy and on board, even when they are not playing regularly, will be critical to keeping the momentum going this season, and indeed beyond. For him, with his team, to have built such a spirit so quickly, I find most encouraging of all. He clearly expects much, but at the same time his feet are firmly grounded. If he can keep these attributes, and the team spirit, through the tougher spells, then we are all indeed fortunate people.
The performance last night was a little reminiscent of the George Foreman vs Muhammad Ali fight when Ali lolled back on the ropes and waited for Foreman to punch himself into exhaustion. It was good to see Brentford shoulders drop much as Hughton’s Norwich City shoulders would drop on conceding a first goal (shudderrrrr!). I also had doubts Adams was right for the job and the Joe Royle debacle didn’t help, however, I felt Adams deserved a crack at it, having stepped up to the unenviable task when Hughton left. After all, we could take a pointer after 5 games and take stock after 10 games and monitor progress thereafter as need be. The fear was, of course, that the club would not make a change for another lengthy period if it wasn’t working. But these worrying deliberations are all now happily in the past while Adams and the squad grow in stature with every game. Even so, we must not allow ourselves to assume progress will not have hitches along the way. Meantime, isn’t it bloody marvellous to be a proud Canary again! Thank you Neeyul for bringing entertaining football back to Carrow Road and for restoring our battered pride so quickly!
Ben K says
One thing that hasn’t been mentioned amongst all the talk of swashbuckling football was how much long ball we played last night, at least up to the first goal. It certainly wasn’t pretty. That first goal, which came from a mistake by a Brentford player, changed everything. After that we looked good but we were very lucky to be in that position. We won’t always get that luck, not that I wish to do a disservice to Ruddy. He made some great saves that kept us in the game.
Jerome looks like he could be very useful indeed this season. The confidence will be flowing and he must be the first choice striker of the moment.
Alan Medis(2) says
Gary – is there a cash prize for ‘word of the day’ and if not, why not?
Interesting reading the Brentford fans’ gripes about our win last night..complaints about the ref, parachute payments etc etc. but they do a fine line in catchy match report headlines;
Among the euphoria of the past 6 points, I’m looking for much more from Hoolahan and Redmond.
Stewart Lewis says
I was an agnostic about Neil’s appointment. Worried about lack of experience – some of his decisions in those five games last season seemed very naive – but one thing kept my mind open: my trust in David McNally. I know some fans’ faith in him was shaken last year, but his judgement has always seemed to me dispassionate and professional. I don’t think he gets lucky.
Speaking of last year, some of the wounds are still clearly raw. Can I make a suggestion/plea: that we now all vow to go a year without mentioning Chris Hughton?
Any reasonable person – and we have lots of them among our fan base – has to be impressed at Neil’s start to this season. Not just results, but the way he’s put his squad together and his own demeanour. Long may it continue.
Our transfer policy does raise a couple of interesting issues. I applauded the signing of Jerome because he’s a clearly effective striker at Championship level; ditto some of our other signings. It could be argued that the policy is short-sighted – Jerome, Grabban, Lafferty and others will do well for us this season, but basically aren’t good enough to succeed in the Prem. That will need to be thought about at some stage. But for now, our sole objective is to buck the odds and bounce straight back. So far, so good.
Michael D says
I think it is far too early Stewart (11) to decide whether players like Grabban and Jerome could do a job for us or not in the Premier League! First of all we have to get there, and if we do, they would have had to have played consistently enough, in a supportive team, for views then to be quite different to what they are now!
Dave B says
While I had previously found my opinions on the signings in alignment with Stewart ( i.e. are these just good Championship players?), with some reflection I’d have to look back at Lambert’s first season. I don’t think too many of that squad was considered Prem standard, but he raised them to play at that level. Perhaps Adams can do the same?
At least we’re playing at such a level that it’s even being discussed!
Stewart Lewis says
Good points from Michael (12) and Dave B (13). My view was based on Jerome having already stepped up to the Prem and not cut it, and Grabban’s first touch and goal-to-chance ratio being way below Prem standard. But Grabban is young, and your points are well taken.
We should perhaps remember that Lambert over-achieved remarkably in his Prem season with us, so much so that he didn’t want to try and repeat the trick. I won’t break my vow and mention Chris Hughton…
Ben K talks of the long ball. There were long passes but it seemed to me that part of NA’s creed is width and switch. The long balls were not like the Wolves of the 60’s. They were diagonal to release wide men; or lteral to achieve an immediate switch in the point of attack. I am comfortable with that stategy
I really don’t get these comments relating to whether players X, Y & Z are Premiership quality, or not. The fact is we’re Championship, for another 39 games at least, and, more importantly, the new arrivals actually wanted to join Norwich, a Championship team, last summer. They’re here to do a job, get Norwich promoted at the first attempt. So far so good, but let’s get promoted first and then save this debate until next summer!
Damian Sal says
As Gazza(16) says, let’s enjoy the ride while we can without getting hung up about who might be good enough for the PL should we get there (still only 7 games in!).
I would though point to Leicester – they’ve got pretty much the same team as last season + a new striker, but pound for pound is their squad any better than our current one? I don’t think so. They’ve had a good start but so far have drawn 2-2 with Everton on the opening day and won 1-0 at Stoke – ring any bells with our start to last season?!
Good game. We learned a harsh lesson about not taking chances. Saying that we took them against brighton 3 days earlier so it can swing both ways. Score one goal and it’s totally different game
Check our match report and video. Norwich and bees fans before, during and after the match vibes
I think it’s unfair to suggest those in favour of Adams getting the big job were in a minority. The ‘furore’ was just because the malcontents, or maybe you could call them NAy-sayers (geddit?), were shouting the loudest. The silent majority wanted to give him every chance, and they weren’t so silent come matchday (first home game, even after the Molineux no-show, great backing.)
We needn’t concern ourselves with those angry keyboard warriors anyway. They said they would be cancelling their season ticket when Adams was appointed, so they’ve missed all the fun that we’ve been enjoying so far.
I’m most happy at the moment for all those brilliantly dedicated away fans who are finally getting something to excite them again. Must be such a relief!