Last Saturday’s win over Reading was tricky to categorise. Adjectives aplenty were thrown at it but ultimately most concluded it was a joyous one-off – one that was to be savoured for precisely what it was: a once in a life-time afternoon.
Yesterday’s dismal showing was rather easier to define: a regulation defeat that epitomised in 97 agonising minutes exactly why City’s finest are going to finish the season dreaming of the beach rather than a return to the Premier League.
And let’s be clear – the Canaries didn’t lose yesterday because Andy Madley was weak/”not fit to referee”/a “joke” [delete as appropriate] or because Fulham took professionalism and the rule-book to the extreme. They lost because, not for the first time this season, when faced with opponents of purpose, rhythm and dynamism they were found badly lacking in all three.
(For what it’s worth, I thought Madley did a decent job; my only real gripe being the time it took him to crack down on Fulham’s time-wasting – which he eventually did).
The sideshow that was Fulham’s histrionics and the ensuing wrath (mine included) shouldn’t disguise a performance level that had ‘Norwich City 2016/17’ stamped right through it and if last Saturday was magical and a bit surreal, yesterday was turgid and a bit crap.
And that’s generally been the story when City play sides above them in the table at home – and when they play anyone away.
As it transpires, Reading were seemingly sent by the footballing gods to put 26,000 smiles on 26,000 faces by way of an apology for a season that has frustrated and angered infinitely more than it has thrilled.
The key difference of course was that Fulham’s season is still very much alive whereas the Royals were simply biding time before they embark on their play-off adventure. And it showed.
Like Huddersfield before them, yesterday’s visitors were everything we would like to be but are not. And we return to those three words: purpose, rhythm and dynamism.
Understandably the talk now is of looking forward and not back – particularly with a new regime in the house that is just starting to bare its teeth – but lessons must be learned as we turn over this new page.
From a defensive perspective City have only been consistent in making the same mistakes over and over again, regardless of which permutation of defenders the manager chooses, and never again must we have a team based on what can be produced by the attacking and middle thirds at the expense of a rock solid base.
That solid base hasn’t been there for several seasons. Any success has been borne of flicks, tricks and fairy dust.
But Webber knows this. We all do. And, as modern and innovative as this brave new world currently appears, the old, boring adage of building a team from the back must, and will, form the cornerstone of the new head coach’s brief.
If we reach this stage next season having conceded 65 goals then questions will most certainly be asked. (They won’t because we won’t).
To pore over horrible, sloppy defensive errors is now futile – they’ll occur again before this season comes to a sorry close – but so too is to bemoan a lack of intensity that makes us a joy to play against.
The ponderous sideways passing, the hesitancy when in possession, the poor decision-making and the general lack of oomph – all symptoms of a misfiring collection of individuals who I hesitate to call a team.
Again, while unpleasant to look back on, these are unholy traits, unbecoming of those looking for a way out of the Championship, and are to be avoided at all costs if next season is to be an improvement on this one.
Too many individuals within the current group are able to excel when the planets are aligned and the going is good but lack the wherewithal to impact on a game when the chips are down.
The stats bear this out too with their ability to come back from a losing position almost non-existent. And it’s another unhealthy trait that runs right through the squad, with few exceptions.
But things are about to change.
As things stand our whole kingdom, and future for that matter, is in the hands of one man. A 33 year-old with no experience of playing professional football but one who, armed with an impressive CV, has been handed the task of producing a silk purse out of something that yesterday resembled a pig’s ear.
And as things stand we have to trust him implicitly to deliver. But it’s a massive weight to be placed on the shoulders of one individual. We are trusting him to axe those that need to be axed, to bring in people who are better than those who depart, and to deliver us a footballing operation that is almost the antithesis of the one that currently exists.
Fortunately the early signs are good but they’re only signs. And it’s an undoubtedly big ask of someone we’re expecting to hire and fire with the ease of Lord Sugar, to produce much magic like David Blaine and to innovate like Richard Branson.
If Webber fails to deliver the whole caboodle collapses, or at the very least we end up being Championship also-rans. That’s how it feels – and I can’t pretend to feel totally comfortable with all of our eggs being in that one fragile basket.
But now’s not the time for negative thoughts. Positivity has to be the byword and everything that’s occurred behind the scenes in the last week suggests there is some forward momentum to build on. So I’ll shut up.
If only 2016/17 would just hurry up and end.
I would like to see Delia’s face when Webber informs her that we need twenty five new players and a couple of new owners!
I have faith in Webbers ability but fear that we lack the financial resources to carry out his recommendations.
Keith B says
“I can’t pretend to feel totally comfortable with all of our eggs being in that one fragile basket.”
I sort of agree, but at least the basket is only half as heavy as those carried by his predecessors. Unlike past CEOs he doesn’t have to worry about logistics, health and safety, marketing, social events and all the rest of it. And quite right too.
James Finbow says
Good article Gary. One thing I should take you to task over though is the ‘one man’ bit, with regards Webber.
It’s still early days. He won’t be on his own! He will soon have an entire team of staff around him that will all sing from the same hymn sheet.
The whole point of this new setup (one that I’ve requested for years) is that it takes the pressure off individuals and is more team related.
Webber will be the man who puts his head above the parapet, but he won’t be working alone.
James Finbow says
And just to add, the problems we had recently were down to having one man running everything: Mr McNally! This is a move… a good move… in the right direction. A modernising of the club, driven by Ed Balls and Tom Smith. I know, I’m not allowed to give them credit am I? Well they should get some for this.
Gary Field says
Fulham have been an irritant to Canary fans ever since they made it back up to, what’s now the Championship level (and above) since the early 2000’s.
And, for all their purpose, rhythm and dynamism, and still don’t want them to go up. Something about them just irks me.
Like you, I feel City are at “last chance saloon” in terms of progression with the benefit of Premier League cash. My fear is that it’s likely to take patience and more than one season and therein lies the biggest issue.
Yes Gary #5, it was Fulham and they ARE an irritant. However, on yesterday’s showing how I wish that we possessed some of their traits; incisive FORWARD passing; superb movement; excellent fitness; support for the man with the ball; and decent pace throughout their team. And, an excellent grasp of how to frustrate opponents and see a game out. How has it come to this, where we aspire to be like teams who have only a fraction of our budget??
Mr Webber and his team have a huge job on their hands; not least to rid us of those who are just picking up their wages. On yesterday’s showing I’m not sure that I would select too many of our starting eleven in preference to Fulham’s who I’m sure cost a small fraction of ours!
As we’re all saying, 2016/17 cannot end quickly enough, but 2017/18 is only some 16 weeks away…
O T B C
We might be in a holding pattern until May (& hope we are waiting for Lincoln’s Danny Cowley to secure promotion), the biggest frustration of yesterday was that we learnt nothing we didn’t already know.
We know Bassong & Bennett aren’t good enough & that we should sell Klose while someone else still thinks he’s worth something, so why not give Godfrey an opportunity alongside Martin in these games we know don’t really matter, why not let Glen Middleton or Ebou Adams have a few minutes from the bench? If Webber needs to assess what little of the squad we want to keep, let’s at least learn if the kids we have are up to it.
Gary Gowers says
James (3/4) Did wonder if I might get picked up on that. As you rightly say, the split in the CEO role is to prevent any one person yielding the power that McNally clearly did. Just feel that until the team is appointed and the culture embedded an awful lot falls on the shoulders of Stuart Webber. I agree that credit is due to the board for identifying a solution.
The sooner the new coach is appointed the better.The task ahead requires rapid surgery and massive turnover of players in the summer.We need some big,ugly defenders like this one. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Linighan
I not entirely sure whether Webber knows what he has let himself in for here. The board were an ‘attraction’. Really? Hmmm.
It is clear that the clubs woes cannot be turned around by just one man. However, when somebody offers you ‘cart blanche’ that rarely turns out to be true.
Norwich City will be a showpiece of what he can do and we all want them to succeed, but I fear his ambitions will be brought down to earth by the board.
Stewart Lewis says
John #1: Two points.
First, if you read the interviews with Stuart Webber he’s clearly comfortable with our ownership (“The idea of having a Board based in America or China, for example, didn’t turn me on”)
Second, he’s very well aware of City’s financial position, now and going forward. His first meeting with Steve Stone was supposed to last an hour, actually lasted about five. The two of them have forged a real bond.
my worry as has been for years. Money or should we say the lack of enough needed. Players we know will be moved on. In my view perhaps only Pritchard is worth any sort of fee. The Murphy’s stock has dropped since the early season form, but who amongst us wants to sell our own ..If the clear out is to happen, then I can see, a lot of stock being put on loans and youth
Dave "The Optimist" B says
“This is a move… a good move… in the right direction. A modernising of the club, driven by Ed Balls and Tom Smith. I know, I’m not allowed to give them credit am I? Well they should get some for this.”
Let’s not forget that under McNally we had ‘a modernising of the club’ too. How badly were we mismanaged that we’ve had to do it twice in 7 odd years.
Also, let’s not forget that Webber, Ed, and Tom Smith haven’t actually achieved a single thing yet.
In fact, Ed and Tom are squarely in the red as to what’s been ‘achieved’ under them.
Webber may be a miracle worker, but I’m not going to credit him for sacking people who clearly needed sacking. You could have picked any random fan in the crowd and they’d have done that. Let’s see who he actually brings in in terms of staff and players.
I am long passed being convinced that just because we’ve changed something it’s a positive.
Stewart Lewis says
No, indeed, Dave B (#13).
I don’t think any of us would expect you to give credit for anything the club does, before it brings spectacular results.
And probably not even then.
Stewart Lewis #11
He can hardly state anything other than comfort with our current owners and financial position.
However, I am sure that as was the case with Paul Lambert, he will find their lack of ambition and investment too restrictive.
This club has been held back for too long by local ownership.
After twenty years we should at least be a Stoke or a West Brom.
re: – sixtiesbarclayboy and others – We don’t half undersell our players. I argued with my brother today – he said BOTH Murphys were USELESS. Well in my book a 22 yo in his 1st full season who scores 10 and assists too is worth £10m; his twin much the same. Hardly useless. Howson, to a resurgent Leeds, if they went up, would be worth a similar sum (I don’t want him to go but he deserves another crack at the Prem). Klose, even Naismith, have residual worth in the current market, say another £10m between them.
I’m with those who want a ground zero. Clear the decks and bring in more pugnacious players plus the best of our own. The final parachute money plus sales of those deemed surplus will comfortably cover this.
NB I thought AI was being placed to take over the under 23s; but his comments about what makes a good coach (ie good players) suggests he should be eased out. We want coaches who believe that coaching can make decent teams out of modest players; and superb teams out of fine player material. (Alex Neil seemed of similar mind: he never gave credit to any manager/coach for getting a good performance out of him – his own words – he didn’t understand that all players are different and some need coaching and/or a kick up the posterior, others a cuddle.)
If Stuart Webber can get a decent coaching team together, 2017-8 could be rather brighter than what the doom merchants are forecasting.
An interesting read, Gary. Brave attempt to explain the unexplainable. Individual performances plummeting in the space of six days, Hoolahan in particular was awful. The back four the same uncoached shambles as always. Awful.
The home crowd treated to the same careless lack of effort that the travelling support are dished up every week. Russell and the boys put all those pesky critical supporter types well and truly in ther place last week, only to dish up a fresh magazine of ammunition six days later. Not much ear cupping from the skipper.
Unlike sixties Barclay boy and in spite of all the evidence to the contrary I feel the club has several saleable assets on its books although whether this is good news for supporters hungry for success or owners hungry to own is unclear. There is clearly a dividend to be had by jettisoning all the deadwood lee hing money for little or no return in June.
In short, this season, just like the last one needs putting out of its misery and Mr Webber needs to produce miracles ASAP. The alternative isn’t very palatable.
Stewart Lewis says
John #15: Stuart Webber certainly didn’t need go out of his way to praise our ownership and say why a different model (the kind some of our fans clamour for) didn’t appeal to him.
He also had other suitors, some almost certainly involving owners with deeper pockets.
WOWtcha!! Well said Gary (and John #15).