Since Stuart Webber’s arrival the focus has been on reducing the age profile of our playing squad and with an average age of 28.4 years – the second highest in the division behind Brighton- it’s clear to see why. (Although Hughton’s band of seasoned pros and elder statesmen didn’t serve him too badly).
There are only so many times you can say the same things before the words completely lose their impact. Whoever was offered up to the media was faced with the unenviable task of explaining performances which repeatedly failed to live up to expectations.
A lot of discussion around the structural review at Norwich City has focused on job titles. We’ll have Managing and Sporting Directors instead of a Chief Executive, a Head Coach instead of First-team Manager, Ricky Martin doing whatever it is he does as Technical Director and an Academy Manager.
Score against Ipswich and that used to be a sure fire way of being immortalised in song – right up until the point that ‘half of f***ing Norwich’ did it. But McKenzie, MacKay, Messrs Johnson, Howson and Holt all have songs dedicated to them for sticking it to our near neighbours. On the flip side, Grabban scored against Ipswich twice but we didn’t sing about him. Go figure.
It’s why the unforeseen victory, the one against the odds, is so much sweeter than the routine win that we saw coming. Or why a defeat at The Emirates or The Etihad is easier to stomach than losing at places like Rotherham, Barnsley or Burton.
Ipswich fans delight in pointing out that we didn’t match their achievements from over 35 years ago. We counter that with the reality check that they have become nothing more than a mediocre Championship club which can’t fill its stadium.
I’ve read the press-conference quotes from Alex Neil and the players – full of good intent and apparent conviction and I desperately want to believe that performances and results will reflect that sense of purpose.
However deep down, I simply don’t trust the football club to deliver.
There’s a split second, where the brain has enough time to comprehend that something exciting is about to happen as you wait for the inevitable clattering of the pins – whether those pins are skittles or someone’s legs.
Russell Martin’s post-Brentford assessment referenced the fact that the club and its fans have drifted apart and acknowledged the need to rebuild a sense of togetherness through small steps. In real terms, that requires the team to deliver a series of performances and results that restore some pride. In real terms, that requires the team to deliver a series of performances and results that restore some pride and faith.
The quotes emanating from the dressing room about a collective desire to work harder and turn it round seem entirely at odds with the displays on the pitch; displays that are littered with individual mistakes and which suggest a general lack of conviction and endeavour.
In every coaching course I’ve undertaken, there has been one fundamental message: the key responsibility of the football coach or manager is to create an environment where the players will flourish. Something that Neil is clearly not delivering.
Jacob’s decision to commit to City, and resist the rumoured interest from the Premier League, may have been based on his chances of minutes on the pitch but it’s clear he’s settled at the club. So we’re all happy that Jacob’s signed and hopeful that Josh will follow suit.
Wherever the fingers point, one thing that most people seem to agree on is that this isn’t a mere blip and that our current woes are reflective of deep-rooted issues within the club which don’t bode well for the future.
For certain players, that simply means not making a howler or screwing things up. For others – those with a hefty price tag or reputation for example – the expectations are higher.
We’ve had debate over increasing the capacity, either through redevelopment of Carrow Road or relocation; debate over the merits of changing the age profile of the fan base and reinvigorating the atmosphere at games by altering the balance of season ticket holders and casual supporters.
Russell Martin faced the media following the Brighton debarcle and suggested that some of our players had given up. For me, the contrast couldn’t have been starker.
It’s ‘only’ football and in the grand scheme of things, we should all remember that life is too short to get that worked-up. But when has common ever applied to being a football fan? It’s our passion and on this occasion, the outpouring of frustration and anger was entirely justified.
Despite our relative wealth in Championship terms, we all know that Norwich City have financial constraints. Our ‘salary cap’ is defined, not by the League, but by those who hold the purse strings at Carrow Road – or rather those who own (and fill) the purse in the first place.
It’s been a long time since City have had the supposed comfort of closing out a season without either a promotion or relegation battle and facing those ‘six-pointers’ that bring with them moments of sheer ecstasy or abject misery.
It’s commonplace for a buying team to play down the scale of a transfer or insist that the fee is ‘undisclosed’ to suggest that they got value from the deal. However the new Villa owner seems intent on demonstrating just how deep his pockets are and to openly publicise just how much money he has spent.