“I have to say I was surprised”
“The puzzling thing for us as a group is three games ago we were playing some of our best attacking football”
Just two quotes from Neil Adam’s post-match interviews, both of which struck a chord.
The puzzlement is one that is shared, I suspect, by the majority of the Yellow Army, who have now witnessed two lifeless, abject defeats directly off the back of a run that had ‘promotion push’ written all over it. But I have to take issue with the ‘surprise’.
Given City’s non-existent record in the FA Cup of late and the soft-centre so alarmingly laid bare at the Madejeski who, hand on heart, expected a win yesterday? Or even a good performance?
Instead the travelling 1,099 were forced to endure the latest in a very long line of away-day disasters, and having had just one win to celebrate since September the three points at Wigan now appears little more than an enjoyable blip.
These are the same hardy folk who, last season, travelled nationwide to witness Premier League disappointment after disappointment. And they deserve better.
Adams, in fairness, did offer the travellers a direct post-match apology even if, yet again, the words appeared a little hollow with the actions that preceded them having been so listless. But the surprise element I’m afraid just didn’t wash.
Whether it is Adams’ Class of 2015, Paul Lambert’s class of 2011 or Nigel Worthington’s Class of 2001, City – for a reason unknown – excel only in falling prey to lower league opposition in the FA Cup.
An irate, but articulate, ‘canarycaller’ informed those listening that for 16 seasons the Canaries have failed to beat opposition from higher up in the pyramid while, at the same time, succumbing to clubs below them on numerous occasions.
So, in recent history, our track record of progressing has been putrid. Throw into the mix the current crop’s recently exposed lack of hunger and desire away from home, and yesterday’s defeat all of a sudden looks less surprising. Expected even.
And that, among many ills, is the biggest indictment that can be laid before Team Adams. Few of us awoke this morning in shock, most in resignation.
But where from here?
The board, whose silence at times like this can be deafening, need to ask themselves if they still consider Adams, after having ‘scoured Europe’, still to be the best man for the job. If, having explored all options including handing the reins to Mike Phelan, do they still believe the team is in the best possible hands?
And the players – they too need to examine their own role in what is one defeat at Bournemouth away from becoming a disaster.
Yesterday’s starting XI contained nine players who performed regularly last season in the Premier League; of the summer signings only Ignasi Miquel and the vastly experienced Gary O’Neil started the game. Yet a squad still being touted as ‘one of the best in the division’ came second-best – by some considerable way – to a League One side that made six changes.
Therefore, player for player, on a technical level, City’s line-up usurped their opposition yesterday, yet were outplayed. So it comes down to desire, hunger and heart. Motivation also becomes an issue. So too complacency. That Norwich were found wanting all over the pitch confirms as much.
Problems emanating from the technical area are manifesting themselves on the pitch, and the players are as culpable as Team Adams. In truth, it appears an unholy mess all round.
While most were appalled, the usual platitudes around cup exits allowing resources to be concentrated on league matters still did the rounds. But with a trip to Bournemouth just six days away I’d suggest a confidence boosting win would have set City up nicely for their trip to the south coast.
Instead they find their confidence at probably its lowest ebb of the season.
And the supporters – they too love a cup run, and deserve one. With a sizeable squad I considered City well equipped to progress in the FA Cup, with additional revenue and the feel-good factor that go hand-in-hand with such runs healthy by-products.
But no, not to be, and it feels a little as if the whole season is boiling down to ninety minutes at Dean Court. A one-match shoot-out.
A win, or perhaps even a draw, and the season is still alive. But defeat, particularly another listless one, will make it extremely difficult to see anything beckon other than mid-table Championship mediocrity.
Yes, of course, in terms of points the Canaries would remain in touch, regardless of the outcome, but the effect on morale will be devastating. With mental strength in very short supply and confidence on the floor it is hard, as things stand, to envisage defeat producing anything other than more turmoil.
So… another miserable away-day to dissect, another FA Cup exit and again the club finds itself in crisis management mode. Somehow the cycle needs to be broken, whether it be from the boardroom or on the pitch.
Welcome to 2015 Norwich City-style.