The Barnsley squad of 2003/04 may not immediately spring to the minds of Canaries’ supporters but in it you would have found the two managers who’ll be prowling the Carrow Road touchlines tomorrow.
Alex Neil and an on-loan Garry Monk shared the occasional defensive duties in an unspectacular mid-table finishing season in Division 2 under their trickily named Icelandic boss, Guðjón Þórðarson.
At the end of that season, their paths diverged – Neil to Mansfield, then on to Hamilton, and Monk to his spiritual home of Swansea. The rest is history.
So probably not best buddies in such a short space of time but no doubt Neil and Monk will warmly exchange some shared memories of their formative time in South Yorkshire.
It may well have been a time which, to some degree, will have helped shape their respective future philosophies and approaches to their fledgling managerial careers.
My hunch is they probably didn’t pick up too much useful information from the Icelandic coach for whom Barnsley – and previously Stoke – must have seemed a comparative tropical paradise.
Fast-forward to November 2015 and it will be a rare (and getting rarer) sight of two young and British managers duelling it out on the Premier League touchline.
Neil will be, if not desperate, then at least very anxious to put an end to his longest ever losing run.
Monk – for the first time since taking over the Swans after the mysterious departure of Michael Laudrup – is coming under a bit of uncomplimentary scrutiny following previously universal praise for his talents.
Pressure is beginning to build on both managers for a turnaround in form and results.
Both sides have identical records over the past seven league games – just one win and four defeats – although Norwich’s victory came at the start of that sequence while Swansea’s was just two weeks back, against early season whipping-boys Aston Villa.
At kick off tomorrow, just four points and three places separate the clubs.
Norwich’s defensive issues have been relentlessly discussed with calls for changes growing ever louder. Fallibility at set pieces, along with silly individual errors, have both been unwanted constants through the season – and have been especially costly of late.
Alex Neil will therefore be praying that such nasty habits will be kicked into the long grass as Monk and his attack-minded boys will provide a stiff test of nerve and resolve.
With Russell Martin serving a one match ban for his stooping forearm block at the Etihad, chances are that Ryan Bennett will remain in the middle with Steven Whittaker returning at right back.
The choice of goalkeeper has caused most discussion in the last week – Rudd or Ruddy? Neil seems keen to deflect the growing criticism of Ruddy. Win as a team, lose as a team.
In the middle, Neil has a few more options for rotation but the return of Wes Hoolahan from the bench is a given while the first proper home appearance of an increasingly fitter and stronger Youssouf Mulumbu should provide more energy, steel and guile of late.
Up front, I would expect Cameron Jerome to start in front of Dieumerci Mbokani – who has only just recovered from illness – after a typically tireless performance at the Etihad.
While his goal there was a gift, maybe Jerome was owed that after the Palace refereeing farce. Any striker will say that they don’t care how or where from, just as long as it goes in with their name on it.
With confidence in the Carrow Road seats a tad fragile and the atmosphere veering towards the monastic during a poor show against West Brom, the first goal is likely to be pivotal.
Here’s hoping the orders of Alex Neil are strictly observed and those of Garry Monk fall on deaf ears.
Stewart Lewis says
Holy Smokes! You’ve got through some monastic puns there.
Agree that Jerome should start; he’ll get goals if we can give him the right support. Hopefully it’ll be a case that they have the Monk, but we’ll provide the service.
Premier League Pedant says
Well I’m praying for a win, I just hope the Carra Rud crowd haven’t taken another vow of silence.
They say you need to beat the teams around you to beat the drop, so we should be looking for six points from Swansea and Chelsea…
Russell S. says
Stewart and PLP – Amen to that brothers.
Let’s hope we get that elusive clean sheet so I can do the Swansea – nun line next week!