It doesn’t feel any better this morning does it. Not one iota.
We’ve been kicked in the guts plenty of times – it comes with the territory when you’re a City supporter. This one however feels extra painful.
But not just because the survival odds have been tilted in favour of Sunderland – even though they have – or even because it was another spurned chance in a season that’s been littered with them.
This one really hurts, for me anyway, because we managed to confirm the collective belief of pundits and experts that we don’t have what it takes; that Big Sam would do a job on us and that our central defenders wouldn’t be able to handle Jermaine Defoe.
As a devotee of talkSPORT it was a painful week as presenters and ex-pros lined up to extol the virtues of Allardyce and eulogise over his Premier League record of having never been relegated and, in the next breath, tell us that Defoe will be the difference between survival and relegation for the Black Cats.
It was tiring. I so wanted City to prove them wrong.
Yet, in the spirit of ‘along came Norwich’ we succumb to both while, at the same time, contriving to end Sunderland’s six-game win-less run.
And, if that wasn’t enough, we suffer a thumping dent in our goal difference on a day when Newcastle, along with collecting three points, improved their own by three. We started the day with a seven goal advantage over them – almost worth a point as they say – but ended it just a solitary goal better off.
And then, for good measure, there was the Timm Klose news.
I half-expected to wake to the news that Jonny Howson suffered broken ribs as a result of Allardyce’s shove and will be out for the next four games.
I guess there’s still time.
But the point is there was something so ‘Norwich City’ about yesterday. It harked back to Fulham away in 2005. When crunch time arrives it seems we don’t even do narrow defeats.
The fallout was naturally crammed full of angst and those who, for a few weeks, have had no reason to launch into David McNally took the opportunity to do so yesterday for reasons, to me, that are not completely clear.
But it wasn’t just the chief executive who was in the firing line. Everyone, it seems, was fair game.
We needed someone to blame; someone or something on whom to unleash the venom that built up over 94 of the most agonisingly painful minutes I can ever recall. It was understandable maybe, given how we ourselves had built the game up to being bigger, more valuable, than the play-off final.
That some of those in the firing line were largely blameless for events as they unfolded mattered not.
Ultimately it simply boiled down to City not being quite good enough in periods and situations when it really mattered, as have so many of our bad days this season. When we need it to click we come up short, and it invariably comes down to the ‘q’ word.
We have enough quality to win a game of Premier League football, but only just, and not consistently. We need everything to fall into place and for the team to be operating at 100 per cent for this to happen. Other teams can dip below and still have enough, be it collective ability or nous, to see it through. We don’t.
At crucial moments the decision-making isn’t good enough. We take an extra tough when it’s not needed. The ‘eye of a needle’ pass hits the edge of the needle. We under-hit a cross. We mis-time a last-ditch tackle.
All relatively minor mistakes in the overall make-up of 90 minutes, and football being an inexact science it happens to every team in every league in the land, but we fail when it really counts more than most in the Premier League.
We don’t lack effort, or fight, and I simply refuse to believe the Canary Call suggestion that the players don’t care. They do. They’re just unable to deliver as consistently as is required for PL mid-table comfort.
Andre Wisdom, whether he managed to get a piece of the ball of not, made a challenge he didn’t need to make. He offered Andre Marriner the chance of pointing to the spot, which he gobbled up with undue haste.
And Seb Bassong, despite being fouled by Jan Kirchhoff, didn’t need to dwell on the ball in such a dangerous area. It was another error from Marriner but one that wouldn’t have even been a thing if Seb had taken one touch less.
There is just no escaping that this back-four minus the composure and leadership of Klose looks a completely different entity. We started to look organised but without him, as a unit – including John Ruddy – they wobble and creak. And that doesn’t bode well.
Neither does the fact that the Mbokani/Naismith partnership, which promised much against Newcastle, seems to have gone in reverse.
And, aside from both being generally non-threatening in front of goal, both seemed more intent on going to ground than staying on their feet. As a result when either were actually on the receiving end of a foul, Marinner already had a seed of doubt planted.
Naismith, along with Matt Jarvis, had an afternoon to forget and neither were able to justify their inclusion ahead of Wes and Nathan Redmond respectively; decisions by Alex Neil that he probably now regrets.
Sunderland, for their part, were surprisingly ungracious in victory, and the ‘Friendship Trophy’ appeared a dim and distant memory as the handbags flew in front of their dugout, but borne of years of experience they do appear well equipped to again successfully tackle a relegation fight.
They’re limited, ordinary even, but in Defoe they always have a goal in them and in Cattermole they have a scrapper made from the mould of his manager; a key component to any said fight. They’ve reportedly played well of late but while there was little evidence of it yesterday, the record books will show they had enough to win comfortably.
So, a thoroughly miserable one and with two weeks to cogitate on it before we play again, the next four games will be as challenging mentally as they will be tactically. Consecutive defeats in must-not-lose games have seen belief replaced with doubt.
But, for now we’re not in the bottom three and can only but hope there is a twist or two to come.
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Cosmo P. says
Tactically wrong from Alex yesterday – as Leicester showed, their CBs are fragile to pace and guile. Wes and Redderz from the start was the best chance we had of unpicking them. Jarvis and Naismith have been consistently ineffectual.
Klose’s injury feels like a mortal blow inflicted by a cruel footballing God, Bamford seems to be in the naughty room after Palace and Brady’s second half absence surely was injury-related rather than tactical?
3-0 greatly flattered the Mackems but they handled the pressure better. They also got the benefit of all the big calls from the man in black. Cheers to Swansea for getting the flip flops on early too. Things seem to be conspiring to add to our own and numerous faults.
The fat lady is not singing just yet but I can see her applying makeup in the dressing room.
Chris G says
Nicely put Gary – am also still feeling the pain this morning. A largely gutless performance borne out by incorrect team selection and the devastating blow of losing Klose. The story of our season, just not good enough when it really matters. No cutting edge and worrying look of defeat at times. Not over by a long shot, but going to be a long two weeks.
Paul Lancaster says
The penalty did us in! Prior to that other than 5 minutes or so of pressure Sunderland offered little and at the end of the day scored 3 shots from 3 on target (and missed two other breakaway efforts)
In the first 20 minutes or so we looked neat tidy and threatening with some clever movements BUT we often took too much time in front of goal or missed that killer pass or (worse) gave the ball away
After the penalty we huffed and puffed a bit had a few moments of “almost but not quite” football and failed to get the ball past Mannone or Catermole.
Wisdom had a poor game (except a glorious pass to Jarvis early doors down the right wing) Jarvis worked hard but got little for his endeavours Naismith did a couple of positive and a lot of negative things. Mbokani tried hard – he won lots in the air even when doubled up with that 7’ central midfielder and Kaboul he ought to have out at least one of his chanes away, though
After the penalty went in it became more desperate and less pretty and (with the exception of a couple of long rang efforts +| some scrambles) we looked less likely to score
I agree Sunderland weren’t better than us they just were gifted the opportunities and despite some justifiable complaints against the ref as a team we can’t afford those mistakes.
I didn’t think Defoe was especially good yesterday by the way-out he did offer something which Bassong had difficulty with
Great summary Gary. Poor ref with 2 50/50 decisions which went against us, but we had no incision and failed to keep the ball on the ground and build up pressure. Naismith had a shocker and Defoe is a class act – I thought he pulled the defence apart and played well. Odds on to go down, particularly without Klose. But you never know, perhaps we did it to make it interesting till the last day.
Gary Field says
Match stats show we had 64% possession to their 36%. 19 shots to their 8. Six on target, to their three and 14 corners to their zero.
Small wonder I left the ground feeling the score line flattered them.
That said, upon reflection, they came with a game plan, to counter at pace, often down the channels because our fullbacks were usually advanced. It worked a treat.
In contrast, our “lump it long to Mbokani” was Ipswichesk. Not pretty to watch and ineffective.
When Plan A isn’t working you have to try something else. That didn’t really happen, at least until Redmond and Wes joined the fray.
Something has to change and quickly, otherwise things will only get more painful between now and the end of the season
Gary Gowers says
Gaz (5) – Nicely summarised… you really should write for us 😉
Gary Field says
6) Gaz – ha! Perhaps I’d be more prolific if I had as much time as Seb on the ball …. ⚽️
The bottom line is we got relegated in the summer as the transfer window was a shambles of the highest order. What club would get promoted to the PL and make a net PROFIT before the season starts in transfer dealings?
Everybody knew we needed a striker and a central defender, but we did nothing and sold our POTY to boot. The board always get off there hook due to the biased media that follows them. No ambition, never have.
Hugely disappointed, more than anything that we succumbed to playing that hoof ball, aggressive, skill-less style Alladyce so favours. I totally understand the frustrations of the West Ham fans watching that football week in week out. But I also understand it’s success, it gives technically weak teams something to hang onto, a tactic to get behind, a style that can get enough points to get you over the line. I wish we had won, I wish we had had enough, I wish were had simply tried to pass the ball. The championship beckons. And Sunderland stay up. Bugger
I’m not saying the players didn’t care but where was the fighting spirit? I found myself increasingly irritated by Cattermole and then I had to admit that I just wished we had someone who would fight and show leadership like he did – there was no one offering that for us.
Stewart Lewis says
Darren (8) – Frustration is more than understandable after yesterday, but I think you’ve set a new record for this forum with four factual errors in two short paragraphs.
Only by the narrowest definition of headline transfer fees (and probably not even on that) did we make a profit on last summer’s dealings. Every transfer carries hefty fees in itself, and of course wages are a huge ‘invisible’ extra. Or don’t you think we pay Mulumbu, Jarvis or Mbokani anything?
Equally untrue to say that we did nothing to address the striker and central defender issue. We didn’t get deals across the line, but that’s in spite of major bids. We were led to expect that one or two of them would happen, but other clubs reneged on agreements.
If you enjoyed League 1 and wanted us to stay there, I can understand your unhappiness at our Board spending every available penny and hiring McNally to bring in people like Lambert and Alex Neil. Otherwise your view is a bit bizarre.
The thing that hurts the most is who we are suffering trouncing’s to this season. No doubt, Neil is not yet a premier league standard manager, but he will be a fine one one day. I am still shocked at the protection the board get in these scenarios. We have just had a season of exactly the sake mistakes as last time and everyone just palms it off as, “but Delia loves the club. She’s done so much for us.” Classic regressive left rhetoric. Yes, I admit the board have down a lit… as did Napoléon for the French empire, but his time came. Then we get her nephew on there too! Wow exciting. If she loved the club and waned progression, she would look to move on. That’s a fact, and one reiterated by clubs like Leicester and Bournemouth receiving huge backing from billionaires. Why them and not us? Because they are refused entry at the door. There’s nothing more to it, even though thousands love to believe otherwise. There’s wood on those trees people. Actual real wood. Imagine that.
Stewart(11) _ you seem to need to leap to the defence of McNally whenever he is criticised even if there is justification for it. I’m afraid I do hold him responsible for our inability to complete transfers in the summer. The way that we went about trying to sign Brady was farcical in making derisory bids which Hull rightly rejected until we met their quite reasonable asking price, particularly bearing in mind how McNally obtained top dollar for Snodgrass. He is to be praised for that but must expect to be similarly treated when we are buying rather than selling. The protracted transfer did eventually take place but we could easily have lost him had another club stepped in.
The often quoted deals that didn’t happen should never have been left to the last minute. The targets should have been identified early in the window and if the asking price was within our budget then serious negotiations with the club, and then player should begin without wasting weeks in making cut price offers. I would have thought a club would be much more prepared to do business early if the price was right because there would then be sufficient time to recruit a replacement. If we don’t think the player is worth the quoted fee then move on to the next target.
The difference that a player of Klose’s ability makes to our defence was painfully obvious yesterday when we were forced to go back to two of our Championship central defenders. I’m sure that with Klose available all season we would not be contemplating returning there next season. His unfortunate injury actually highlights that only signing one quality defender was very shortsighted ( I’m ignoring Pinto!).
It appears that our inactivity in the summer when trying to save a few million has actually cost the club over £100m.I agree that McNally has recruited two excellent managers and has also introduced greater financial control at the club, although that is nothing more than a competent accountant would have done. He has been handsomely rewarded for his efforts however. An article in the Daily Mail (10/3/16) showed that he earned over £1.1m last year which placed him 7th in the list of Premier League chief executives. If only the club were 7th in the actual league table.
Jeff (13), do you know for a fact that the club has turned away potential new owners?
Because you are suggesting (“…they are refused entry at the door”) that we have done exactly that.
To Jeff (12) it has been my understanding that Delia stepped down in all practical matters basically at the time of Paul Lambert’s appointment. David McNally runs the club in all real senses. Perhaps others may set me right on this but that is how I’ve understood it.
At any rate a wholesale restructuring isn’t needed in my opinion. The club is well run and financially secure. Relegation is a blow but I have confidence that many of our players who struggle to step up to the premier league are quality in the championship.
I am desperately disappointed but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. So much has been good this year, let down by small margins. Let’s back Alex Neil to build on the good bits and iron out the bad, then we’ll have a really decent team who will be able to stay in the premier league
Gary Gowers says
Thanks for the comments folks.
One thing that never ceases to amaze is that some supporters – even a voice in the local media – still cite the summer sale of Bradley Johnson as somehow contributory to the predicament we find ourselves in. Can’t see it myself.
Yes, he had a wonderful season last time out and was deservedly PotS, but in his time here he never reached anything like that performance level in the Premier League and much of the time looked out of his depth.
He’s a decent Championship player, in my opinion, who was a star last season but on whom we upgraded when we bought Robbie Brady.
Let’s remain positive guys and girls. Sunderland are poor and will struggle in their remaining games. Newcastle played a team on holiday. The 2 week break might just suit Tim Klosse. We need to hope Man City turn up v Sunderland in midweek and give them a thrashing and likewise Liverpool v Newcastle next Saturday.
We are expected to be relegated by all the pundits from start of season and we are still in there fighting. Don’t give up, keep believing but don’t please look to blame people, leave that to Villa fans! P.s. Sunderland had 12 players yesterday…A Marriner super sub!
Stewart Lewis says
BB (13) – Some fair points, especially about getting deals over the line last summer.
However, I can’t let some of your comments go. Without a billionaire owner, we have to make the most of our resources. The protracted Brady deal resulted in our getting our man for a good price (Hull’s initial demand, by the way, was £15 million). Many deals are being discussed at the same time, so the length of the negotiation didn’t jeopardise anything else.
McNally inherited a club in League 1, disorganised, on the verge of administration and with Bryan Gunn sitting on an extended contract as manager. He hasn’t got everything right, for sure – but trust me, what he’s done is WAY more than the work of ‘a competent accountant’.
It’s the hope, the hope after games like WBA and Newcastle that we CAN do this. Followed by the exasperation of games like Palarse, when we probably edged it but came up short when it mattered. Then, to the downright anger, frustration and even predictability of a total capitulation against the one team you dare not lose to. What next? Could be any of the above, but in the end, it’s the hope, the hope that ultimately kills you!
Gary Field says
First, since 2011, the club has the power to issue up to one million new Ordinary shares, a right which was renewed at the last AGM. To suggest that there is no possibility of an outside party taking control of the Club is therefore just wrong.
Perhaps this hasn’t happened is because no one has actually shown any interest, rather than some fictitious “no entry” signs?
Second, for of Steve Bruce’s rhetoric last summer, the most telling point at the time about his comments was the fact that the “for sale” signs were clearly out for Brady. Understandably, Hull were trying to get the best price for their man.
Whether any of the low or high bid figures banded around the media were accurate, perhaps only a few insiders within the respective clubs will ever know.
Whatever your views on the CEO, the club’s finances have been revived significantly as a result of our recent Premier League seasons. Personally, i think the Boardroom needs stability and we can’t be changing CEO’s every time there’s a relegation.
Russell Martin is the best RB at the club by a mile and genuinely cares about it yet now he is behind the bang average Wisdom and Pinto the Clown. A lot of our wounds are very much self inflicted. Naismith and Mbokani were embarrassing with their diving yesterday. Not enough players that will be in any way bothered if we go down unless it affects their wallets.
David Nobbs says
I never understand the blaming of McNally for failed transfers. We have to live within our means, and yes we have to be prepared for the potential to get relegated. Clubs that aren’t finish up like Portsmouth, Bolton, QPR and in all probability Newcastle and Villa. I’m sure everyone at the club worked very hard to get the right deals over the line and would admit that by falling short in some areas we left ourselves with a tougher task. I guess some people just need someone to blame.
As for selection of course mistakes are made by all managers but it’s amazing how, every week, my timeline fills with howls of horror at 2pm and at 5pm there’s either silence if we win or I told you so if we don’t.
We support a well run club who on a good day can live in the premier league. Unfortunately this season there haven’t been enough good days – yet.
I’ll continue to proudly support Norwich City. If we do get relegated I’m hopeful that we will be in a strong position to get back up. I’m hoping that some of the younger players we have bred and bought (for which the management don’t get enough credit) can come back armed with the experience gained on loan and contribute to that process.
Two poor sides yesterday but let’s not get too carried away. With a small / normal amount of luck we would easily got a point. Their penalty was one but falls into the “seen them not given” category, there was clearly a foul on Bassong for their second and we had four or five claims for a penalty, some better than others admittedly, but not to get a single one was very unlucky. This is something we have been saying since Jerome’s overhead kick goal was disallowed at the start of the season.
Yes we lack quality at this level but to start demanding that we get rid of a proven performer in McNally is ridiculous. As for Bournemouth et al…..well let’s just see how things pan out over the next season or two shall we before we gamble with the future of our club. As for simply offering the maximum amount for a player at the start of the transfer window to save time and guarantee success – I’m glad I don’t have you guys negotiating for my business, but would love to sell you my house…… I’ll name the price obviously!!
Firstly Mr. Gower, I don´t believe Mr Marriner made very many wrong decisions in the ganme. Do you really believe that Bassong was fouled in the build up to Sunderland´s second goal, because if you do, then our first goal in the play-off final should by the same token have been pulled back too, because the two situations were practically identical, a defender who loses control of the ball and an opposing player who is just too strong in the tackle and robs him. Nothing wrong there, apart from Bassong dreaming he was Messi or Ronaldo.
Secondly, the fracas at the dugouts was perfectly understandable given Brady´s unnecessary and violent shove on their player. Especially after a similar incident involving Bennett earlier in the season in the Arsenal game, both could have caused serious damage. I wonder if we would have accepted it, had it been the other way around.
If McNally is to take credit for Lambert and and Neil, he should take criticism for the unsuccessful Hughton and Adams.
Our previous ‘worse than death’ relegation was blamed by McNally on poor signings the preceeding summer. So no lessons learnt then, because the club ended last season with no recruitment team in place.
Gary Field says
@25 pab – yes, the “worse than death” comment was always going to come to bite at some point, but, to suggest there was “no recruitment team in place” isn’t exactly accurate is it?
Granted there was no head of recruitment at the time but, to imply it’s a one man show with no support network just isn’t true.
Gary – Chris Gorham interviewed Alex Neil and asked him why they had managed to make so many signings in January but had struggled last summer. Alex Neil said we had no recruitment team, and that the club had to “recruit a recruitment team”.
It was glaringly obvious last summer we needed as top of priorities a goalscorer and a commanding centre half. We got neither.
Gary Field says
Pan (27) Thanks for the reply. Yes, I heard the Alex interview and, if I’m honest, was surprised by his response, not least because, if it was true, how did we manage to sign seven players over the summer?
I’m not pretending that the window was perfect, far from it, and not having a head of recruitment clearly didn’t help. But to suggest it was the sole reason for us not getting a striker and a defender, sorry, I’m not having that. It was one factor among many.
Stewart (11). You seem to be making excuses. I go on hard facts. FACT – The club signed NO central defender in the summer.
FACT – The club signed NO striker in the summer.
FACT – The club made a NET PROFIT in the summer.
If the club had ANY ambition at all, they should of spent at least 25M in the summer if they were realistic about retaining their status. Money isn’t everything, but it is unrealistic for Alex Neil to keep this lot up on a piss poor budget. The board aren’t up to it, just a down market version of Celebrity Squares.
Gary Field says
Darren – regarding your facts, the central defender is beyond doubt.
The striker however, what about Mbokani?
The net profit fact is unsubstantiated at the moment and won’t be known until the next financial accounts are published later this year.
The typical “league tables” you see in newspapers are highly inaccurate. They are often based upon estimates of the full transfer fees during the current window, which are usually wildly inaccurate. They also totally ignore any installments payments due / made relating to transfer from previous seasons.
The club reported at the last AGM that the total football budget for the current season was in excess of £80M. That’s obviously a combination of wages and transfer fees, but certainly an all time high.
Gary – A complete idiot working singlehanded could have signed twenty players or more last summer. Quantity is not an issue, but quality is, and I think we only signed one player who matched the familiar phrase of being “better than what we have got already”, and that was Brady.
Clearly they failed in the process of identifying suitable targets and negotiating/concluding deals.
Gary Field says
Pan (31) believe it or not, I agree with your conclusions re Brady. However, the $64,000 question remains, would it have been any different if a Head of Recruitment was in place? In my view, probably not.
I suspect we’re not going to agree on this so let’s leave it there.
When did we sign Mbokani? He was just on loan the last I heard…
Gary Field says
Darren (34) Mbokani was signed on a season long loan. That’s a fact. Makes him eligible to play in the Premier League for the season for Norwich and thereby disproves your claim that we didn’t sign a striker.
Dave B says
Gary. Mbokani is a loan striker who has scored less goals per game than Gary hooper for Norwich (who played under one of our worst managers by win %), and about the same # of goals in the Prem. This site ran a piece on how hooper was a failure here. Not sure i’d be bragging about Mbokani as a good singing.
Gary Field says
Dave B (35) Thanks for your reply. I was previously responding to the statement that we didn’t sign a striker last summer.
I made no reference to Hooper, nor have I, as you’ve suggested, made any reference to Mbokani being a good signing.
You’re right, however, their scoring records, so far, are broadly similar.
Bob in Diss says
Dave B(36) – your ‘facts’ are a little skewed. Hooper scored 6 goals in 34 PL games (i.e. over 1 full season) compared with Mbokani’s 5 in 24 (less than a full season). Mbokani therefore currently has a higher goal per game average than Hoops.
Hooper didn’t justify his transfer fee over 2 seasons – the jury is still out on Mbokani. Hooper usually had another striker next to him unlike Mbokani.
Also, much tougher for a non-Brit to come into the English leagues for the first time and hit the ground running in the first season.
It would be great if we could sign DM permanently – another PL team will if we do go down.
Dave B says
Gary. You had previously mentioned that you didn’t think our signings were impacted by a lack of recruitment team. I’m pointing out that the sole striker signing you used in their defense didn’t appear to be a success story.
Personally I believe our performance this year has been largely dictated by our lack of preparation. If the management deemed us anything but woefully unprepared in August, looking at our wafer thin defense and unproven attack, they were delusional.
Gary Field says
Dave B (38) I was pointing out that recruitment isn’t down to just one person, therefore, missing a man shouldn’t have a significant effect as some have implied.
As for their choice of targets, that’s clearly a totally different matter and it’s fair to say, with the exception of Brady, last summer was pretty poor.