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.