That 2016 should end in disappointment for the Canaries was entirely appropriate. That it should end with City having done enough to win a game yet still fail to do so was equally apt. So too that it was all conveniently wrapped up in an element of disaster.
In fairness, for once the disastrous element was not entirely of City’s own making, and the decision by Oliver Langford to send off Robbie Brady for something that looked not much more than a beefy 50/50 challenge was symptomatic of the club’s current fortunes.
‘Harsh’ was how Alex described it. He was being nice.
As a result of the sending off the tabloid narrative will be around ’10-man Norwich’ but this was no heroic, backs to the wall display of defiance. This was another gift horse that was spurned. The latest in a very long line.
2016 has has been rotten, abject and soul-less. And while yesterday’s sortie to Griffin Park didn’t plummet the depths of some of the away-day disasters it also did little to alter the view that Team Neil is ill-equipped to take this team and this club forward.
The half-hearted applause and haunted expressions of Delia, Michael and Jez Moxey at the end of the game suggested that they may too be of a similar belief yet are are curtailed in making any tough decisions by matters ‘more complex’; matters that, courtesy of Charlie Wyett’s piece, appear financial.
So, if finances are as we are now led to believe, we have a beleaguered manager who knows the ice he’s skating on is wafer thin, knows that the club don’t have the ready cash to pay him off, yet is aware the odds of him being here for the medium term are reducing with every non-victory.
Aka an unholy mess.
But credit where it’s due – Alex, for all his perceived faults, is a fighter and given the enormous pressure he is under continues to handle himself with dignity, particularly in the face of increasing hostility.
And credit too for finally seeing fit to relinquish his trusted but flawed 4-2-3-1 in favour of what should have been a more fluid 3-5-2, albeit in true Norwich City fashion we proceed to make a formation that is designed to offer freedom and flexibility into one that still looks rigid and without cohesion.
Yet on this occasion his decision to bring Russell Martin and Timm Klose in from the cold was a justified one, even if it smacked of Klose joining Robbie Brady on his farewell tour.
But the general consensus for some time has been that Alex needs to tear himself away from the 4-2-3-1 and he did just that. And in doing so we didn’t lose, and even kept a clean sheet, so if we’re scrambling around for crumbs of comfort there were a few.
Of course the problems of old persist and the inability to take chances in front of goal, which have been there since that opening day Premier League defeat by Crystal Palace, returned to throw another upper cut to the solar plexus.
Cameron Jerome, not for the first team, took centre stage with a couple of horror misses but for the record Jacob Murphy too, with almost his first touch, missed one that was also on the cusp of ‘sitter’ territory.
And this failure in front of goal is systematic – one that simply won’t go away – as is the the ability to defend solidly on a consistent basis; the two core principles of football, neither of which have been achieved to anything like an appropriate level across the whole of 2016.
On this occasion the opposition were simply not good enough to make City pay for their profligacy and that we emerged with a draw and not a defeat shouldn’t be misconstrued as a sign that a belated and probably temporary change to 3-5-2 could signal the start of a renaissance.
This club needs to change from top to bottom – a root and branch reform as described in Robin Sainty’s excellent EDP piece – but it has to start somewhere and it has to start where the ‘quick wins’ can be achieved: the manager.
The incredulity over the reported £2m pay-off for Neil, which would no doubt have to be extended to some of his lieutenants in the coaching set-up, was understandable but only in the regard of it being most odd to reward a manager who had just overseen a relegation.
But Alex’s stock was still high in the summer and with the loss of David McNally and Alan Bowkett, under whose watch the Scot arrived, the club was looking for some stability. With the benefit of hindsight that thinking was flawed, but only with the benefit of hindsight.
That any pay-off would stretch to seven figures was no surprise, regardless of its derivation. We are, after all, still in grip of Premier League finances, at least for the time being.
But while they appear seven figures that the club is unable to lay its hands on right now, I’d suggest that to not find them from somewhere, or someone, could potentially cost this club significantly more than £2m. Massively more in fact, and even risk its very being.
It’s something I find myself writing every week, but this club is teetering on the brink right now – in more than one sense – and the only way things are going to not slide further, at least in the short-term, is to win games of football.
And to do that needs bravery, not inaction, from the Board
The club’s record in 2016 reads: won 16, drawn 6, lost 25. Recently they have lost 8 in 11. The finances appear perilous. The fans are angry. The mood is ugly.
2017 can only get better. Can’t it?
Happy New Year.
Dave H says
I agree with the general thrust of this and other articles as well as the majority of resulting comments, however I feel too much is being made of the formation and Neil’s apparent refusal to move away from 4-2-3-1. I think Neil does make adjustments to this. We didn’t play that formation at Reading, nor did we second half versus Villa, however he continues to use the same players. The issue is much more about how we’re playing & the players used rather than the formation.
Gary Gowers says
Dave (1) – Fair comment that. Too much is indeed made of formations, (as I have probably done above) and it’s about players adapting and reacting to what happens around them as a game develops. And this current crop appear incapable of doing so.
I think 2017 is about to get a whole lot worse Gary. Brentford were there for the taking but it was no surprise -that at the end we were clinging on for a point. The more delusional among us are already heralding a dire 0-0 draw at an appalling Brentford as some sort of corner turned.
Having been linked with Hogan, the opposition centre forward last night, it is some relief that we don’t have £9m, let alone the touted £9m to land him.
This is the best “team Delia” can do having just exited the Premier League with the benefits of parachute payments. This time next year we will see how they fare without the money. The result won’t be pretty. Smith won’t care.
We are now poverty stricken, with no investment or help from the ownership, with players young and old being lined up for the inevitable fire sale necessary to prop up Smith and family’s grip on the club. The millions raised will keep her in situ for another diabolical year of failure and Alex Neil will be handed a few hundred thousand to buy more midfielders or perhaps a raw youth that can be farmed out to yet another grateful Scottish pal, whose team is low on quality and couldn’t otherwise afford some English talent.
One wonders how, as we get progressively more impoverished, the club will ever be able to rid itself of Alex Neil because if we cannot afford to sack him now, we surely won’t be able to next year. That ten years is looking like a minimum sentence now. He is not voluntarily going anywhere and has a hide thick enough to take growing levels of vitriol that will be heading his way.
The only possible way for the club to emerge from this ridiculous, self-induced mess is the removal of Smith and with her every vestige of her self-serving, nepotistic, incompetent collection of no marks, either by means of a buy-out or by her losing a vast sum of money in a very short period of time, putting an end to her stupid succession plans for the unqualified nephew.
This needs to happen while there is still a large supporter base left to rally round the club when her dictatorship is ended.
Upon bailing out the club in the aftermath of the chase regime, Geoffrey Watling stated the club should never again be the plaything of an individual, with no fail-safe or alternative voice on the board giving balance and wise counsel and to guard against excesses and whims. We are now seeing why.
Dave – surely it’s both. If you don’t have the right players for the formation (general failure being a good indicator here), then you change the formation. You don’t just persist and say, ‘well it’s the players fault’ and refuse to change. Any manager worth his salt buys players that suit his style and preferred formation.
Glen L says
In my humble opinion, yesterday’s performance changes nothing. Brentford are an incredibly poor side, conveniently highlighted by their demise at Carrow Road just a few weeks ago, and we should be in a different ‘league’ given the quality and depth of our squad. OK we should have won the game but against such poor teams we shouldn’t be rueing a few missed chances. My one big question from yesterday was why Wes wasn’t brought on. The game cried out for him and whilst Pritchard started brightly, he had faded away before half time. With two up top, Wes would have undoubtedly created chances for them (or himself) so again I have to question the manger’s tactically ability. We unequivocally need change, starting with the manager, if we are to bring any upturn in our fortunes in the short term at least.
(3) Excellent words Chris, especially reminding people of the late Geoffrey Watlings views. Smith & Jones’ majority shareholding has done the club absolutely no favours at all and the chickens are finally coming home to roost.
If any Norwich fan was ‘satisfied’ with last nights game, then it shows some fans have no more ambition than the owners. It was clear as day the players want the manager gone as the manager has no right to still be in his position – he’s extremely fortunate that the owners are Windy Millers.
The fans continue to suffer.
The game highlighted how stupid it was in the summer to give Cameron Jerome a new three year contract. Not many clubs would reward a striker who managed only three goals in the previous season.
Gary Field says
Brace yourselves, I fear we’re in for a hard landing.
We’ve got a chummy, inflexible Board, intent on doing things “their way” which seems to be lacking any commercial nous.
There’s no doubt that this season represented our best chance of going up, yet still they dither.
Seems like we’re one game away from meltdown – just don’t blame the fans for the (avoidable) toxic atmosphere when the wheels come off!
Well said Darren. As for no money some of it is inappropriately spent. We have young players who rarely play on 43000 plus a month and international players on more. Why buy them in the first place. Costs.us money and ruins there careers.
When you read about Naismith on 80k a week, Bassong on £40k, even Pritchard on £25k, you see what a sorry mess the clubs finances are in. The club is bleeding cash and with no immediate return the the Premier League likely, new year should be about stripping out and selling those who are dragging the club in to the financial mire. Time to give youth a chance, Godfrey, Maddison, the twins, Toffolo, should all be part of the squad every match. Then 2017 might see a playing and financial turnaround.
Excellent summing up Gary, and as always some pertinent comments. If the sums listed by Jane (9) and Nick (10) are anywhere near correct, then it becomes more understandable why these players cannot be overly bothered when it seems to the vast majority that their leader doesn’t have a clue. I always thought that most had clauses in contracts which slashed the sums they received if/when relegated…..please don’t tell me that we were paying this dross even more last season.
As for the new contract for CJ, one has to ask why?? He’s not even a decent finisher in the Championship, and as someone posted on Twitter yesterday, he’s a scorer of great goals, but will never be a great goalscorer…..mind you, he now has almost a full game under his belt so I would not be at all surprised if he’s selected ahead of Oliveira tomorrow.
Dave B says
I managed to catch a stream of the game and feel sorry for any of those who travelled.
Remember when all those people declared being relegated to The Championship meant more exciting fixtures, more wins, and better performances from the team?
gone over the hill says
If we go 1 behind get ready for it to kick off, perhaps the senile board will be kicked into life to start to look at their notions and ideas. Geoffrey Watling said “this should not happen again” meaning financial and no one person owning the club. The Cook has got round that one by including hubby. But financially we been there once before on her watch and in danger of going there again.
It is her stock which could lose value greatly and then she will have to sell at less than she greedily wants
Whether you’re a Delia fan or not, I’d like to know where people think the queue of investors who are waiting to put money into the club is. There ain’t anyone. If there was, they’d make damn sure we knew about it. We are stuck with what we have.
Jon Dunn says
Ridiculous state of affairs at Carrow Road.
So the board agree £8.5m for Naismith, £8m for Pritchard, £2.5m for Canos (WHO??) and over £2m for Maddison, banished until yesterday to Scotland.
If they can sanction circa £21m on players who never, or rarely feature for the first team, they can sure as hell find another £2m to get rid of this one-trick Scottish albatross round the club’s neck
Gary Field says
Cityfan (14) – I guess that the real questions are;
1) when Harris did his search for investors in 2009-10, did he have a complete blank piece of paper, or where there conditions attached?
2) if there was interest from someone, its unlikely that they would go public, going for an informal meeting first to determine whether there’s grounds for a deal.
Ultimately, for a deal to be done, there has to be both a willing buyer and a willing seller.
Dave B says
@14) sorry cityfan, not buying that. There are many clubs who have been bought that were less well positioned than we are. We have recent Prem expererience, good crowds with room to grow, and any investor could surely see the potential ROI of buying us now and getting us promoted.
Because no one (that we know of) is trying to purchase us, doesn’t mean we couldn’t be sold if marketed correctly to the right buyers. Right now the (semi racist) rhetoric out of the club against foreign investors would surely put people off.
14 cityfan – why would they make sure we knew about it? Foreign investors usually discreetly sound out a number of clubs and narrow down their interest on those open to taking things further. If Delia said she wasnt interested in selling they would just look elsewhere instead and not cause of fuss.
Dave H says
Jeff (4) it is about both to some degree, but I just don’t think the formation is as important. Neil has changed his formation but they’ve generally been subtle differences. Yesterday was a clear change, yet didn’t make a significant impact. There are much bigger issues with Neil’s management than choice of formation, some of which you mentioned in your comment.
Stewart Lewis says
Spot-on article and pertinent comments – a good sign for the future of this site, if not for the future of our beloved club.
I’d only take issue with one thing. Yesterday was a conspicuous exception – perhaps because he’s had little football recently – but Jerome is a proven and regular goalscorer at Championship level. His 20 for us two years ago was a continuation of his long-term record.
Extending his contract in the summer seemed to me entirely logical. If we happen(ed) to get promoted this season, he’d be a big factor and we could at least sell him on to another aspiring Champ club.
Best wishes for health & happiness to everyone in 2017.
I have been critical of AN over past matches and I am unconvinced that he will be able to lead us back to the Premier League, his lack of experience I believe will be a fatal weakness going forwards. I also believed the opposite when I sat at Wembley and was treated to a memorable performance from a team (largely this team) that was clearly playing for him. I have the luxury of changing my mind and will no doubt do so again many times with many managers as their fortunes ebb and flow.
Our owners and the board don’t have that luxury but I suspect we will have a change of manager in any case over the next month or so.
What I am finding harder to swallow is the level of vitriol aimed at people who support and care for the same club I do. There has been a nasty habit creeping in of calling DS and MWJ by their last names only which is both childish and rude. A cursory glance at the comments above reveals a list of unpleasant, unnecessary and in some cases downright wrong statements: semi racist (??), senile, the cook, greedy, Smith and Jones, Windy Miller(??), Smith won’t care, poverty stricken, no investment, diabolical, self-serving, incompetent., no-marks, stupid, unqualified, dictatorship etc etc.
I hope people will take a breath before they decide to rush to the keyboard and insult fellow supporters with whom they disagree or for that matter board members. A more grown up level of discussion would be welcome on this site and perhaps we could leave the insults and rudeness to those on the Pink Un site. I am not always uncritical of the board, this board has bought us great times and memories and also made some bizarre errors of judgement, appointing Jez Moxey high amongst them in my view. That said lets try to take a balanced and fair view.
Tin hat on………..
Gary Gowers says
Fair comment Boot (20) – Let’s stay the right side of the line folks and leave the cursing and name calling to others. Keep it civilised or may have to leave comments unapproved.
The words listed above to describe the dire situation enveloping Norwich city should be taken into the context they were written. The only real point of order I can see is “senile” which perhaps is a tad unpleasant. Impoverished? Have you not seen the accounts? Are you not aware we are facing a fire sale of players? No investment? The owners took back every penny owed them last financial year. Unqualified? Tom smith? Never a director of any company yet bequeathed our football club as a whim. Stupid? That relates to plans, not directly to a person. No marks? I will concede to you there, I’m told ed balls is quite a good dancer.
The language used on this site is by far the most civilised with one exception being a supporter of the ownership who got a bit sweary. You are right to keep away from the pink un.
Dave B says
With regards to “semi racist”. Delia has been very negative of all foreign owners in the game, despite many running very successful teams. See Prem winners for the last decade as an example.
But more specifically I remember a comment in an interview, which I can’t quote exactly, but she said she didn’t want the camels arriving at Carrie Road. Which, to me, is quite racist.
As regards comments (21) and (22)-fair enough, but lets also have a bit of respect from the Board for the fans who have been treated for far too long as mugs.Did not Delia say a few years ago “we have the best fans in the world”?
Since then we have seen the Club go from one that we loved to support to one that appears to be riddled with strife and subterfuge, making decisions (or falure to) that are difficult to comprehend and do we know what’s
Of course not,and like any other sensible investor, there comes a time where you no longer want to put your money and time into something you don’t trust is being run efficiently
What about emotional considerations I hear you say?
I lost those when we signed exciting players who dont play and endured performances which suggest that players and management are poles apart – and that dates from the Sheff Wed game back in Sept.
Gary Field says
26) Jarrolder you’re right, respect is a two way street and the Times interview really reinforced that issue for me.
The timing, just a few days before the AGM, showed huge disrespect to all shareholders, and supporters, alike. How many other businesses would make such corporate announcements via the media so close to the AGM?
Delia even mentioned that the fans would not like it, yet continued anyway and then, at the AGM, didn’t say a word. Sums up the whole thing perfectly for me, I’m afraid.
Dave, jarrolder, Gary. Spot on. Particularly Gary’s last comment. One can’t expect to stir a hornets nest and then be precious when the expected response is Illicited.
Well where did that performance come from? The team was balanced, momentum good throughout, and never looked in danger at the back.
Derby were poor ,but really encouraging start to 2017.
Nelson could become a Norfolk hero!
I know I’m stating the obvious but 2016 has obviously been a total disaster. Relegated, most of the money available wasted , rigid team formation & bizarre team selections, not to mention substitutions that often led to 25000 fans being totally bemused . The 2 anchormen of the board left in curious circumstances only to be replaced by ‘ invisible men ‘ & the Chairman spending most of his time & energy courting publicity on national TV. This all addsup to a very poor year for all supporters of our beloved club. What has the response been from those above NOTHING. The main culprit for the shambles ( AN) is still there cushioned by the security of a 2 million pound payoff . The CEO. treated us like idiots with the most crass piece of PR , & the owners giave the most excruciating interview to the national press . It would seem from the outside that the whole club is on the precipice, what a difference from that memorable day at Wembley less than 2 years ago. What we the supporters need is some action & some answers. Over to you BoD