A miraculous turnaround just isn’t going to happen at Norwich City under Alex Neil
PUBLISHED: 10:15 16 January 2017 | UPDATED: 10:15 16 January 2017
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At times this season it has felt like the scale of Norwich City’s problems has been contained within the borders of East Anglia.
Perhaps it’s because Norwich were accompanied by two of the country’s more recognisable clubs in their fall from the Premier League, but you get the feeling that this campaign of spectacular underachievement would have hit more headlines on a national scale if we were a so-called ‘bigger’ club.
As it is, the seriousness of quite what has been going on at Carrow Road this season seems to have been kept within the realms of the fanbase and local media. “You don’t have a divine right to win promotion,” is an example of a comment directed at me by a Leeds supporting colleague on one of the many Mondays I’ve been reeling from a defeat.
Of course he should know more than most that a run of poor results can only be part of the problem at a football club.
On Saturday though, “Norwich’s shock defeat to Rotherham” was mentioned after wins for Chelsea and West Ham in a national radio sports bulletin. Such was the enormity of a loss against a team who were 12 points from safety, without a manager and seemingly without hope before Norwich became masters of their own downfall once again.
If Alex Neil could have hand-picked an opponent it would have been Rotherham. A team who had lost 15 of their last 18 Championship matches. What a perfect time to end a rot of seven away fixtures without a win at a time when City, unbeaten in three, were at last building something close to momentum.
Momentum that became twice as hard to maintain once Nelson Oliveira had seen red, both metaphorically and literally.
I have lost count of how many times this season the phrase “if you look at the game in isolation” has been trotted out in the aftermath of Norwich defeats.
For the third time in four league games it was a refrain heard in the manager’s post-match interviews to describe the team’s display in the wake of a sending off.
Unfortunately these red card incidents, below par performances and frankly awful results have been far from isolated events. They have become recurring themes in more than a year, not least a season, of frustrations, mistakes and apologies. To say they are wearing unbelievably thin is somewhat of an understatement.
The decision to give Neil a chance to turn things around may have won the admiration of many neutrals sick of clubs changing managers like the wind. But Saturday’s humiliating loss was the most emphatic confirmation yet that a miraculous turnaround is just not going to happen.
The silence from the board suggests there has been no change of heart in deciding to stick with Neil. If reports concerning the amount of money he’d have to be paid in compensation are true then there is little wonder he has no intentions of quitting, no one in their right mind with bills, a mortgage and a family to provide for would.
But we are now in a desperate situation where even if the axe is wielded today an incoming manager would have at best two weeks left of the January transfer window to buy players to replace those who look likely to be sold.
Last week’s apology to supporters and offer of free coach travel to Southampton for the FA Cup replay on Wednesday must be commended. A realisation from the powers that be that fans deserved to be treated fairer after an admission ticket prices had been ‘misjudged’.
What we need now from those in the higher echelons at Carrow Road is an act to show the far bigger realisation that their show of faith in City’s beleaguered manager was also misjudged.