It’s not very often that you find yourself questioning the thoughts of Alex Neil.
By and large – and, as ever, all said from a growing distance – 99 times out of 100 you end up nodding in agreement with the Canary chief.
Today, however, and there was one line from the Press conference that had me pausing. In the sense of not being quite so sure.
“We had to get off to a good start,” said Neil, as he looked back at the 4-1 triumph at Blackburn Roavers, as City returned to the grisly slog of the Champions after their recent adventures in the top flight.
Three goals to the good in the games opening 30 minutes, it was not just the scoreline that impressed; each of the goals was from a pretty high drawer.
And was due reward for the travelling faithful that braved the M6 on a holiday weekend.
“The fans would have wanted that – and we wanted that,” he added.
“And what it does do is put the ghost of last season behind us…”
Hmmmm, was my reaction to that line.
Because – as Nigel Worthington and others will attest – home is where the heart is. And that’s where points have to be proved as well as won.
Away days in Norwich’s case – particularly given the club’s appalling geography travel-wise – tends to be for the strongest of hearts. Those that will follow their heroes come rain or shine; through thick and thin.
Those that travel to Ewood Park on a Saturday in August will not be the first to grumble. They might be the reverse – they might be the last to grumble if events don’t go quite to the Neil plan.
It is the home games that will decide the manager’s fate.
And as good as that victory was last Saturday, there will still be an (un)healthy number of Canary fans who will not lay last season’s ghosts to rest quite so easily.
In fact the manner and extent of last weekend’s success might actually have worked against the City chief.
For one thing, Sheffield Wednesday might not be as open and cavalier in their approach had Norwich nicked a scrappy 1-0.
Fresh from his World Cup triumphs and positive pre-season, the Owls won’t be giving Wes Hoolahan too much room on the ball.
Jacob Murphy might not shrug his knock off in time and might not make it to the tea-time clash, but his name will now be noted.
And so the list continues. Wednesday will be wary. And rightly so.
They will tighten their game accordingly; particularly in the games opening 20 minutes when Norwich will look to impose a Rovers-like tempo on proceedings.
Equally, for the vast majority of City fans who did not travel to Lancashire that result will have fuelled a sense of expectation that can work both ways.
If the Canaries are not 3-0 up and flying by the break, then questions will be asked. Those that remain unconvinced will still be unconvinced.
And the problems come at home.
It’s where more people expect to be entertained.
On away days, it tends to be the more knowledgeable crowd that will see a scrappy 1-0 for what it is. Particularly in this division.
They will put entertainment second to points.
It’s when you lose the interest and the belief of the home crowd that managerial tenures become impossible.
That’s when people get fed to the lions atmosphere-wise.
The away crowd are not your problem as a manager of Norwich City Football Club.
My sense is still positive.
There was a welcome level of hunger and appetite visible in that Rovers display and the players that you would want to score early in a season, did.
Cameron Jerome being a prime example.
He still has the ability to be a 20-goal plus striker in this division.
But his mind has to be right; the doubts that inevitably creep in from a season in the higher flight needed to be banished early. And that goal would have done much in that regard.
However, turgid 0-0s this weekend will only ensure that some unwelcome ghosts linger.
The fact that a derby clash is just eight days later – albeit with another home game in between – is, likewise, fraught with peril.
If those Premier League ghosts aren’t well and truly buried by the visit of first Sheffield Wednesday and then Bristol City in midweek.
Two, lame draws against two sides that come to defend in depth against a side that can be 3-0 up in half an hour if granted the freedom to pass and play and the pressure will be on for that trip to Portman Road.
The old adage is an old adage for a very good reason – ten games in is the point to judge a side and a manager. Only then will we all have a proper feel for where the Canaries are this term.
How much of a Premier League hangover remains in the system.
I can quite understand why Neil would want to move that conversation on ASAP, but for now, talk of burying ghosts is a little premature.
Norwich have a habit of being, well, Norwich.
Let’s just wait and see, shall we?
Alex B says
I fully agree with your comments, but who else if not the manager will try and put a positive spin on things.
This will help encourage the home supporters to give the team their backing and also let the team know the manager has publicly praises their efforts
I can see where this article is coming from ,but have not the present management team packed our squad with exciting young midfield attackers,plus Wes,who will be able to unlock packed defences in home matches?
My greater worry is still the ability of our defence to cope with the quick counter -thrust,or “switching off” at critical moments.
I will be happier when we have a settled,dependable ‘keeper and a natural left back if Olsson is not available.Brady and ,worse still, Whittaker , worry me if played in that position.
We are so dependant upon Timm Klose and I hate to think what will happen if he gets injured.
Eerily accurate when describing a turgid 0-0 draw Rick. NTives are getting restless and rightly so. Norwich city have dropped a level and the opposition has dropped in standard and still nothing changes. To be fair to Neil, he has had zero backing from the boardroom, nothing new there, but I sense that his honeymoon ended with relegation and his approval rating is dropping rapidly. Anger yesterday was probably predominantly aimed at the corpulent owners and their pals than the manager and players but the performance of all is under t he severest of scrutiny.
One might add of course that to play out the home curtain riser with no recognised centre forward is no way to go about business.
Ben K says
Rick, it’s good to see your writing back on this site. The weekend, and one or two comments here, have proved you to be quite right about the Carrow Road ‘faithful’. I fully expect there to be booing after we win a game by ‘only’ one goal, such is the way that thing are going. Toys are already being hurled from the collective pram at an alarming rate.