Blimey… where to start.
First of all, it’s hard to comprehend how City managed to find a way to lose that game at the City Ground. To have been so in control for almost all of the opening forty-five and yet come home with nothing is unforgivable.
To have conceded goals in the manner in which they were is also unforgivable.
But who didn’t see it coming?
It is all becoming just a little too predictable. Having bossed the first half but scored only the one goal it seemed almost inevitable that Nottingham Forest – who were awful – would get a Psycho half-time ‘rocket’ and come out with all guns blazing.
That the equaliser didn’t arrive until the 85th minute was probably the biggest surprise. But once it did there was only going to be one winner.
And let’s not kid ourselves. Forest are not particularly good. Yes, courtesy of a frothing mouth, bulging veins and the odd tea cup they gave it a real go in the second half, but this was a side that had not won in ten. Whose confidence was on the floor. Who were wondering where the next win was coming from.
Middlesborough were decent. Forest were ordinary.
But who do you call when the chips are down and you need to turn around a miserable run of form? A grim run that has seen you lose at home to Brentford and Blackburn and get hammered away at Huddersfield.
Good old Norwich.
We’re a soft touch, no question.
We have a squad full of quality players – at least that’s what we have been telling ourselves – but right now there appears a horrible lack of bottle and tactical nous; a very unhealthy combo.
The players are only too quick to tell us of the togetherness and belief in the group, but it is not manifesting itself on the pitch. Games that City appear to be controlling are just slipping away.
To have whizzed through October and beyond Bonfire Night with just a single win, armed with the ‘best squad in the division’ (I’ll stop using that one now, it’s getting a little embarrassing), is unacceptable.
And which is why message-boards and social media were ablaze with straw polls on the future, or otherwise, of Neil Adams.
First up, his coaching credentials are not in doubt. He’s has overseen the development of a plethora of youngsters and bagged an FA Youth Cup en route. Give him a bunch of impressionable lads to coax, cajole and head on the right footballing path and he’s your man.
But that role is a very different to the one he is being asked to perform right now. A million miles away. He is now dealing with individuals who don’t hang on his every word; who don’t take as gospel every single instruction.
The players respect him – I firmly believe that – and probably like him. Why wouldn’t they? He is a nice, decent bloke. But we have been there before – very recently. And that didn’t end well.
I wrote at the time of Neil’s appointment of my abiding memory of his ill-fated five match spell at the end of last season. It was of him sitting in those large, luxuriant, red leather seats, pitch-side at Old Trafford. He looked small – physically and, far more importantly, metaphorically. His team’s performance that day reflected it.
It’s that same person I now see in the technical area. He looks a little, and it pains me to say it, stranded; in desperate need of a wise old head to turn to. Someone like… Joe Royle.
The assertion, upon Joe’s decision to take up a post at his beloved Everton, that ‘he’s always at the other end of a phone’ is of little assistance when it’s an instant, heat-of-the-battle decision that needs to be made.
In the battle of the technical areas I can think of few occasions this season where City have triumphed. In the game of chess that is Championship football, all too often Team Adams found themselves in check, often checkmate.
Yes, he has shown a flexibility in approach. Yes, he has tinkered. Yes he has picked ‘horses for courses’. But how often has the opposite dugout been out-thought?
But that’s not a broadside aimed solely at Adams. At this level he is a rookie. He’s learning. Mistakes will be made.
The craft of top level football management is one that is honed over the years and is done by finding out what works for you and what doesn’t. Not by doing a crash-course in full view of the watching millions.
I have no reason to doubt that Adams will one day be an excellent top-level football manager. But right now he isn’t. He still has his ‘L’ plates. And I’m not sure Norwich City needs a learner right now – or even one with his ‘P’ plate.
The last few games have being crying out for an ‘old head’ to steer the ship through these choppy waters. Neil is undoubtedly doing his best but we’re zig-zagging all over the place.
I don’t expect David McNally and the board to act. To have offered him a four-year deal smacked of a long-term plan and to tear up said contract six months down the line would come at a cost – in every sense.
But in the same way the appointment in the first place was a gamble, so too would be to now sit tight in the hope that everything will turn out fine.
It’s a big call, a massive one – and let’s not turn into a Leeds or a Watford – but this season represents without question our best chance of returning to the Premier League.
The board have to ask themselves if more of the same will be good enough to achieve that. And I think we know the answer.