It’s Anita time again… and this time she’s not happy!
Anita Byrne-Phillips has proven a popular figure with her guest-blogging and heartfelt take on the ups and downs at Carrow Road. Now, in the midst of one heck of a down, it’s time again for her latest thoughts.
Over to you ABP…
To have dragged my’ just 15′ year-old out of bed on a Saturday morning was no mean feat on my part, even for a Norwich City away trip. Especially as initially the shouting and tickling had been completely ignored.
The suitcase was packed, the hotel booked but the prospect of a 175 mile car journey ahead wasn’t much of a lure for him, along with the memories of his last birthday football trips: Fulham away… lost 1-0, Arsenal away… lost 4-1. But we decided that a game ten days after his birthday should be sufficient to break the hoodoo.
On the road I expected the chat to be full of team talk, recent form and what to do and see in Brighton but I was met with a nodding head, a wall of silence and the odd grunt. Teenagers! Anyone have a handbook? A guide?
So with just the radio for company we made the long journey, stopping only for breakfast.
We arrived in good time – just over three hours later – and parked outside the hotel. Time for a quick change. We are greeted with two beds – a king size and a single – when suddenly said lifeless teen jumps into action and tries to ‘shotgun’ the larger of the two. Not going to happen!
I justify my right to the big bed, which eventually leads me, after some unsuccessful reasoning, to resort to “I’m the boss! What I say goes! It’s tough to be a kid! ”
Eventually we leave for the game.
A short train journey leads us to the Amex, home to the Seagulls; an impressive stadium and the home of our former manager, with his team in good recent home form. What could possibly go wrong?
Changes were duly made to our squad and line-up and I took comfort from Alex Neil’s… “we want to put on a good performance and ultimately win the game“.
So, with my teenager now slightly more spirited and keen to get to his seat we watch the players warm up. A bit of hope even creeps in.
But what happened next was embarrassing: 1-0 down at half time.
I was hoping Alex Neil would instil some fight into his troops with his half-time pep talk. Pick them up and send them out with a boot up the proverbial.
But on 60 minutes the whole team spontaneously combusted, from (mainly) back to front!
The big question I guess is was it a very bad day at the office or, on the manager’s part, a loss of the dressing room?
One thing I’m sure of is that we are lucky to be in the league position we are in; we have conceded when we should have closed games out, had moments of switching off, missed chances to clear the ball when it was the only option and missed clear chances at the other end.
We have dropped seven points from doing exactly those things in recent games – but this one, in Brighton, was a fail of such epic proportions. The type of scoreline we expect in the Premier League against a ‘big’ team.
It was simply unacceptable and we need to respond quickly and positively, If the epidemic of clowns and the thought of Halloween wasn’t scary enough, this defeat was.
But is a new manager the answer? Who comes in?
Being fourth in the Championship and just four points adrift of second place means it’s still all to play for but is trusting Alex to find faith and form mean it’s a better option than tossing the coin with a new manager?
I don’t have a crystal ball but right now I can’t see the board changing their opinion of Alex Neil while the club is still within reach of their Premier League goal.
But November will be telling. Huddersfield, early leaders of the Championship, also took a 5-0 thumping on Saturday and also have dipped in form recently. Are their fans calling for their manager’s head?
Yet they don’t have the squad on paper that we have – one that everyone expected to walk back into the Prem.
If the last couple of games haven’t been a wake-up call for the squad then Saturday should be!
Post-match, Russell Martin’s frank interview echoed the fans’ thoughts and Alex looked a shadow of his former self. And so he needs to dig deep and re-discover the man that steered us through the play-offs.
But what about us… the fans? Those who drag themselves out of bed, week in, week out, for away games; those who pay for season tickets.
We turned up on Saturday and watched a team that didn’t seem committed. But what would happen if we didn’t commit?
What would happen if we gave up our support as readily as the players gave up on Saturday?
Is Alex Neil facing the same battle with his players that I’m facing with my teenage son? Are they ignoring him? Are his instructions also falling on deaf ears? Are they un-energetic for the day ahead?
Equally, are his threats now of the idle variety? Does he have his favourites? (My daughter thinks I do). And, lastly, is he battling against a group of tempestuous players who simply think they know better?
Who knows! So many questions right now. Who has the answers?
But it’s two days now since the implosion occurred and anger has given way to disappointment.
Oh… and does anyone have that handbook I mentioned earlier?
Finally… a special mention to fellow Yellow and mate, Nick Raven. He was someone I met through village life and football, *ahem* years ago, which led to my becoming a City fan.
We sadly lost him recently and I know he will be much missed by the ‘Easton’ away fans, and by everyone who knew his smiling face around games.
Much love and support to his family who have been amazingly strong throughout – a true family unit. He would be proud.
Cheers, as ever, to Anita for a frank, honest and personal take on the current state of affairs. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing from her again quite soon.