Goodbye Neil… Hello Mr Neil!
The last time I penned a MyFootballWriter column I had just ventured up north to see us get thumped 4-0 away to Middlesbrough on a cold Tuesday night in November. It wasn’t worth the effort.
I remember feeling pretty exasperated at the result but had full confidence that we were able to get right back into the mix and challenge for automatic promotion under Neil Adams. After all, we were only four points off the top.
I still had that faith going into December and was fortunate enough to see the 5-0 and 6-1 wins at home to Huddersfield and Millwall. There were murmurs of slight dissatisfaction at things like needing to play against ten to win, and ‘only’ scoring six out of what felt like 106 chances against a shockingly poor team. But hey we’d won, and that’s all that mattered. Right?
But there was this lingering feeling of discontent among some fans and it reared its ugly head each time we lost a game. Losing two on the trot gave the green light for some fans to have a meltdown after the Preston FA Cup game.
I, for one, didn’t care that much about going out of the cup straight-away because as far as I’m concerned this season what all about getting back to the Premier League.
But then I realised the players didn’t look too bothered either and I think that was part of the reason Adams stepped down. I now doubt how much respect there was between the squad towards him. Whether that’s right or not, when a dressing room has made its mind up about the manager there is little going back in all honesty.
Now the board has spun the roulette wheel once more and it has landed on: young, Scottish, straight-talking, motivator. Where have we seen those attributes before?
If we can get back to anything like the Lambert years then I will be ecstatic. The football under Adams was more than good enough, just not all pieces of the jigsaw quite slotted together. I got to the point where I barely enjoyed going to the pub to watch Norwich when Chris Hughton was in charge, let alone throwing £45 away to watch something about as exciting as filling in your self-assessment tax return.
One similarity with those two is how much they divided fans. I don’t know about anyone else but I think there has been a division among the ranks for a couple of years now. You either wanted those men sacked or you were a ‘happy-clapper’, no middle-ground it seemed.
Hopefully now we can get back to something that resembles the pulsating nature of the last Championship campaign with a Scottish manager. Games where every player would run themselves into the ground for 90 minutes and still be fit enough to hare around in injury time. Such was the enthusiasm from the crowd it felt like we were directly contributing to those numerous grandstand finishes.
You might be wondering why I haven’t really gone into detail about Alex Neil yet. This is simply because I am reserving judgement until I have seen him in full flow. Although he popped down to the touchline for the last 25 minutes at Bournemouth last week, I found it a bit cheeky how we claimed that as his first win.
If I were Gary Holt or Mike Phelan I would be pretty peeved at the lack of recognition for my efforts leading up to that titanic victory. Who knows how the dynamics will change once Neil gets his assistant down here in February.
Also, anyone in the Yellow Army claiming to be an expert on the fortunes of Hamilton Academicals and its former player-manager is simply a liar. I’m not going to sit here tapping away on my laptop regurgitating random stats looked up on Google, but from what I gather Neil has made quite the impression on Accies and Scottish football in general.
He comes across as a confident chap and one that isn’t going to take crap from anyone. The size of the step up is a big one, but I’m hoping, rather than expecting, he will have the galvanizing effect that Gary Rowett has had on a Birmingham side that has been rising up the table since their young boss joined from Burton Albion.
The players have got to want it enough though. You can see pretty clearly when they are up for it or not and whether they fully buy into the ethos of the club’s decision-maker.
I was lucky enough to be commentating on that fateful day we played Derby County at home in 2011 – one of the greatest matches in recent Norwich history. If we can get the place ‘going bananas’ like a certain man put it then we have every chance of clambering back into the top two by May.
Sam shares his love of Norwich City with the oval-shaped ball game. With the 2015 Rugby World Cup fast approaching he is hoping to write about it @Contributoria. Take a look here, sign up for free and pledge your support.