If I was Chrissy Hughton, I’d be looking forward to Saturday’s fixture with rather more relish than most.
Not that he would ever admit as much. He is one of football’s nicer guys.
Equally, if I were Alex Neil a trip to face Brighton on the back of recent events would be the last thing I would have wanted.
It has the word ‘awkward’ stamped right through it; as any reunion with an ex-City boss tends to be. Particularly if they left in rather grisly circumstances; their managerial talents under-appreciated and under-valued by those the strove to please.
Be it on the terraces or in the boardroom.
Chris Hughton will want to win on Saturday. Badly. In a game that Alex Neil can’t afford to lose – at least not badly.
He is at a crossroads. Of that there would appear to be little doubt.
There has been a gnawing unease around the place for the better part of nine months now. And it hasn’t been eased by recent results or performances.
That have been sloppy. By anyone’s standards.
To give away two leads, to Leeds, the second of which coming when the hosts were down to ten men is not good. It stank, if we’re honest.
The penalties that then followed likewise lacked any genuine conviction or belief.
The challenge now facing the Scot is one of courage.
He has bought or brought in, but barely played, a number of players this summer. And, indeed, the summer before.
The danger of not playing new faces is that it raises question marks about your own managerial judgement if they don’t come to oust those players already in the building.
Those that have been resting on their laurels for all-too long. Going through the motions.
If you don’t ring changes with new players – particularly when results and performances are going awry – then why did you bring them in at all? If not to freshen up the place and offer genuine competition for places?
Because it strikes me that City are currently running two separate teams of the First XI and Second XI variety – with the mental laziness that comes with both if you fail to make significant changes when required.
First XI players seemingly unthreatened by the rest of the dressing room go into cruise control, while Second XI players not given a glimpse of the real deal retreat into a peed-off shell.
‘What more do I need to do to get a game round here…’
And that contagion can spread. And undermine spirits and belief.
Which is why I go back to Brighton on Saturday. Hughton is far too long in the footballing tooth not to recognise and smell Neil’s current discomfort.
He will feed that knowledge into his players. And if he has their respect, the players will look to give the Gaffer the result he wants.
Neil is no fool.
He will know that a whiff is growing. Things are getting stale. But, as mentioned, then it comes down to courage. And trust.
Does he trust himself to make the right changes? As importantly, does he trust the players enough that those who do come in, make the required difference?
If the answer is ‘No…’ then it starts to be a rod for his own back; an indictment of his own transfer decisions over the last 18-24 months.
And punters will be swift to condemn if Hughton gets to rain on his parade and make his own, telling point this weekend.
Not one for the faint of heart.
If there’s no place for faint hearts, we will have trouble raising more than six players for the game.
Bob in Diss says
Chris: world class support that 2 days before a big game. I just don’t get the mentality behind supporters continuing to snipe at players so close to such a match instead of getting behind them.
We’re all disappointed by the outcome of the last 3 games but, whether you like it or not, these are the players we have for the next few months.
Even if they can’t hear you, it just feeds into the atmosphere of negativity that is crippling the Carrow Road atmosphere at the slightest perceived error.
Brighton away was always going to be one of the biggest games of the season – nothing has changed in that respect.
Cant agree with you Bob. Im perfectly entitled to snipe at the players if they continually ruin my weekend/Tuesday evening with their lack of effort, couldn’t care less attitude and inept displays. Call it a challenge. I want them to prove me wrong. Reverse psychology? I don’t know, but I do know I have had enough of Leeds, Newcastle, Fulham, Birmingham, Preston, Ipswich and other preposterous performances and results. That’s without a whole season of balls ups leading to a second relegation in two years. The gutless wimp out at eland road against ten men is wortHy of derision. If they don’t like it they can bloody well start earning their money and start performing.
And another thing while I’m warming to it, I doubt that the little dears are sat there online reading every word uttered about their performances. If you are happy with the humiliation that’s up to you, by accepting Leeds win you aren’t doing the club any favours. An excellent article about David stringer the other day made me pine for the time when a Norwich city team would give blood, sweat and tears and certainly wouldn’t have contrived to lose a game in those circumstances. It simply should not happen. There are no excuses.
Spot on Rick… we are approaching a crossroads, the next 3 games are massive for Alex Neil & our season.
He doesn’t appear to be learning from his mistakes and his normally refreshingly honest interviews post match have started to take on a “deluded” feel
Being a city fan is never dull, strap yourselves in
With you all the way Chris. Bob needs to wake up. People will blame players, always do but this is all Neil’s doing. I’ve been slated on here for saying exactly what Rick has just written and all those abusers go quiet. Neil is another city manager who let’s players go stale and no one cares about trying. Either he is a dreadful purchaser or he isn’t the one doing the purchasing…
Dave H says
I don’t believe that players themselves read these articles & comments, but I do believe that the atmosphere of negativity affects the fans. This can then be taken to the ground which in turn can be transmitted to the players. For me, Birmingham could be seen as a good example of this; clearly it was an appalling performance, but I felt a large number of the crowd were overly negative while we were still at 0-0. I don’t see this as helping the players or other fans.
I do find some of the negativity on here frustrating, but I know the whole purpose of the site is for fans to voice their opinions. Just as I choose not to listen to Canary Call, I can choose not to read the articles.
Gary Field says
Great article Rick. Last season Alex Neil got some justified criticism for making changes virtually every game. Now he seems to have almost gone to the opposite extreme.
He’s stated that he picks his strongest squad for each game, but you have to wonder if some selections are disregarding current form – or lack there of?
Chris @1, 3 & 4 – you’re in danger of becoming the MFW latest “ray of sunshine.” I agree that we’re far from the top of our game at the moment but, with almost a third of the season gone, the league table does reflect form and we’re still fourth. That probably tells us as much about the other teams in the Championship as it does us.
@6 Jeff – Managers manage and players play. Always has been and always will be the way. The players have to take their fair share of responsibility here, however, when the latter don’t do the business, it’s usually the former who carry the can. And you need to put away that “wobbly bottom lip.” You’ve not been “slated”, far from it. You’ve rightly been questioned a number of times on the logic and reasoning behind some of your comments. You’ve also been given numerous chances to do the guest blog and not taken it. That ball remains firmly in your court.
Bob in Diss says
Chris: Historical context;
Stringer & Co were not infallible as you seem to be forgetting. We took beatings in the old 1st division back then (4-0 to Arsenal at home, 4-1 at Everton, 4-2 at home to Derby etc in 73-74) and got relegated with Forbes & Stringer at the heart of the defence.
74-75 season back in div. 2, we got stuffed 4-0 at Fulham, lost away to York City and lost at home to Bristol Rovers, all before 1974 was out. We also dropped a lot of points with draws in the first half of that season.
The second tier is far more competitive now then it was back then.
Also back then, the League Cup ties were over two legs which City needed the home ties to win through (we drew at Leeds 2-2 the other night). Every round of our trip to Wembley in 75, we needed the 2nd leg to get through. If it had been penalty shootouts back then, chances are we wouldn’t have got to Wembley.
If you genuinely felt “humiliated” by recent performances then I feel sorry for you because you seem to have forgotten what the reality of following a club is – good times, not so good times and terrible times. At the moment we’re hovering between the first two but a couple of wins and that changes.
Your advice to some players to ‘man up’ needs an example from yourself.
Inaccurate Bob. League cup ties weren’t over two legs back then. I recall beating Ipswich 2-1 at Portman road with two goals from Jonny Miller, it was a REPLAY Bob. Not a second leg. Also two seasons before at Arsenal we won 3-0 thanks to a Graham Paddon hat trick. Maybe they didn’t feel the need for a second leg? I do t recall either using the phrase man up. I can assure you however that manning up is not something that I have particular need of. In future check your facts before going on the offensive.
Cosmo P. says
We’ve had all the negatives from Chris & Jeff. Here’s the positives;
– 4th in the table after 14 games, just 3 points off Newcastle who have spent more and have the strongest squad ever at this level (they’ve lost 3 (2 home) games – same as us).
– 4th top scorers in the whole of the FL (remarkable for a club so ‘bereft’ of strikers)
– great young talent in the squad: Murphys, Thompson, Canos, Pritchard.
As with any club at anytime, there are weaknesses. Of course our defence needs to improve/be stronger as does the game management. Arguably, we have a better back 4 than 2 seasons ago when we conceded fewer than any other team in the 2nd half of that season.
Constant carping at individuals and calls for sackings help nobody. If we’re out of the top 6 by Christmas, then it’s time to think of other options.
Ben K says
It’s going to be one those games, isn’t it, where we all discover that it was only a blip or the natives become truly restless. Would we take a draw? We need a win to keep up that 2 points per game ratio, but throwing the sink at it might not be a great idea.
Jacob Murphy and/or Robbie Brady to be ‘rested’?
Bob in Diss says
Chris (11) – you’re right on the 2 leg error but my point remains the same. If penalties had applied then, we almost certainly would have been knocked out. We did draw the game at Leeds (with a reserve side) after 120 mins.
I notice you have nothing to say on the league stats I put up for a comparable time (73-75)?
Stringer & Forbes are legends but benefit greatly from not having played in a Twitter world. 1-0 home defeat to Bristol Rovers – you would have been ranting at them just as much as you are now.
i enjoyed Ricks article. He doesn’t pull his punches with phraseology like sloppy, it stank and with bothered? He infers a lack of care or application. This rings true with a large section of the carrow road crowd who will recognise such traits. Football support has always been an emotive and opiniated pastime, passions rise and fall and anger or joy are visited in equal measure. Check out Aston villa or Newcastle responses to poor results at the start of the season for a bog standard response to a freshly relegated side displaying less than desired application. At Norwich city, there appears to be an element amongst the support which will brook no criticism, no negative comment, no questioning of any aspect of the club. Be it board, owners, players, managers or the grounds mans cat, it can do no wrong. Relegated? Again? Let’s have a party. Lack of transfer activity? No problem. There is a debate as to just how bad the performances have been this season. Some say all is good and point to fourth place, a week ago it was top. Others have seen worrying signs in every match of sloppiness, poor organisation and dreadful, repetitive error making. There is room for criticism of the manager both in his selection, or non selections and his use of substitutions. Motivation appears problematic too. Some appear to be of the opinion that if everybody just claps a bit harder and cheers every misplaced pass we will start to perform to the required standard, albeit a year too late. Listening to the Leeds match on Tuesday the constant racket from 1900 city fans present was the soundtrack to the commentary. Aided partly by their proximity to the effects Mike their vocal efforts were second to none. It is a shame then, that their efforts were neither reciprocated or appreciated as The players, or most of them disappeared without a moments acknowledgement of the disappointed following they had just let down. A symptom of modern day disconnect between the games exponents and its followers as the divisive salaries they receive are seldom earned. My terse opening gambit was in response to Ricks exposing of some home truths and not a measured and thought out riposte, more a reflex to a tweaked nerve. However, I feel the questioning of backbone amongst some, not all of our squad is pertinent and not without some merit. Evidence is there if one cares to look for it. In any walk of life consistent crappy performance in your calling would open you up to criticism from your employer and his customer base. Join the real world.
Gary Field says
@11 Cosmo P – I got some stick on Twitter recently for using, what was suggested to be a meaningless term – “game management.” I didn’t reply, but I did smile to myself when Alex Neil used it in his very next post match interview, as did two other Premier League managers the following Saturday.
Cosmo P. says
Gary (15) – it’s definitely a thing and applies to losing 2 goal leads in second halves!
Chris (14) – wow! That keyboard’s on fire.
A point at Brighton would be great, let alone 3. They’ve lost 7 of their last 60 games!
It’s sizzling Cosmo! A point would indeed be a good result, even if we were still sitting at the top.
Gary Field says
@16 Cosmo P. Agree 100%.
@17 Chris – so sizzling it looks like your return key is broken!
Thankfully, there’s many shades of grey among the City support on the current state of play in Nation Canary. There’s a common view that City players are underperforming but a change at the top isn’t immediately required. Time will tell I guess.
Paragraphs! Now there’s a thought!