Since that spirit-crushing 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage, City have conceded eleven Championship goals, have lost four games on the spin and have scored just three times.
Morale is low, belief is lower and, aside from an undeniably spirited last 15 minutes yesterday, they play with no spark and an air of dejection. It’s been no fun to watch and, I’m sure, is even less fun to be a part of.
But it’s not just about the last four games. In fact it’s not just about going to the top of the Championship before heading into a seemingly unstoppable tail-spin. The current decline goes back to October 18, 2015, when Alex Neil’s mojo was met with a Toon-induced right-hook so powerful it has not been seen since.
Up until that point Neil had barely put a foot wrong and confidence, unswerving belief and leadership oozed from every pore. We felt we had someone special guiding the tiller and wouldn’t have swapped him for anyone.
During that time Paul Lambert became unemployed, yet not once did thoughts wistfully turn to what could be again if we were to re-engage with one who was considered a messiah. We trusted Alex implicitly, and that trust was repaid with one of the great Norwich City days.
I can vividly recall walking back to Wembley Park station – having just witnessed a 94 minute masterclass in game management – and discussing with friends how brilliantly David McNally had done to unearth this little Scottish gem.
We’d gone back down the Lambert route but with a new version and it was working.
But it’s not working any more. And the man we now see before us post-match, while attempting to explain away the latest 90+ minutes of blunders, is a shell of the man who famously growled at Alex Tettey in the 89th minute at Wembley for giving the ball away cheaply.
That Alex knew exactly what he wanted and how he wanted it to be achieved. And, equally, the players knew precisely what was expected of them and knew to the letter their role in the team. And when that Alex made a big, sometimes unexpected, call we trusted him even if, to us, it was an odd one.
And that Alex could problem solve and would tinker with his formations to get the best out of his chosen XI and to counteract the opposition of the day. He would make the odd mistake – like playing Steven Whittaker in central midfield against Brentford – but would address it and learn from it.
[Rather than drop Whittaker after his Bees-nightmare, which would have been the easy decision, he picked him at right-back in the next match; the football equivalent of getting him back on the horse. It worked because the Scot played a key role in that position that ended in the Wembley joy.]
And, back then, the players hung on his every word; assured in the knowledge his decision-making was invariably on point.
But what we see before us now is a far cry from the well-oiled machine that purred through the play-offs and beyond. This iteration looks disjointed, dis-spirited, disorganised and, in some cases, disinterested; some of the players looking anything but sure of their role in the side.
There appears a dearth of desire and a lack of spark. Some go through the motions. And, going back to an earlier point, it actually becomes hard to watch. Alex is suffering on the touchline, the players are suffering on the pitch, we’re suffering in the stands and, I’m sure, Delia, Michael and co too are feeling that same pain.
The joy has disappeared.
And the message too is getting lost betwixt changing room and pitch. For two weeks – a week for those who’ve been away on international duty – Team Neil will have been drumming into them their respective roles in defending set pieces.
Yet less than a minute into yesterday’s game they find themselves down to ten men by virtue of an inability to defend a long throw, and compound it with permitting a free header from a corner a few minutes later to concede the first goal.
But the defensive problems are not confined to set plays and the through ball that dissected Seb Bassong and Ryan Bennett with such ease was another that won’t have formed part of any Colney training session.
Yet it seems futile to now dissect individual errors because they come along so frequently and occur so regularly. They have become the norm; the prospect of a clean sheet as unlikely as a Portman Road full house.
The big question of course is, is it salvageable? And if so, is it salvageable by Neil and his team?
But problems run deep in this football club and a lack of direction and perceived ambition from its upper echelons will, until they are addressed, rumble beneath the surface regardless of what is happening on the pitch.
And there is an air of entitlement and unwarranted pretension rooted in this current squad that threatens to undermine whoever is holding the reins; many of them believing the Premier League to be their rightful place while doing nothing on the pitch to prove it.
Yet time is of the essence and we’re in the midst of a window of opportunity that if not seized will see us swallowed up by the Championship’s finest, and could propel us on a route to become poorly-funded second tier also-rans.
So, we’re saddled with a dressing room full of egos – the majority of whom we’re stuck with for the short-term at least – who we somehow have to get a tune out of. And, for me, that tune will only be audible if it’s being orchestrated by a new, authoritative voice.
For that reason, and with a heavy heart, I think it’s time to say goodbye.