To end the year on such a low was rather too typical of City’s 2014.
Relegation, while not a “fate worse than death”, was verging on the catastrophic and, despite many of us expecting the Championship to be rather more fun than the Premier League, this season has been equally turbulent.
The decision to part company with Chris Hughton was met with almost universal agreement – at least at the time – with the majority agreeing that it should have happened sooner.
The poisoned chalice handed to Neil Adams with just five games remaining proved to be just that and, despite a noble goal-less draw at Stamford Bridge, little occurred to suggest he was the right man for the full-time appointment.
Since then rumours have emerged of those in power at Carrow Road having been impressed with his dealings of off-field shenanigans – which clearly contributed to his appointment – but in truth precious little happened on the green stuff to add weight to an underwhelming CV.
But he’s a smooth operator – who not only talks an exceptionally good game but who proved at Academy level that he could also coach – and over the summer months, while David McNally and co were ‘scouring Europe’ for viable candidates, he clearly continued to impress.
As the selection process was underway McNally, alongside Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones, spoke with Nick Conrad on BBC Radio Norfolk. Tellingly during that interview, even though none of us realised at the time, the talk of Adams being a ‘credible candidate’ was the first feint trace of white smoke.
When it was made official, on the same day that Neil Lennon departed from Celtic, the term ‘underwhelmed’ was on the tip of the collective tongue. Some greeted the news with apoplectic rage. A few with contentment.
But it became immediately clear that, for the majority, the rapturous reception afforded to Adams as he walked across the Craven Cottage pitch was more to do with being free of Hughton-ism than it was of a desire for him to be our long-term saviour.
Such was the venom that greeted his full-time appointment, only a flying start followed by a continued winning run would have spared us the volatility that has now become part and parcel of supporting the Canaries. But the opening day defeat at Molineux, while followed by a good run, was an early sign that plain sailing was not on the cards.
And it’s been tough. A struggle at times. Some good wins and some equally good performances have been matched by those of an indifferent nature and right now I would suggest seventh place pretty much sums up the first half of City’s season.
In the aftermath of the Boxing Day win over a woeful Millwall the top two appeared in our sights (at least they did through my yellow tinted spectacles) but Sunday’s defeat at Reading and subsequent wins for Bournemouth and Ipswich served as a timely reminder of the consistency required for automatic promotion – something currently lacking from the Class of 2015.
But, for all the trials, tribulations and angst that have been laid bare since August – and which reared their ugly heads again post-Madejski – we still remain in reasonable fettle for an assault on the play-off places. No, it’s not what we wanted, or even expected at the end of September, but it’s where we are.
The change in mood betwixt 5pm on Boxing Day and 5pm on Sunday couldn’t have been more stark. It even took a veteran of 40-plus City supporting seasons by surprise. From feast to famine in the space of 48 hours. From unbridled optimism to complete desolation.
So much for meeting those two imposters, Triumph and Disaster, the same. We have never been very good at that. But, whether we like to admit it or not, we are still in with a shout, regardless of who is steering the rudder.
My biggest fear for 2015 is not for the club itself, but for the Yellow Army. Because, it feels like we should be bracing ourselves for a rocky one with every backward, or even sideways, step, almost certain to be greeted with an outcry; every emphatic win the sign of a corner having been turned.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we should sit on our hands when things are going badly or, equally should resist wildly celebrating a success (that’s the very lifeblood of a football fan), but right now it feels the only prospect of peace breaking out is if we we win most of our games and definitely avoid defeat. And that’s not going to happen.
But I predict we will make the play-offs and, without delving into the stats, suspect that four more ‘Decembers’ (which yielded 10 points) will probably be enough. But the road will be rocky and not without trauma.
The playing squad – regardless of how it emerges the January transfer window – is more than capable and the club has the financial cushion. But the next few months will reveal whether said squad has the heart, hunger and desire required for promotion. And also whether the board was right to appoint Adams and to then bolt on some experience when it all started to head southwards.
If the answer to both is yes, then 2015 could yet be a good one. If not, the Yellow Army will divide further still.
Let’s hope and pray for the former.
A Happy New Year to you all and thanks, as ever, for visiting MyFootballWriter
Stewart Lewis says
Can’t improve on that summary of 2014.
I wish my earlier description of our fans as ‘skittish’ were less true now, but it clearly isn’t. The doubts are understandable given the potential of our squad – especially to those who haven’t studied the history of teams coming down from the Prem. Only success will allay them (and some probably won’t be allayed even by success).
One cause for encouragement, if Adams and Phelan can sustain the 4-out-of-5 good performances of December. Some of our fans have decided that the table is now pretty well settled, but it isn’t so. Teams improving their position in the second half of the season is far from rare: last season Wigan moved from 11th at the turn of the year to 5th in the final table; the year before Brighton rose from 9th to 4th; the year before that Birmingham (under a manager we mustn’t mention) went from 12th to 4th. That same season Middlesbrough were 2nd at the turn of the year (as Ipswich are now) and failed even to make the play-offs.
We’re only half-way through this story.
Best wishes to all for 2015.
Dorset Canary says
A Happy New Year to all the columnists as well.Lots of good reading throughout 2014 and I am sure it will be the same for this year.
I think we’re deluded in saying we have got a squad that is the strongest in the league. Whilst certain individuals may be in theory we have some alarming weaknesses-particularly trying to defend set pieces and BJ is the only player likely to win a 50/50 tackle!
If Russell Martin is to be continually used at CB where he is vulnerable to crosses and we don’t address the weakness at full back-(both sides are vulnerable defensively ) then we are going to be nowhere near the top six.
Finally Redmond for all his ball skills and pace has little end product and it’s disappointing how little he has progressed over two seasons.
One of the most frustrating things this season has been watching players who we know are blessed with pace and ball skills constantly making wrong decisions or losing their composure when in sight of goal.
It’s difficult to understand and does not reflect well on either the players involved ,the management team or the coaches.
There is not a lot wrong -nothing that the acquisition of an inspirational leader on the pitch who is preferably a CB or FB would put right.However I fear it will again be too little too late for this season and we will drift into mid table obscurity from where it becomes more difficult to launch a meaningful challenge next season!
I think this article gets to the nub of the issue for NCFC and reflects how I feel about the club right now. My head says that after a traumatic end to last season McNally & Adams are slowly learning from their mistakes and putting it right. We have more cover in our squad than the likes of Brentford, Watford & Derby and that fact allied to the fact that most of the current top 7 still have to come to Carrow Road, suggests that we should make the play offs at least, as the Adams/Phelan partnership finds its feet.
But my heart believes it will be ruined, not by the failings of the people making the decisions, but by what I used to think was the minority of NCFC fans but after sitting in a cold, atmosphere-less Madjeski, I think they are now the majority. What I’m confused about is at what point in our 3 year journey in the Premiership, did the majority of our fans turn into a set of graceless, witless moaners who never seem to be satisfied with less than absolute perfection? I used to think that we were different, yes we liked our football played with a bit of style, but we got behind whoever donned the yellow & green and represented Gods own County, we understood that we couldn’t always take every scalp but enjoyed the moments when we did. Now I just think that majority of City fans are not much better than the Arsenal/Man U/Liverpool glory hunters that were the reason I stopped listening to 606 years ago.
For those who say that the money they pay entitles them to say what they like I say this – don’t waste your money on NCFC because you’ll never be satisfied, someone else in a bigger city or with their own Shiekh will always deliver more. The joy of supporting our club comes from feeling an identity that comes from belonging to a certain part of the country and celebrating that fact, and enjoying the moments of triumph because they are rare and unexpected. Either understand and embrace the reality of our situation or accept that expecting and demanding more is probably only going to lead to disappointment.
Norwich has never been a club with the resources to guarantee success and there are still significant problems to sort out (eg getting RVW & Bassong off the wage bill) but I think we have better management and better players than we did 12 months ago. What will ruin it is if too many fans have unrealistic expectations of perfection that no-one (no matter how well they are paid) can ever live up to.
Alan Medis says
It’s never dull or predictable so strap in, hang on and enjoy the ride. To wish the moaning to stop is as pointless as a certain late afternoon BBC quiz show – is there a more masochistic bunch of footy fans than those clad in yellow and green?
A play off win at Wembley would be far better than a tedious march at the top surely?
Gerry Knights says
I totally agree with Kobecanarys’ remarks. I was born in Norwich but live as far away from Carrow Road as is physically possible, in Campbelltown, Sydney, Australia. I do not have the privilege of going to watch my team play live. I can only watch them on television, when they are playing in the Premier League at 1.00 am on a Sunday morning. And, to date I have never missed a game, no matter how tired it made me for the rest of the day.
So promotion to the EPL holds great importance to me. But, the way fans support my team is of even greater importance – to how I perceive my team and my teams supporters.
Positive actions provide positive results. We all know that negativity feeds off its self, so come on guys show your support through your actions and let’s push the team over the line with positive people power.
Sack Adams and you will have instant unity , keep him and the rifts will only get bigger .
Supporters are not stupid and not one person truly believes Adams was the best man for the job , in fact it would of taken an almighty search to find anybody worse .
Take people for mugs then do not be surprised when they rebel .
Ian S says
We are taking 1 step forward to take 2 back. He’s not got the qualities to make a top class manager, he’s never going to be fully accepted and he’s never going to quit as this is the only time he’ll manage a professional Football Club. Sack him now and give a new manager the January window to find new players.
Unless the squad can find the cohesion, heart and hunger to put together and sustain an impressive run, better to spend another season in Championship until they do. No joy in being next season’s BPL whipping boy!
Stewart Lewis says
Phill (7): If we could just lock you and Dave B in a room together…
Damian Sal says
Phill(7) – your opinion is your opinion but don’t make unjustified broad-brush statements like that first sentence unless you actually possess the ability to predict the future (or possibly bend spoons).
Not everyone wants Adams sacked and not everyone shares your apocalyptic vision. The role of the ‘supporter’ is not to criticise every decision that comes out of Carrow Road. The clue is in the first 7 letters of the word.
Art Von vissleviper says
Just about given up on this season myself. We just have to embrace the downward spiral we’ve been on since Lambert departed. In 12 months time we’ll have a new manager, still be mid table championship and have a lot less decent players.
That guy from Steps... says
11. Damian, Phill speaks for majority, which is why, as with hughton, the club appears to be pulling itself apart. Over 75% want a change, but again the board will decide they know best, cause further division and Carrow Road will remain a horrible place to play your club football. No wonder there are some thinly veiled whispers of players wanting out. I wouldn’t play for our fans currently.
Who wouldn’t take a proven manager who knew what they were doing? We wanted it to work out, but it hasn’t. Although I must admit I didn’t see why we were rewarding for failure at the end of last season. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to guess the missing names from next years team sheet, nor the calibre of name that will be replacing them.
Unfortunately the damage is done and autos, with or without a manager change has all but gone. We blew it.
Crystal ball or no crystal ball, we will have a new manager in 12 months time. To get so little out of such a talented squad is a talent in itself. He won’t manage again, a recurring theme with norwich managers during Delia’s time.
At the least I thought the appointment would mean that he would bring through some of the youngsters he spoke so highly of, but That’s not really materialised either.
Couldn’t be more fed up with the last 2 years at NCFC. Time someone sorted this out.
Damian Sal(2) says
Re: ‘That guy..'(13)
– “Over 75%..” – where in blazes did you pluck that figure from?!
– “Who wouldn’t take a proven manager..” – er, how about Bournemouth – Eddie Howe or Swansea – Gary Monk…
Anyone would think we were in the bottom 3!!
Ian S says
Damian Sal (11) – if that was true then we should have kept Gunn and not employed Lambert, correct?
Keith B says
I think we will gradually improve over the next 3-4 months and reach the play-offs, indeed we may well go into them as the form team, which is no bad thing. As we showed in 2002 finishing 6th is not a problem if you have got there on the back of a good run.
I was disappointed we didn’t try to recruit Eddie Howe in the summer; he would have been ideal for us. Too late now. But he is the only person I would have wanted to see. I would not have wanted a Pullis, Warnock or Lennon.
Whilst it’s important to me that we are either in the Premiership or performing well in the Championship it’s also important how we play the game, and how our managers conduct themselves. For me that rules guys like that out.
One thing that really has disappointed me in the last 12 months is the invective that has been directed at David McNally.
For me our minimum aim should be among the top 25 clubs in the country, i.e. in the Premiership or the top part of the Championship. OK, let’s call it top 26 to include all the play-off positions.
Delia and MWJ have been in charge now for the best part of 20 years. They are genuine fans, and unlike most owners they appreciate the clubs other genuine fans. I like them, I like a great deal of what they’ve done for the club, in particular building the support base to a level which seems to be largely maintained through thick and thin. We’ve got a decent ground with good facilities, and it’s one that’s safe and welcoming for visiting fans too.
But before McNally arrived they had presided over 1 season in the Premiership, and 2 in the top 6 of the Championship. That I think is out 12 or 13 seasons they had been in charge.
As we were in league one my target above was obviously unachievable in the first McNally season; but the next 4 we managed it. And we should manage it again this year too.
A lot of people have grabbed this mantra “we’ve got the best squad in the league” and seem to believe we should be walking it. I’m not convinced we’re quite that good, but let’s suppose they are right. Is that in itself not itself largely down to McNally and the way he has rebuilt the club? Nobody was making that claim after Worthy’s relegation in 2005.
Of course I wish we were higher, but we are still well placed for a tilt at promotion, we are 3rd highest goalscorers, have great support and are not going bust.
I think a lot of the discontent is compounded by the prospect of the guys down the A140 actually looking a threat this year. Never mind being disappointed by our last 2 years, conveniently forgetting the 3 before – just have a think about how many years it’s taken them to get anywhere near the playoffs, it really does put things in perspective.
Happy New Year, Deepdale here I come….
Damian Sal(3) says
Ian S. (15) – 1. I don’t recall us losing 7-1 under Adams, 2. Hughton was a very experienced manager – it’s no gurantee and 3. Lambert’s brand of expansive footy has brought 11 Villa goals in 20 games – he would have been sacked from most clubs by now.
Stewart Lewis says
Ian (15): no, that’s not what Damian Sal was saying at all. I think his point is that rookie managers are sometimes an excellent choice – as we should know from our own history. Arguably, the most inspired appointment we’ve made was Mike Walker; fans later tended to forget they’d initially derided him as a cheap option and just a youth team manager. The Board stuck with him through a quiet start, and it paid dividends.
Gunn – without any of Adams’ coaching experience – was an obvious incompetent as manager. Thank goodness McNally took one look and made the change.
Experience, sadly, is no guarantee of success either at Norwich (Roeder etc) or elsewhere (most Fulham’s recent managers).
Let’s see where we finish this season. My money would be on Norwich, under Adams, being among the small minority of relegated clubs who challenge to go straight back. Cheers.
Stuart (19) – the Board stuck with Mike Walker ‘through a quiet start’? As someone who will never forget chanting ‘we are top of the league’ through what seemed like the entire London Underground after our 4-2 win at Arsenal, I beg to differ.
Eddie Howe and Garry monk had coached/ been involved with grown up football. Adams had only managed boys football. Such a massive difference, it really doesn’t need expanding upon other than to say Adams is so far out of his depth for it to be laughable. To do so little with such a talented squad/ budget borders on criminal.
Dave B says
I’m with 6) (a canary abroad) in that consistently watching Norwich depends on promotion to the EPL. Otherwise it’s extended highlights, Radio Norfolk, Canary call and the odd televised game.
For me 2014 (and the rear end of 2013) has been a case of one step forward, three steps back.
McNally’s risky poaching of Lambert led Norwich on a course to Premiership success. For many years I thought we had the manager and board to revolutionise our club.
2014 showed that perhaps, just perhaps, Lambert’s appointment was more luck than skill. Until Phelan arrived I honestly believe we’ve not see any risky, decisive, ambitious decisions made since Lambert. We went safe, we went mediocre, we went down.
McNally disappeared off of Twitter, the board went into hiding. They only made a change when their hand was forced. In reality, we made the change.
Last season while we picked up some good players, we let many team players with heart and spirit go. Only to see their replacements come and vanish within a season.
Then came the summer. An interview with the board about ‘how no one was available’ (neither were Lambert or Hughton). Followed by a missed self set deadline and the fastest scouring of Europe known to man, only to stick with the same person we already had.
There were glimpses of hope, as Gary said, Adams appeared to be able to sort out the dressing room and pull together a decent squad.
There were other calamities. Our pre-season for a start. Our finances, while superficially good, were hit with the biggest reduction in revenues they’ve ever seen. We sold our player of the season and world cup star to cover the cracks. We’ve also seen 2 backroom staff come and go before the end of Nov (one within a few weeks of arriving).
There are still glimmers of hope. We’ve had some good results and some good runs. But there’s no avoiding that with half the season gone we’re outside the playoffs and 10 points off second.
While I understand the sentiment that we’re ‘in the mix’, the last 12 months haven’t given me much confidence that we’re going the right way. While people can talk about ‘the odds are against us going back up’ and ‘this is our natural place in the world of football’, really, I don’t care. We need to be in the Premiership otherwise we risk becoming another Leeds. We have big expenses and decreasing revenues. It’s a bad equation.
Saying all that, I truly hope Phelan can continue to improve our performances. I think he just might.
As for should Phelan be in charge? If Adams and Phelan are a winning combination, I see no reason to change that.
Dave H says
And there was me thinking that sacking Hughton was supposed to bring instant unity… I look forward to Brighton climbing the table & bringing an added frustration.
I was completely underwhelmed with Adams’ appointment with Mackay, Lennon & Sherwood my preferred options (I don’t think Howe was ever realistic). While clearly not convinced by Adams, I’m not sure changing the manager now would necessarily improve our chances so I would be one of the 25% who wouldn’t make a change, although I did not take part in that opinion poll.
Stewart Lewis says
Matt (19): fair point about Walker’s first game. But there were soon wobbles, inc a 7-1 defeat at Blackburn. Can you imagine the message board meltdown if that were now? Looking back with today’s perspective, it’s a no-brainer that the Board were right to keep faith with him – but it doesn’t always seem that way at the time.
Despite my misgivings about the appointment of Adams, and my deep concern at how utterly out of his depth he has looked at times, I can see no option but to stick with him until the end of the season. If we were to get rid, the time was mid November during the two week international break. Instead we chose to bring in Phelan, and it would make no sense to make a change in the critical month of January – regardless of results at Preston and Bournemouth (as much as it pains me to type that).
I think the best we can hope for is a play off place, although I fear the inconsistency we have shown this season will continue.
What really angers me is the incomptence and borderline nepotism of the people running our football club. Lambert’s appointment was a fabulous aberration, and since then our owners have reverted to type by appointing people who they think are nice guys to work with.
Alan Medis says
Re:Matt(24) – there seem to be a lot of armchair experts out there who know the best way to run a footbll club!
The club is run by human beings with the best interests of the club at heart – mistakes get made of course, but I’d rather leave it to those with experience of these things than a cabal of ‘fans’ who think they know better.
Stewart Lewis says
Just a question for all of you (inc Dave B and Matt) who say our managerial appointments since Lambert have been timid/nepotistic: how many of you opposed the choice of Chris Hughton AT THE TIME? I recall a general clamour for his appointment and delight that we gazumped others (inc West Brom) for his signature.
PS The appointment of Lambert was no fluke, lucky break or aberration – McNally knew him extremely well from Celtic.
Otherwise I guess we’ll have to let things play out and re-visit the views we’re currently expressing when May comes around. Best wishes to all.
Stewart (26) it is not the appointment of Hughton that was necessarily the mistake (it was an understandable choice given his record, one I was neutral about at the time). The issue I, and others, have is with the subsequent decisions that were taken. It is now almost universally accepted that Hughton should have been sacked in January – even by people (such as yourself) who derided those who argued that case at the time. We are told the Board chose not to act because there was ‘nobody available’. Presumably Neil Adams was backpacking around Australia at the time and un contactable…
When Hughton was finally given his chips it was because the Board couldn’t carry the fans any further – with the clappers raining down on the pitch and at the manager’s head – and they were effectively left with no choice.
Then we had the abject farce of the club setting an utterly unnecessary and arbitrary deadline for appointing a new manager in the summer – and missing it – before their travails of Europe resulted in, erm, Neil Adams getting the job. Since then we’ve had our ‘football consultant’ walk out the door before he had even set foot in it, and the first team coach sacked a third of the way into the season.
By anyone’s standards, this is an atrocious record from those tasked with the competent governance of our football club. And the grotesque bonus that our chief executive took – regardless of its justification – compounds it all.
My issue is not with the manager. It is with the people who should have either employed him earlier, or not at all.
Stewart Lewis says
Matt (27): a lot of fair points. But we shouldn’t imply Joe Royle walked away because of Neil – it was family reasons and he was very apologetic. It maybe took until Phelan to replace his wise counsel, and it’s the league record since Phelan’s arrival that may warrant us giving them some more time.
Next week is very important.
Ben K says
Since we’re going over this all again, I can’t see why nobody has made the following point concerning January 2014: we didn’t sign any decent players. Joseph Yobo was the centre-half cover we needed, but as far as providing a real injection going forward, Jonas Guttierez was never going to be the answer. We had seriously misfiring strikers and a dire lack of service for them. We desperately needed a shot in the arm and we got nothing. How this has been overlooked is beyond me. It was an opportunity for the club to change things without the upheaval of a managerial sacking and the higher ups at the club missed it completely.