We’re not in a crisis (yet) but it’s time to put the cards on the table. Is Neil the real deal?
*”The current Canaries boss has won over most of his initial doubters with a table-topping mix of attacking play and tsunami of goals. It’s not been perfect (recent first half torpor and a limp early Cup exit) but perched on top, life’s good.”*
These were my first ever words as a MyFootballWriter columnist on the 9th October! I thought I’d fall on my own sword before anyone stuffed them back down my throat. Incidentally I also predicted that the then recently appointed Darko Milinic wouldn’t last beyond Christmas at Leeds – I was being far too optimistic.
We now find ourselves in a very different place to back then – literally in terms of the division and mentally in terms of confidence and outlook. Let me update my opening gambit from October 9th;
“After a promising start, the initial doubts surrounding the appointment of the current Canaries’ boss have come back to haunt after a poor run characterised by misfiring strikers and a leaky defence. Mired in 10th place, life is not good.”
We’re not alone in our general air of despondency – fans of Forest (despite Saturday’s victory snatched from the jaws of defeat), Wolves and Charlton are also suffering a slide down the table after a blazing start. That’s not much comfort though is it?
A pair of awful away defeats last week of very different character but ultimately the same result – nil points. As Brucie (not Steve) used to say – “What do you get for a pair? Nothing in this game.” Prophetic words indeed.
In many ways, the late capitulation at Forest hurt much more than the no-show at the Riverside although if you made the effort and took the expense to go to Teesside, you might disagree.
I’m certainly not in favour of refunds after every defeat – clearly that’s ridiculous. However, for the longest trip of the whole season on a Tuesday night in November, I strongly feel that some recompense to travelling fans was in order after such a miserable performance.
Not the value of the match ticket – that’s the price you pay for getting into the ground and has to be taken as a hit if things go pear-shaped. But in terms of travel expenses and any overnight accommodation, I’m disappointed that no monetary gesture was made by players or the club.
Presumably some of the brave ‘554’ took time off work to make that 450-odd mile round trip?
The genial host of Radio Norfolk’s excellent ‘Scrimmage’ show dismissed the refund talk and suggested anyone thinking that way should give up football and go DIY shopping instead. I’m guessing he was not left out of pocket by the trip on Tuesday night or has at least put in an expenses claim to his employer?
And now of course, the cherry on the poor form cake is the international break until Brighton come to town on the 22nd. That’s gives everyone an extra week to brood and be miserable about recent events.
What the hell has gone wrong? Neil seemed to have won the hearts and minds of those who thought his ‘surprise’ appointment a massive gamble for the club. Praise soon came in spades and we thought we had unearthed a managerial diamond.
In August-September, Neil seemed to be an ace in the pack, perfectly suited to the role. Now he’s accused of being a joker – a busted flush who has played his cards wrong. Has the gamble fallen flat and us fans been dealt a flawed hand by the board?
The manager and players also have much thinking time until the Seagulls swoop into Carrow Road.
In terms of squad options and formation choices, Neil seems to have thoroughly shuffled the pack and, despite his poker interview face, must be feeling desperate. He seems no nearer to finding his best starting 11.
With the exception of the Bolton game, we’ve looked lightweight, toothless and afraid – a bit like an undernourished, gummy rabbit.
The grumblings for change at the top are beginning to mount as fan patience gets thinner by the week. Affirmative action seems to have turned around the fortunes of early strugglers such as Fulham, Bolton and Cardiff.
It’s ironic that Fulham’s recovery has been engineered by the appointment from within of a popular long-servant of the club who had been beavering away behind the scenes in youth development/coaching roles! Let’s see if their ‘legend’ fares any better in the long run than ours.
Clearly the current break will involve much soul-searching and hard work at Colney. Formations and form are obviously crucial to success but so are fight and team spirit.
It’s always ‘dangerous’ to criticise a squad for the lack of such qualities, but if the poor run continues there is little defence (as at Forest in the last 10 minutes) against such accusations and ultimately the manager has to carry the can for such a scenario.
I hope we don’t hop on the kneejerk sacking merry-go-round (albeit first-team coach Mark Robson was shown red on Monday morning) but Neil needs to find one or two tricks up his sleeve before Christmas is upon us – otherwise a red card will be flashed his way.
Excellent piece. Summed up my thoughts completely
Ben K says
I would take issue with some of what’s been said here. I don’ think many people were under the impression that we’d unearthed a managerial diamond in August or September. Things were going well, I will admit, but we hadn’t faced anyone decent (except, maybe, Wolves, who beat us and largely kept us at arm’s length; and Watford, who had to play with 10 men for all but two minutes of the match) and we were riding our luck at times (against Blackburn re penalty shouts and second chances, against Brentford where John Ruddy really had his work cut out and at Cardiff where we got away with conceding shocking goals).
We have a decent squad and did well to hold on to several players who I thought would leave the club. I would also add that I don’t think things are that bad at the moment, just as they weren’t that great when we were at the top of a nascent league table. But this was always going to happen, and would have under any manager – teams stutter, drop a few too many points here and there, and you really need someone to keep their head and hold their course, making a change to the team if and when necessary. Adams may yet do that, and we’re not too far from the top two places to be back there in reasonable time, but the worrying thing is that some of those points dropped were at home against teams who shouldn’t be getting anything from Carrow Road. On the plus side, we were clearly the better team in those matches. But if you can’t secure the points when you have the opportunities, what should you expect when it’s not so easy?
With someone so inexperienced in charge the panic around the place is palpable, demonstrated by Robson’s departure yesterday. Robson (as inexperienced as Adams) was someone trusted by the manager, and now he’s gone. One less familiar face to turn to. Was this a shot across the bows for Adams? Is it a way of putting someone with greater experience into the team without undermining Adams in (too much of) an obvious way? Has frustration and tension led to a rift? Whatever it is, it doesn’t look good, except perhaps for those who want to see heads roll when things aren’t going well.
Whilst I didn’t agree with the appointment of Adams, I see it as a shame that people appear to be losing their heads at this early stage of the season. If everyone just stays calm (although it could be too late for that) we could get ourselves back on track and heading in the right direction soon enough. If, however, that doesn’t happen it would be foolish for the board not to act.
(Apologies for the rant)
Ben K is right fans (myself included)are panicking far too early. Why is it the case? The board. They should have replaced Hughton Xmas last year and didn’t . He was sacked with 5 games of the season left to go, knowing well in advance who we were going to be playing against! With the kind of decision making that’s so bad it’s almost comical, can you blame people for getting carried away?
Stewart Lewis says
Ben K (2): some good points. But if you look back to September, you’ll see that fans were lining up to call Adams an inspired appointment. Good for you if you took a more sober view, but you were an exception. That was an overreaction, as is the current unrest.
We simply don’t know enough background to judge the Robson sacking. But clearly it represents decisive action to address a problem. I’d agree with Ben’s plea for everyone to stay calm – but not necessarily with his implication that Adams should go if they don’t. The people who need to be convinced are the players and the Board. If that’s the case (as at West Ham a year ago) then fans’ calls CAN be resisted, with short-term pain but to the ultimate benefit of the club.
@ 2. I guess you weren’t reading the same internet forums that I was a couple of months ago – very large numbers were indeed getting carried away and thought Adams was great!
@Russell as the person who spoke up in the comments of your last article to point out that it was too early to judge Adams, I take absolutely no joy in what has happened since. I was at Forest on Saturday (home end, sat with a friend who supports the reds) and it was a bitter experience watching those last 10 minutes.
Personally (and I know this is just the opinion of someone who does not play the game) I felt we were too conservative in the 2nd half; Forest went to 3 at the back (virtually a 3-3-4 formation!!) and it was crying out for a Redmond or Murphy to come on and run at tired legs in the final half-hour. We could have avoided the aberration of that defeat if we’d made it 2-0 and effectively killed the game off.
That said, I also understand why Adams wanted to stick with the diamond and keep it tight and compact in midfield – like all of us he was desperate for the win (no matter how it would come), and to be fair Forest truly did not look like scoring in a month of Sundays until the 85th minute.
Either way, there is no excuse for the total lack of defending on the Forest winner. It seemed like one or two had taken Neil’s philosophy of an “emphasis on attacking” as meaning “don’t defend at all” haha. I’m actually impressed we were still going for the win at that stage, but even so, I find it surprising so many bodies were sent forward for that corner.
Ben K says
Stewart, just to clarify my point (and I agree it needs clarifying), I meant that the Board would be foolish not to act if things aren’t turned around, rather than if people continue to overreact.
I dont think people are overeacting its a natural reaction to what was and still is a very unpopular appointment by a farcial Board that make the same mistakes over and over again.
We will not get promoted with Adams in charge that to most people is crystal clear how he is still employed today is a mystery. Gary Holt should watch his back or he may become the next person to get sacked to keep Mr Radio in a job .
Stewart Lewis says
Cheers, Ben – that makes sense. We’re all looking for an upturn – just hope it’s not a case of everyone having a different definition of upturn!
Russell S. says
*Steve – Cheers.
*Ben K – I enjoyed your passionate but level-headed ‘rant’! I too didn’t agree with Neil getting the job full-time but I don’t want to see him fail and leave now. I really hope he and his players turn it round in the next 4 eminently winnable games (3 at home) and then kick on in the New Year. As long as they’ve put in a shift and played some decent footy, then a defeat to a clearly better side can be ‘accepted’. That wasn’t the case last week.
*Stewart – I certainly back your calls for rational thinking although the example of West Ham and Big Sam is very different. They backed someone with a proven managerial track record in the top flight. Our situation lies somewhere between West Ham and Blackburn under Steve Kean (who Big Sam made his assistant!). Neil’s outstanding service to the club will prevent it reaching the latter but there’s little room for sentiment in the game now.
*Paul – It must have been a grim trip back from Forest. As hard as he tries, Neil’s mid-late game decisions seem to be costing us and so eroding the faith of the fans. Whatever’s going on in the dressing room doesn’t seem to be bringing players together – it all comes down to the ‘leadership’ question on and off the pitch.
Stewart Lewis says
Cheers, Russell (PS I forgot to mention the article was very good!). Take your point about Big Sam, but there’s also a more general one. I don’t want Adams kept out of sentiment; for now I’d keep him because it’s early days and his record is no worse than mixed (unlike Gunny, whose managerial record was an unmitigated disaster).
Changing manager at the first blip is not a recipe for success – Leeds will go nowhere, for instance, while Cellini is in charge. A bit of patience pays dividends, more often than not.
Gunns unmitigated disaster – in charge for 21 games with 6 Wins 5 Draws and 10 Defeats
Adams 24 games 8 Wins 6 Draws 10 defeats
Looks like the two are very similar , both an unmitigated disaster .
Stewart Lewis says
Phill: surely not fair to include Adams’ five games at the end of last season (in a league where Gunny never managed). Also perhaps fair to exclude League Cup. Like-for-like comparison in League games = 20 pts from 20 for Gunny, 29 pts from 18 for Neil.