Dissecting Norwich City

After a brief revival, Norwich City are back where they started with a manager that’s lost his way, a squad of players that leave a lot to be desired, a board that seemingly have their heads in the sand, promotion hopes gone and growing unrest among fans.

After blitzing past Blackburn on the opening day, hopes were high that this could be a season to remember. Instead, we found ourselves holding on for a point against relegation threatened Bristol City, who hadn’t won since December, last night, following on the coattails of a 5-1 thumping at Sheffield Wednesday to send our faint play-off hopes up in smoke.

Anyone who follows me on twitter will know, well first of all I tweet too much (it annoys me too) and secondly, I tend to try look on the bright side of things. I didn’t perhaps turn on Alex Neil as quick as others while I also got back a bit of belief and positivity during our fleeting good run.

However, make no mistake, I’m done now.

I can’t muster the energy to still believe there’s a good run in us to snatch the play-offs against all odds. I can’t logically give an argument as to why Alex Neil should remain in his post. And with regards to where Norwich City are heading, I can’t really suggest it’s anywhere good.

A good manager that’s lost his way

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I like Alex Neil. He gave me one of my best ever days as a Norwich fan. And, whether in the unlikely event that it’s here, or elsewhere, I genuinely hope he bounces back. I’ve seen people label him with the ‘our worst manager ever’ tag which frankly is complete bullshit, however there’s no doubting he’s lost his way. His decision to sub on Sebastien Bassong for Josh Murphy with 7 minutes to go, opting for a point after doing very little to be proactive throughout a second-half in which his team were on the ropes summed up how he’s changed. The sort of manager I’d want at the helm right now is Alex Neil circa 2015, though it just no longer seems feasible that our once championed boss can rediscover his spark while in the Carrow Road hotseat.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s been a long, slippery slope since that ill-fated defeat to Newcastle last season. That’s the moment it all started to get away from Neil, for me. 3-2 down, he went for it by taking off Alexander Tettey for Wes Hoolahan only for Norwich to lose 6-2, and that moment regarded as a turning point. Newcastle had 6 shots on target that day and scored every one. Norwich hit the woodwork. Quite easily, it could have ended up 6-6 and I’ll always maintain it was a freak result.

Regardless, that’s been and gone but the lasting effect has been evident. Neil has struck me as a man that has lost his nerve when it comes to making changes. They rarely seem to be proactive and are instead reactive, coming late and doing very little to influence the game. It’s a far cry from the man who descended from the stands at Bournemouth to stir 10-man Norwich into a 2-1 win at the league leading Cherries. And it’s a shame. A real shame.

I actually share in Delia’s desire to have some longevity in a manager.

I actually share in Delia’s desire to have some longevity in a manager. The modern day world of football is beginning to bore me and I’d genuinely love to see someone given time to really build something at Carrow Road. However, I just can’t feasibly suggest it should be Alex Neil anymore.

The failure in itself this season to mount a credible promotion challenge is enough for some, however for me, it’s been the manner of that failure. The capitulation at Sheffield Wednesday when Norwich had a real chance to make up ground on the top 6, as well as the various points dropped to Rotherham, Wigan, Burton, Ipswich and Bristol City have shown a devastating lack of character, a lack of mental strength and made a mockery of City’s supposed talents.

You just cannot see how Neil can rejuvenate things around here, unite the fanbase and get City firing again. Undoubtedly his removal would only be part of the puzzle, but unfortunately it’s become a necessary one.

Undoubtedly his removal would only be part of the puzzle, but unfortunately it’s become a necessary one.

I’m a sucker for a good comeback story and absolutely, if Alex Neil was to prove us all wrong it’d be utterly fantastic – however, I feel that fleeting revival was the chance for that and it’s now passed. It’s a question of when, not if, and as well as that, it’s a question of what sort of state Norwich and Neil will be in when the eventual departure comes.

A collective failure 

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Alex Neil is not solely responsible for this season. We have a group of players who leave a lot to be desired. We have a recruitment set-up which, well, the less said the better. We have a board which appear to lack any real direction for the football club, with a failed, much maligned CEO appointment in the form of Jez Moxey quickly going down the pan leaving the club fairly rudderless – akin to a ship floating through space, powerless, just hoping that the engines will start up again rather than blasting them back to life themselves.

What’s going to happen? 

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If I’m being absolutely honest, I don’t see Alex Neil going anywhere. The club didn’t sack him after the dreadful run before Christmas which ultimately killed us, while the silence remains deafening as our play-off hopes disappear over the hill. So, what happens next?

First things first, you’d suspect we’re to endure a listless, uninspiring final 10 games of the season with the odd win spliced between away day no shows. Then, summer comes.

This season has been a collective failure across the board and there must be change – that has to start in the boardroom.

We need a CEO. We need direction.

We need a CEO. We need direction. Ideally, we need someone to come in, grab the club by the scruff of the neck and really earn their money as McNally did in 2009. Getting it right this summer is critical, or it’s hard not to see City settling in for an extended stay in the second tier. Moxey was a failure, an appointment made too late and one that never really got us anywhere. Instead, this time around, Norwich have to get off the mark nice and quick. We need a new man or woman in place promptly after the season ends. We can’t dither with this.

Instead, I fear that’s what will come to pass. I don’t really have any prediction per say of what will happen, I really just can’t place any confidence in the board to get it right.

The players haven’t covered themselves in glory by any means either. I’ve felt a real lack of affinity for this group of players, bar the likes of Wes and Ruddy for obvious reasons. It’s a squad lacking characters. It’s a squad lacking fight. It’s a squad that, for all it’s supposed quality, is hard not to see as distinctly average. It will rightly be broken up in the summer, yes some departures will suck, others won’t, but a revamp is long overdue. As discussed, you can’t launch a strong argument for Neil to oversee this procedure bar, he knows the squad and what’s needed.

Having said that, the stockpiling of number 10s over the past few windows and inexplicable neglect of the centre-back position really doesn’t feel you with confidence.

Norwich are going to have to build something.

Anyways, I digress. Young and hungry. Lower league. Abroad.

Expensive signings of the likes of Klose, Brady and Naismith haven’t worked at all for City. Therefore, it’s time to switch that up. The January link to Angus MacDonald at Barnsley and talk of a summer switch for Exeter City frontman Ollie Watkins suggest things may be heading in the right direction.

Whether it happens is another matter entirely but going forwards, Norwich are going to have to build something. It’s going to have to be players that can develop. We’re going to have to look at the lower echelons of English football and go from there.

There’s not one part of me that thinks that’s a bad thing. In fact, I’d say I find the prospect of a rebuild quite exciting – if we had the right people around to oversee it which, again, I’m not sure we do.

The here and now

Jumping back to the here and now, perhaps the most helpful thing would just be a simple statement from the board. The Canaries Trust has got in touch to ask for an explanation as to why Neil hasn’t gone and have the board put across their side – that’s what’s needed.

It’s wishful thinking at this point to suggest Neil is going anywhere, while there’s a long road ahead for Norwich City, so at the very least, a word on what the board see and what the plan is would go a long way.

We may not agree, but it’s better than this silence and growing divide ahead of a very uncertain summer.

It’s not really about this season for me anymore, it’s about where we’re going. It’s critical that we get this right.

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