It would be an understatement to say that, as a Norwich City supporter, this past weekend has seen me experience a plethora of emotions. From the abject disappointment of Saturday’s loss at home to West Brom, to the news of Hughton’s sacking on Sunday evening, I’ve barely had time to process everything and take stock of where this leaves us.
Of course, when you strip away the hyperbole and the emotion; in terms of cold, bare facts, it leaves us exactly where we were at 16:50 on Saturday afternoon: that is, desperately needing to win away at Fulham next weekend, in order to give ourselves at least a fighting chance of avoiding relegation ahead of those much maligned final four fixtures. However, the appointment of Neil Adams, the club’s former under-18s coach, as first team manager owes as much to psychological and emotional decision making as it does raw statistical analysis.
We were a broken team at the final whistle on Saturday. Hands on hips, the players stood and looked collectively drained, both physically and mentality, while all around them fans took the opportunity to unleash 18 months worth of exasperation on to them. And on to the manager. And on to the coaching staff. And on to the board. It was poisonous. Not since the last days of the Glenn Roeder or Nigel Worthington eras have I known such a rage-filled atmosphere engulf Carrow Road. A minority took this far too far and made it far too personal, but for many this was simply an expulsion of frustration; the culmination of a managerial reign that simply had to end before it was too late.
With the appointment of Neil Adams, the board are clearly seeking to arrest this feeling of impending failure and the galvanising effect that this needs to have on everyone associated with the club simply cannot be overstated. Judging by the reaction of supporters, this has already taken hold; shoots of belief taking root where previously there was nothing but despair and grim acceptance of our fate. We want to believe. We want to prove everyone, including our own better judgement, wrong. The appointment of Adams is the rallying cry that supporters required and more than “implementation of ideas”, or any other technical element, this decision is about breaking the cycle.
Much has been made – largely by those in the media who have very little first hand experience of watching Norwich this season – of the timing of Chris Hughton’s sacking. Replacing a manager with only five games remaining in a season is, I’ll admit, a brave decision, but what those who haven’t regularly watched us this season don’t seem to realise is just how turgid we have been. And boy have we been turgid. The second lowest scorers in the division, no substitute had scored or even assisted in a goal away from home until Southampton away three weeks ago. We have won three out of our 16 matches since the turn of the year, netting a miserly nine times in the same period. Coupled with a defence that ships goals away from home on an alarmingly consistent and borderline embarrassing basis; a complete failure to effectively utilise any of our striking options; and a general feeling of malaise and lack of belief when we go behind in games, it’s clear why things have reached the stage they have. It should actually have been clear at the end of last season, when a run of two victories between December and May saw us slip perilously close to the relegation zone, only to be rescued by an inexplicably good final two matches, but there you go.
“Timing is everything”, as the saying goes, and it remains to be seen whether this is too little, too late; the last clutching of a straw that is in danger of slipping through our collective grasp. Chris Hughton was a genuine man who clearly cared, but it was simply not working and nor had it been working for quite some time. Neil Adams’ appointment may end up not working either, but for the sake of everyone, we needed something to cling to. Hughton was long past the point of being able to provide it, but Adams can. This can, and needs to be, a fillip to inspire us all and in the circumstances, it’s the right move.
I’d say we have nothing to lose, except we really, truly do.