“That’s not good enough. It’s a game we should have won”. The post-match words of Neil Adams to the BBC yesterday.
But it had an all too familiar ring. It’s a line that could have been – and probably was – trotted out after the recent games against (draws breath) Charlton, Rotherham, Fulham, Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest. That Brighton have now been added to that ever-burgeoning list is confirmation that it’s currently “not good enough”.
But where do we go from here? Is the midweek arrival of Mike Phelan really going to be enough to halt the current mallaise? Never before can I recall so much riding on the arrival of a coach.
For the neutral – and the innocent footballing eyes of my ten year-old son – yesterday’s game had it all; six goals including a worldie from Russell Martin, thrills, spills and was rounded off with a dismissal.
And I couldn’t be happier that Aidan loved every second of it. He’s hooked and Dad is proud. But from the gnarled, tired and slightly cynical eyes of a Carrow Road ‘veteran’ the words of Adams summed it up.
And it’s not only games of football that are slipping away. At this rate so is the club’s best chance of returning to the Premier League. The rate of the slide is alarming.
Yet what makes it worse is that City’s current form is not completely abject. There are spells in a game when they look a decent side. They do create chances. They do (occasionally) play at a tempo that can hurt teams.
But it doesn’t happen often enough. It’s sporadic, off the cuff, usually borne of a piece of individual magic. It’s not embedded or methodical. There is a lack of shape, and what shape there is keeps changing.
We all like to see fluidity and flexibility in the side – have demanded it fact, after a few seasons of inflexibility – but it now feels as if we have turned full circle and players are now unsure of their ever-changing roles.
Certainly the site of Bradley Johnson having to patrol the left side of the midfield had an odd look to it with Kyle Lafferty and Josh Murphy on the bench. In fairness, Johnson did put in a decent shift but if the plan was for him to ‘tuck in’ and tighten things up it didn’t work.
To concede three goals at home in any given game is not good enough. To concede three in the manner we did was unforgivable. I’ll refrain from dissecting the all too obvious wrongs in each goal, only to say the defending for the second was of an ilk that would have earned me an earful in my amateur playing days.
But, as Adams, slightly ironically, pointed out, it’s happening time and time again. Lessons are most definitely not being learned.
In the spirit of taking positives out of adversity we all thrive on a good soundbite. You know the sort… ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ or the one about learning from your mistakes.
Yet City are doing neither. They’re certainly not getting stronger – quite the opposite – and the same mistakes are befalling them week in, week out.
While much of the defensive fragility has been put down to a gung-ho, Keegan/Lambert-esque approach, yesterday was a little different. Individual errors and carelessness are now equally prevalent. It’s an unhealthy combination and as long as it exists it becomes increasingly hard to see City winning games – certainly on a regular basis.
There is no solid base from which to perform. The house has all the fancy fixtures and fittings but the foundations are made of sand. Three goals should be enough to win a Championship home game but in the end we were grateful for a point; only a predatory Gary Hooper strike away from losing it.
And before anyone tells me, ‘that’s the nature of the Championship’, yesterday was hardly a one-off. Implosion is now the norm. We give away soft goals, we miss good chances, we show a lack of urgency and desire. That’s what we do. It’s our shtick.
Whether the arrival of Phelan as coach is enough to halt this slide will only be revealed in the coming weeks but something has to change. Either the current message isn’t getting across or the message is wrong in the first place. More of the same is clearly not going to turn the fortunes around.
Hopefully the new coach will bring some Fergie-style motivation to proceedings because right now one has to question the desire. Yesterday’s opening 33 minutes breathed new life into the word tepid and second gear was only found once Brighton had taken the lead. And it’s another recurring theme. City are slow starters.
It sounds rather too simplistic, but is it not worth the pre-match routine – in the dressing room and on the pitch – being completely re-hashed? Must be worth a try. Tried and tested is not working at the moment.
So… plenty for the new-look management team to ponder in the coming week and one guesses that Reading are licking their lips at the prospect of a trip to Carrow Road. A fortress it certainly is not.
But let’s keep our heads. There is still time to arrest the slide, particularly given the talent in the squad, but just now it feels like a decent football team struggling to reveal itself.
Let’s just hope that Team Adams mark II can find the missing formula sooner rather than later, else we could be heading for a repeat of season 2005/06. And that was horrible.
David Bowen says
A good and honest assessment Gary, it is indeed very worrying, if we don’t go back up at the first attempt, it will be very difficult to hang on to players that are willing to help this season, but would probably want top flight football for next season! The hounds are already baying for Nathan Redmond at Liverpool, how long before others are given offers they can’t refuse?
Let’s hope that MP can resurect the best from our under-achieving bunch of mis-firing squad!
Ian Medals says
There seems to be a mentality among fans that we should be steamrolling teams or they should be lying down for us to tickle their tummies. Apart from Blackpool (and even they got a point yesterday), this is a very tight division with no mugs.
I’d love to see us playing fantastic-dominating football and winning 4/5-0 every time which seems to be some fans’ expectations but that isn’t the real world and never has been.
After Hughton, we wanted to see goals and plenty of thrills & spills – yesterday ticked all those boxes. Disappointment at 2 dropped points is one thing but anger and vitriol towards manager/players after a ‘thrillathon’ like the Brighton game is bang out of order.
We are getting goals because we are playing at a lower level than last season , i would of expected Hughton to have done very well at this level he did win this league with Newcastle .
Neil Adams is not a manager and no amount of wishing he was because “hes one of us” is going to change that. The sooner Delia Smith and the rest of the Board and what few supporters that still support Adams wake up and smell the coffee the sooner we can start moving in the right direction .
John Y says
The vitriol is due to:
Our manager not having a clue what the best line up or formation is;
The squad size and talent being wasted;
Putting our best chance of promotion in the hands of a well meaning but unfit for purpose rookie.
The phrase “this group of players” is starting to wear as thin as “the best squad in the league”.
League tables do not lie – last season proved that they were not premiership calibre and this season indicates that they are a mid table squad.
Top players do not make the same individual errors and demonstrate carelessness week after week.
The team selection vis a vis the left side of the team is also strange to say the least.
We can but hope that MP can get “this group of players” believing some of the hype and punching above their weight, but in the absence of a Grant Holt character or two in the team it is difficult to see us being very dominant on the pitch.
I do not post on here often but always read the articles.
I listened to the game yesterday and enjoyed the goals flowing in but we need to remember that to have goals flowing in often leaves you venerable to conceding them also.
I agree with Ian Medals on his last sentence, disappointed yes but without our vocal support we are only going to make the players fearful of playing in front of us if all the get at the end of a half is booed off the pitch.
Stewart Lewis says
Ian (2): I suspect regular readers will be expecting me to weigh in behind you. But not this time – or rather, only in part.
The fact is promotion teams grab games like yesterday’s by the scruff of the neck. For the first 30 minutes, we were insipid. The slow build-up that’s bedevilled us all season was there in spades (while the man who seemed to be fixing it, Gary O’Neil, sat on the bench).
The best thing that happened to us was Brighton’s opening goal, which shook us out of the lethargy and inspired a really good spell. At 2-1 we went for it, and no-one would question the tactics if we’d taken any of the five clear chances we created. Yes, it was poor to concede three at home, and especially the second – but it should have been academic.
To come round to my more usual outlook, Gary is right. Twenty-eight games to go, plenty of ability in the squad and a new coach coming in with bags of experience and nous. But it would be nice to win a couple…
There is a mentality amongst the fans that a club that spent 3 years in the premier league and managed to keep the vast majority of its players when relegated, has no external debts to be concerned avour, the privilege of the largest parachute payment to date and still charges more than most for a match should be preforming better than they are.
Chris Riches says
Hardly ‘bang out of order’ to be angry that we are such a soft touch – that two teams who’ve mustered only one win in 20 games between them can take 4 (and damn near all 6) points from Norwich City.
We don’t expect anyone to roll over for us – you have to earn your victories in the Championship, through constant effort added to ability. That we have the ability appears to be the case (from the flashes of intermittent form on view), yet the effort and desire to maintain focus for the majority of a single game seems to be beyond us.
We can’t even get going until we’re in trouble in a match – when we’ve had ‘bright starts’ to a game, we’ve tended to concede even earlier goals as we plough forward with no apparent thought for defence.
It’s an old failing of Norwich, to be the team that any opponent’s bad run of form ends against. A successful side takes advantage of opposition poor form – something we seem incapable of.
A ‘Boro fan told me, this week, “You boys panic too much – the season only really starts in January for us, after the transfer window shuts”. Whilst I take his point, you can’t wait until January to stop this slide – nor is it a clever idea to hang onto all your players, by appearing to be a bit rubbish!
I would usually wholeheartedly agree with Mr Medals, but lessons not being learned is the obvious and inexcusable issue at play (as this is happening time and time again).
The only positive thing to come out of this is that Adam’s (who is fast looking rather silly I’m afraid to say) can no longer avoid Hooper for Grabban, who has been non-existent for some time.
A top notch goalscorer worries the opposition, and we can only hope he’s the one in the squad that can take that mantle and fire us back up the league.
Chris Riches says
@ yellow peril (8) & Toad (10)
both spot on. Poor Grabban can’t BUY a goal, at present & needs to be switched out – either for Hoops, or even Lafferty (who has, at least, scored for his country during Lewis’s barren spell).
Perhaps the Board should be paid by results – with a £5 ticket discount following a home draw (£10 after any defeat!)? Might this make them more proactive?
Kevin O'C says
I have liked and admired Neil Adams and was not unhappy at his appointment. However, I came home from yesterday’s game despondent and puzzled about our free-fall into being a side that increasingly lacks passion and pattern. Last night I used similar words as Gary to describe a group of players seemingly playing to their own individual decisions and impulses with only the Russ/Redmond combination showing any signs of practised movement and understanding. Our captain’s enthusiasm and effort yesterday should have inspired the rest but for significant periods our team were sadly lacking in the confidence and coordination required to win matches. There seems to be no team method to regaining possession, just who feels like it at that moment. I am a supporter who is usually slow to criticise but something is going badly wrong in this squad and it needs fixing quickly.
Dave H says
Interesting comments from Russell Martin about how we should have played when 2-1 up. It indicates to me a direct contradiction to how Adams wants to play. It is worrying when the manager & captain appear to have differing views in public.
Ian Medals(2) says
I’m just as disappointed as anyone with the current run but I don’t feel anger or resentment to manager or players (I can’t be the only one like that surely?). Most who do seem to be getting hot under the collar appear to put it down to managerial inexperience i.e. an experienced manager would never let such a poor run happen – ridiculous stand point.
Take a look at Wolves – arguably a club very similar to us in recent history. Currently on a worse run than us, hammered at home by Forest – a genuine reason to feel some anger. Their manager has the best part of 600 games under his belt. I wouldn’t say that our squad is any better/stronger than theirs. Holloway at Millwall is struggling to get them going..etc etc. All managers, irrespective of their experience, suffer bad runs.
If we lose at home to Reading or scrape a draw, then I might get a bit tetchy but will still keep things in perspective.
Dave B says
You make a fair point, of course all managers can’t be 100% successful all of the time. However, I don’t think Wolves or Millwall are fair comparisons. We had a better squad than them going into the season and a big ol’ parachute payment to help. We should simply be doing better than we are and an experienced manager may well have us higher up the table.
You mention Holloway. He’s without a doubt a fantastic manager who has taken two teams out of this division. I suspect he’d do a good job with us. One of his defining moments was knowing when to leave for the better of a club (with Palace). It takes a very big man to do that.
I’d argue that the time to remove a manager is when they show no signs of stopping a rot. Which is still why I believe we should have removed Hughton after his first season where we had a six month appalling spell with no signs of a turnaround.
The similarities between Hughton’s and Adam’s reigns are becoming remarkably similar (although the footballing styles are obviously not). Hopefully Phelan can help Adams spur on a revival because there’s not been too many signs of one recently.
Stewart Lewis says
Ian (14): Admire you sticking to your guns. Some have already given up on Adams, some of us are starting to waver. But right or wrong, we need a voice like yours to remind us of important things.
Bob C says
Any manager that oversees a run of defeats or poor performances or can’t get the team playing to their full potential deserves to be sacked.
Even if he is Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool
or Arsene Wenger at Arsenal
or Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs
or Harry Redknapp at QPR
or Kenny Jackett at Wolves
or Stuart Pearce at Forest
If you don’t take quick action under these circumstances then you end up looking silly like West Ham with Sam Allardyce
or Alan Pardew at Newcastle
Sacking and replacing managers really works – just ask Fulham
I could go on – and on!
We do not need to sack a manager because we do not have one , all we need to do is appoint one .
Adams is at this moment the biggest fraud in football he goes on about the valuable experience Phelan will bring and how important that is , so what makes him think he can operate in the top job with absolutely no experience whatsoever .
Norwich through and through ? no just another fraud who cannot pass up the money and ego boost .
Sami Laden says
Bob C – 17. Think I found 1 or 2 holes in your cut-throat approach to football management.
1. Newcastle and West Ham are sitting in the top 6, thereby showing it was right to stick with their managers,
2. Spurs have won their last 2 away games,
3. Forest have won 2 on the bounce.
4. Cardiff and Fulham sacked their managers last season but still went down!
Redknapp and Rodgers I would agree with you on.
Here’s my stream of conciousness through the game.
1. How may times do you need to see Jerome and Grabban fail to combine, to work out it is not an effective combination.
2. We clearly have no real plan to break down a well orgnaised group.
3. Good goal Brighton.
4. Good goal Howson (and Redmond).
5. A bit of fortune to go ahead.
6. Three on one and Johnno fails to slide Grabban in. Selfish and could be costly.
7. The game is drifting. Where is the direction from the bench? Get Hooper on, tell the full backs to stay at home and go 4411.
8. Goal Brighton.
9. Pen Brighton. No surprise.
10. Subs on. Once again we react to events and don’t dictate them.
11. Hooper immediately links-up play in a way that was not happening for 80 minutes.
12. Goal Hooper. Lucky Adams, because a loss would have been ugly.
13. Reflect that game management is something you either have (Lambert) or you don’t.
13. Drive back to Cambridge wondering whether Phelan will influence game maangement as well as coaching. We can only hope.
Way things are going, this is looking more like a repeat of 1995-96 season … and that was worse than 2005/6 …
Sami (19) – it’s called sarcasm!
And for the most part I agree with Bob and Ian. Sacking a manager should be a last resort for a club’s board. CALLING FOR the sacking of a manager should be a last resort for a club’s fans. We aren’t there yet, and such a move is rarely the quick fix some seem to perceive it as.
Pardue is a great example of the highs and lows of football management. He wasn’t terrible when Newcastle were really struggling, and he’s not a genius now they’ve won six on the bounce. It just happens in football. Every manager has flaws. 5 years ago Man U fans were on Fergie’s back. Real Madrid fans never really took to Mourinho.
There are obvious and recurring flaws in this Norwich side at the moment. It’s undeniable. But there’s still time to put it right. I honestly believe we can get 7 points from these next 3 games, get our confidence back, and set ourselves up for a great game at Derby in four week’s time.
Stewart Lewis says
Sami (19): did you not realise that Bob C (17) was being ironic? His ‘message’ is deliberately full of holes, to remind us of the real truth.
Or at least, I sincerely hope he’s being ironic…
Abingdon (20): decent match diary. Except you forgot the clear chances we created at 1-1 and 2-1 for Howson, Grabban, Jerome and Redmond (2), in addition to BJ’s chance.
Sami Laden(2) says
22/23 – did you not spot my double bluff?! I was being ironic about the irony.
Still think Redknapp and Rodgers should go and one or two others on that list are on very shaky ground.
Like our club, there are fans of those who are calling for sackings with varying justification.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – c’est la vie.
“Decent match diary.” You think?
He described one of the best strikes of the ball you’ll ever see, certainly the best since Tettey’s, by our captain, as:
“A bit of fortune to go ahead.”
I’m guessing he’s a ‘glass half empty’ kind of guy!
Agree ‘a bit of good fortune’ was a bit harsh on a great RMart strike…
…will try harder to be ‘glass half full’.