I guess in the school of slim pickings a point away from home is edging into positive territory.
Except we’re not in that school. Or at least we shouldn’t be.
We should be, at the very least, breathing down the necks of the top six; forcing them to strain every last sinew to hold off the challenge from the Canary juggernaut as it gathers pace ahead of the run-in.
But no. Au contraire.
We’re folding. Losing rather than gaining ground on those above us. Or, to put it another way, holding on desperately for a point against a side who’d won just once in their last ten games. And all courtesy of an ugly, disjointed rearguard action.
And to think, prior to Hillsborough we were still dreaming of sneaking into the top six.
But that’s clearly not going to happen, was never likely to happen in truth, because, spin it however you wish, this combination of players and management is simply not good enough.
We initially fooled ourselves into believing that because the majority of this squad had, at some stage, graced the Premier League stage their technical prowess would be sufficient to set them apart from most of what the Championship had to offer.
We sneered at those with players less gifted and bemoaned those whose form of attack was to stop or stifle our attempts to weave aesthetically pleasing patterns. We were all guilty.
But that haughty and completely unjustified stance was unfortunately shared by those who matter most: the players. And it still is.
It’s okay for us to mock others with jibes of small grounds, small crowds, years spent outside of the top tier, agricultural playing styles etc because we’re football supporters and that’s what we do. Sometimes it’s funny, most of the time it’s not. Sometimes we make ourselves look stupid, but that’s fine.
Yet when that same bravado finds its way into the minds of the players and onto the pitch then we’re in trouble. And we are in trouble.
Just prior to Alex Neil arriving here the EDP’s Paddy Davitt penned an opinion piece in which he, for the first time, highlighted the unworthy “sense of entitlement” among the then group of players.
It was a fine piece of writing that told of a bunch who were basically too big for their boots. That Alex was able to transform that same group into one that won promotion via the play-offs was an astonishing achievement, particularly given its starting point.
But the second we reappeared in the second tier so too did said sense of entitlement. Only this time it came back bigger and stronger and second time around it wasn’t about to slink off behind a shield of grit, determination and bloody mindedness. This time it was here to stay.
And it’s not gone anywhere. It was there at Rotherham, at Burton, at Hillsborough and, while I understand some cojones were in evidence at Ashton Gate last night, it’s been generally far too evident when away from home. And it’s almost certainly in the air at Colney on a daily basis.
Second time around Alex didn’t have new manager ‘bounce’ in his armoury to turn to in order to fumigate the place and rid it of this destructive and unworthy mindset. Neither was he able to harness that unhealthy swagger into anything remotely positive.
Instead, away from their home comforts, this group has been wretched; performance after performance that, as they’ve been reminded several times, has been unworthy of the shirt.
The fact that Alex has been unable to get anything remotely resembling a tune out of them away from home would for most boards be reason enough to call time on the manager’s tenure.
But no. The blame apportionment has gone no further than the players; Alex seemingly absolved of any responsibility.
His pre-Ashton Gate presser told the story of a man who astoundingly is feeling not even the slightest hint of heat from above; of one who is already planning for a long-term Carrow Road future.
It told not of one whose job prospects were being measured, as is the norm for 99.9 per cent of football managers, on results. Instead it told of one who feels unjustifiably bullet-proof.
Quite why Delia and Michael see our club as the one that’s beyond the conventional wisdom of football is a curious one, but I suspect it goes hand in hand with their equally archaic views on the finances of football and the evils of those nasty old millions that continually slosh around.
Watching on while our club continually ploughs its own lone furrow is charming to a point but not when it becomes detrimental to the club’s future well-being.
For last season’s City v Tottenham match programme I interviewed Danny Kelly – him of NME and talkSPORT fame – and when asked to describe Norwich City he described a club that ‘likes to do things its own way’.
He wasn’t kidding.
It was intended it as a compliment of course but as things stand there’s zero comfort to be sought from a board who are doing things so differently they perceive loyalty to their manager as more important than success on the pitch.
To lay it bare, I suspect there’s not a single club among the other 91 who would have kept faith with a manager who, following a spineless Premier League campaign that ended in relegation, proceeded to oversee a Championship campaign that promised much but delivered only a litany of abject away-day horror shows.
It’s been an unmitigated disaster, the manager’s decision making and inability to organise and inspire at its very heart, yet minus even a single mitigating circumstance Alex sits safely on his throne while his subjects take the rap.
Some may argue that a squad rid of those who give off said air of arrogance and disdain would be a better fit for Alex to work with. I’d argue he’s done nothing to deserve that chance.
But the lady’s not for budging, that much is clear. So too her and Michael’s contempt for the fans.
Unfortunately history tells us that the cacophony of noise for change will ultimately reach such a level it becomes unavoidable but then, from the perspective of those on high, it becomes the fault of the fans.
Quite what Saturday will bring is anyone’s guess, although I suspect it will be one of those Derby/Wolves type atmospheres that is placated by City adopting the flat-track bully persona and overwhelming their struggling opponents. And then the cycle continues.
To suggest last night they threw in the towel is ridiculous. That is one thing they did not do. Were you there?
Gary Gowers says
Richard – No I wasn’t. Poor wording on my part in that case. Meant as a general comment, not specifically last night.
Stewart Lewis says
Richard #1: You may well be right about last night. But if they showed spirit at Ashton Gate, it was way too late. Hillsborough was the last time it could have mattered.
The problem Norwich has is that Alex Neil suffers from this sense of entitlement himself and that spreads to the players. He still seems to think he’s Jose’s heir apparent and that if only the players did as they were told he’d be where he should be, probably managing Real Madrid. We need someone with hunger but not one who thinks he’s better than what he is.
Throw in the towel! They’ve thrown the whole of the bathroom in at most away games this season!
He’s a liability now and has been for over a year. Delia and Michael are becoming the same. Ostrich like in attitude and seemingly unable to backtrack on one of the most outrageous statements made by an owner of any club, company etc, when saying we’d like hm here for 10 years!
I’ll be taking my seat as usual on Saturday, as I have done for well over 50 years, and expect all supporters of our club to let the board know how deep are feelings are. I want to enjoy my club again!!
The players can show as much spirit as they want. If they aren’t organised and getting into the right forward positions at the right times, and in good numbers, then the goals are not going to come.
Ian S says
Great article. I happen to think that no matter who we have in charge, Delia & Michael’s approach to running a Football Club will forever hold us back.
Frankly I see us in the Championship for another couple of seasons now. The next 10 games should be played with as many of the youngsters as realistically possible, plus perhaps, those really REALLY worth keeping from the current squad to provide mentoring. I don’t see where any money will come from for new players. We will have Sunderland down with us next season so expect a tough battle next year with them and whoever does not make it from the playoffs.
The effort and fighting spirit was there to be seen last night. I witnessed it for myself.
Our problem last night (as it has been on a number off occasions) was a distinct lack of ruthlessness in front of goal. Jerome works his socks off but should have easily scored two. Naismith also should have contributed with a clear-cut chance. That’s not to mention the balls in to the opposition box from both left and right that yearned for a connecting boot.
We should have therefore been 3-nil up by half time. Instead we failed to cease the advantage, and therefore as the game progressed Bristol committed more players forward in an attempt to nick a win.
Gary Gowers says
Jonny (9) – Fair comment. Seems that those selected did put in a shift last night; albeit one that only yielded a point. But where’s that effort been all season?
Given that Alex Neil is staying for ten years. Which of the players need clearing out? Which are the players who really do have the arrogance, that attitude that needs to be cleared out? I could point several fingers, my hope is that the club can too- identify those bad apples and get rid of them. Take a loss if necessary.
I’d much rather a lesser player who gives his heart and soul than a supposedly better one who can’t be bothered or thinks he’s so much better than the rest when his contribution is, essentially, nil.
martin penney says
Excellent analysis of where we are right now.
“But the lady’s not for budging, that much is clear. So too her and Michael’s contempt for the fans.”
Too right. But the lady is as bullet-proof as she is not for budging.
Saturday will be intriguing to say the least. I used up all my protesting energy and abilities in the days of Mr Chase, but I would assume the younger generation will make some of their feelings known.
From my perch in the UB I shall be watching the Pit and listening to the folks below with avid interest.
But whatever the result, and whatever the results between now and season’s end, I firmly predict Alex Neil will still be in charge at the beginning of next season.
After all, the lady has told us so.
Excellent column Gary.
I’m not at all sure where we go from here, and following recent statements and actions think that Mr Neil must also be suffering the same thoughts.
OK, he came in 2 years ago, gave us a wonderful day at Wembley thanks to Neil Adams’ recruitment, but we’ve since had 2 years of absolute desperation (except at Old Trafford of course).
He says that in this league playing both Hoolahan and Pritchard cannot often be accommodated so last night he played neither. Pritchard is deemed lightweight and not physical enough, but 2 seasons ago he played 43 times for Brentford in this same division. Has he really gone backwards, or are we so much better than Brentford were (remember him at Carrow Road that season??).
Ruddy makes one (admittedly big) mistake on Saturday and is immediately consigned to the subs bench. Martin continues to make at least half a dozen clangers in every game but continues to be a first choice.
He wants to play the “youngsters” but continually fails to do so. Defence has been a liability ever since AN took charge, so he loans Toffolo out; sells Olsson and says that he’s converting Ben Godfrey into a central defender. Could Godfrey (even at his young age) have been any worse this season than any of the overpaid old-timers who are continually selected ahead of him?
Are these players of ours really “young” in football terms nowadays anyway? Many other teams give teenagers a chance but not City; The Murphys are now 22 but most seem to think they are still kids!
There is nothing left to play for this season other than pride, and with the post match interviews after Brighton (Martin) and Wednesday (Jerome), it appears our experienced players with a couple of notable exceptions have none.
Surely Neil’s only way out of this debacle (if he’s not going to retsign) is to play those youngsters who will be here next season – but I suspect that the excuse will be that they need to be saved for the U 23 cup semi-final!
And please; please; please change the system; be proactive with the substitutions and (for once), let the opposition worry about us.
CreuseCanary #8 says a couple of seasons in the Championship; without a root and branch clearout I think that’s the best we can hope for before we probably drop further.
O T B C
Gary Gowers # 10: Its like my first girlfriend once said “I’ve hardly seen you over the past few months – but now I said I want to split-up you’ve turned up almost every night!”
Gary Gowers says
Folks… just to make it clear (which I evidently failed to do in my piece), the article was intended to be my thoughts on the current state of NCFC against the backdrop of another two points dropped last night. Fully appreciate that there were more more cojones in evidence last night than there have been at other away games.
#15 Gary, so what your saying is that they really tried hard, played their best but came up short?
That’s probably even worse – then they really are that bad
The board seem content into turning the club into a parochial entity. This will continue for a long as no pressure is placed upon them and at the moment all we have is a very disgruntled local media and supporters.
For those with long memories, Sir Arthur South got booed regularly when he entered the pitch an hour before kick off to have a photo taken with AN other or present an award. It was water off a ducks back to him and part of the ritual. ‘Here he comes – BOOOO!’.
I think the crowd should let this board know exactly how they feel – for those that actually decide to go to the next game. Don’t bother with Neil as he is the symptom not the cause – be hostile. I think it would shock them as the manager has always got the grief, but our hapless and not fit for purpose board get off lightly. Again!
Do we want a board that actually wants to achieve the maximum potential of NCFC or do we want a cook, failed politician and a Michael Gambon impersonator? It seems, we cannot have both.
Stewart Lewis says
Most of our current unhappiness, dissatisfaction and criticism is justified – and our calls for action deserve a response, even if it’s only an explanation of the Board’s thinking.
There’s just one phrase that still doesn’t work for me. I genuinely don’t believe Delia & Michael have contempt for the fans. I think they’re misguided, and probably falling back into their recurring fault of letting sentiment (in this case personal affection for the manager) cloud their judgement.
But I’ve never seen contempt for fans from them. From owners of other clubs, yes (Cardiff, Hull, Blackburn, Forest and many others); from ours, no.
I wish Ed had bigger balls than Delia…
Chase was a piece of work of the (almost) highest order, but Delia is far worse. I can imagine her saying, “Build it and they shall come. Then get trollied on red wine and smash it down while they’re all still inside,” while chanting, “Ipswich!” with a fist pump.
Humour is all we have left.
Gary Gowers says
Stew (18) – Point taken. Clumsy wording perhaps. I’ll run with ‘apparent contempt’. Rightly or wrongly that’s how it feels. Delia’s alleged ‘are you one of the moaners?’ comment to a City fan last night does, if true, her no favours.
Good away turn out last night. A pretty poor game though 2 Bristol fans on way out said that was best game they had seen for ages! Subs should have been made with 20-25 mins to go as it was clear Jerome was knackered so we couldn’t win any headers upfront after first hour.
I hear the fish and chips in Fleetwood is excellent
martin penney says
#18 Stewart and #21 Gary: whether the contempt is real or apparent, I do feel that some form of communication from The Lady might allay or at least address some of our worst fears.
However, it is not so far forthcoming. I guess the PR team at Carrow Road have asked her to make a statement (they surely must have?) and she refuses to do so.
I’ll run with “apparent contempt” also, but by and large I agree with Gary’s original take.
Best fans in the land? Speak to us then.
I’ve heard of the comment Gary refers to. If true, it does it her no favours indeed.
No true Norwich city supporter would preside over this shambles. What have the owners of Cardiff, hull, forest and Blackburn done which is so worthy of the continuous criticism they face on here and other organs? All while smith is lauded and deified like suffolks answer to mother Theresa.
I really don’t care what motivates their decision making and the modus operandi in relation to their running of Norwich city. Even if it was done with the best intentions and with loving care, which I happen to think is not the case, they are hurting the club grievously.
All true fans want Norwich city to thrive, to compete at the highest level possible, to fulfill its potential. They don’t want it to be downsized, held back, or perish while following some utopian claptrap ideals about going against the flow. Norwich city isn’t Delia smiths to sacrifice for the greater good. It’s very I h time for a change, Alex Neil is not the problem, he is a symptom.
martin penney says
#19, 20 Jeff: during my Police incarnation, black humour was a staple to keep us sane while doing the job.
Sometimes, certain situations meant that even the toughest of tough nuts could not come up with anything remotely humorous.
I feel the state of NCFC is approaching this level tbh. Not a dig at you at all – I can find nothing to laugh about just now,that’s all.
Dan Youngs says
Last night was the first time I’ve seen Norwich live this season. I work for a League 1 club so it’s not often a matches don’t clash. On watching last night several things jumped out at me.
1) Quality was that was the worst match I’ve seen this season, two dreadfully off form teams who’d struggle in League 1 on that viewing.
2) Alex Neil cost Norwich that game, in the first half City were in the game, they could have been further ahead but had ridden their luck. AN’s tactical changes at half time and decision to defend a 1-0 nil lead against a relegation threatened team cost Norwich the 3 points, his decision making and lack of tactical ideas stood out clearly. It was a disaster and if BC had won, there could be no complaints.
3) Without massive changes Norwich won’t be in the Championship for long, they’ll be sliding out towards League 1. Alex Neil has to go.
4) Thank goodness I won’t be watching that dross this weekend.
If they legalized it I’d take a bag of sprouts with me to Carrow Rd and pelt the board with them. Frozen and not button ones either!!!!!
Mally Cook says
I thought I was at the Bristol City game last night, but I’m beginning to wonder reading some of the comments above. I saw a disjointed, hoof from the back, struggle to find a Norwich player with a pass, pass back rather than look forward, frightened to make a mistake game from Norwich. Maybe I’m still dreaming as I write this…..no, just pinched myself and I am awake. Oh, and I’ve asked my daughter and I definitely went to the game!!
Gary Field says
(18) Stewart, use of the word contempt is always likely to be emotive.
Personally, i took great exception to “that interview”, mainly because of the timing just before the AGM.
The comments relating to succession, foreign ownership and additional investment, irrespective of whether i actually agreed with them, or not, effectively gave shareholders and fans an fair accompli. No debate – nothing!
If any other business tried to do similar, that would be considered contemptible from a governance perspective.
I’m not a rant at the manager type (normally) but when you are 9 points behind why bring on Bassong. I can understand if you are in the top 2 but in our position there would have been one less frustrated fan (me) if he had brought on an attacker and lost 2-1. Agree with all the worst game comments.. Still on the bright side a) we didn’t lose 1-5 (at home) b) Fleetwood has nice chips c) we have the basis (about 5 or 6 of last night) of a good team for next year d) hope bristol stay up ‘cos its quite a nice place to visit (compared to Wigan, BLackburn or Rotherham e) not many teams playing as poorly as us would have so many fans making long trip on a tuesday night
Stewart Lewis says
Mally Cook #28: Before reading your post, I’d decided last night was one of our better away performances.
Actually, even after reading your post I suspect it was one of our better away performances…
Stewart Lewis says
Chris #24: Can’t say I’ve seen Delia “deified like Suffolk’s answer to Mother Theresa” lately, but I’ll take your word for it happening. If I heard it, I’d push back.
I have big issues with them, but Delia & Michael still seem to me different from the owners of Cardiff, Hull, Forest or Blackburn. If they start trying to change City’s identity, strip its assets for their personal enrichment or demand their money back (with interest) ahead of other creditors, I’ll change my view.
Alex B says
Reading all the comments no one has picked on the absence of KLOSE the other night, is he injured, why take of Murphy and bring on Bassong, Why not start with 3 CB like a lot of successful teams these days.
We all go on about a leaky defence use a back 5 like Chelsea to stabilise it and also use 2 up front and use Tettly, Howson and Naismith or Pritchard in midfield at least it would give the front 2 ammunition to try and score use the Murphy twins as impact players.
Defence Ruddy, Pinto, Bennett Klose Martin Djik
Midfield Tettle Howson Pritchard
Forwards Jerome Olivera
Subs Murphy Twins, Whittaker Godfrey any good Goalie
Last comment The players belivered their on publicity at the start of the season all the papers said definitely promotion best squad and manager it has gone badly wrong.