Alex Neil’s Norwich City need to learn to defend and see out a win
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If I still banged out my column on an old typewriter, I’d hate to see all the crossings out I would have made this week.
As I mentioned in my highlight of the week section, I was in York on Tuesday evening.
After a lovely family dinner, I had hoped that the student bar may have a stream from Elland Road - well we were in Yorkshire.
As it wasn’t on, we went back to our B&B. The Radio Norfolk signal wouldn’t stretch that far, so it was following Twitter for me.
I’d pretty much written my column with a Take That theme following the announcement that the band would be at Carra next summer. I thought it would only take a minute to update it after a cup win (see what I did there? If not, I guess you’re not a Gary Barlow fan...)
My original draft included plenty of song puns and as it looked as if the Canaries were heading for the EFL last eight I was relatively chipper.
Then as the wheels came off yet again, I very quickly lost more than a little patience (yes, I’ve done it again).
My usual mug half full outlook quickly became more than half empty as a lead was let slip twice more.
Impatience turned to anger.
Victory was chucked away, we had to endure more woeful defending, three of the most expensive signings in our history failed to net from the penalty spot and several players walked off without acknowledging the amazing 1900 travelling fans.
As well as handing a quarter final spot to Leeds, Norwich have now dropped seven crucial league points from winning positions this year. Yes, if Alex Neil’s team could see out games they’d be well clear at the top.
So what needs to happen now?
Should Alex Neil be sacked as some fans are suggesting? I don’t think so.
He got the players to the top - and needs to get them back up there.
But there are very, very serious questions which have to be very, very quickly answered about chronic defending.
Game management is another huge issue as is the commitment (or otherwise) in some quarters.
Returning to Take That and the manager has to somehow find a way to re-light the promotion fire, starting with the trip to Brighton on Saturday.
Meanwhile, it’s a cup final for the lad on loan
While the penalty shoot out defeat at Elland Road ended our hopes of reaching the EFL Cup quarter final, James Maddison is looking forward to starring for Aberdeen in the Betfred Cup final against Celtic.
Maddison signed for the Canaries for £3m and has been tipped for great things – most recently by team-mate and former City keeper Joe Lewis.
He said this week that he expects the former Coventry youngster will be a big hit in the Premier League (and hopes it will be with Norwich).
Plenty of eyebrows were raised when Maddison headed north on loan – and that decision is looking to be increasingly puzzling.
The lad is showing just what we have all been told he can do.
Yes, it is great to see him doing so well but it is frustrating that another team is benefitting rather than us.
It isn’t long ago that Norwich’s midfield looked packed with quality and quantity.
Injuries to Howson and Mulumbu, the inevitable suspension looming for Tettey and the puzzling loss of form (and influence) of Brady, means Maddison would certainly be involved if he was here.
The much criticised Checkatrade Trophy has also given an outlet to youngsters like JM to get some competitive football this term and reduces the need to loan them out which has been the case in previous years.
• HERO OF THE WEEK: Passion is something we always need more of in football. So I give my hero gong to Huddersfield boss David Wagner. When his team scored a clincher three minutes into injury time, he ran on to join in celebrations and showed what winning really means.
• VILLAIN OF THE WEEK: While Wagner is my hero, the ref – and the football officials who made the rule – get my boo boy award. True fans love the passion he displayed – but he was cautioned for over celebrating and sent to the stand. Crazy decision.
• HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK: We were up seeing our daughter at uni in York this week, and I had thought about travelling the 20 or so miles for the cup game. As quality family time is increasingly rare, I decided that was more important – and I know I made the right decision.
• FUNNIEST MOMENT OF THE WEEK: Paul Merson’s attempt to pronounce Leicester’s Islam Slimani on Sky Soccer Saturday was hilarious. I’ve tweeted a link – and suffice to say he made quite a meal of it (in fact it was a Salami meal!)
• PREDICTION OF THE WEEK: After a dreadful week for the Canaries, a trip to the seaside to face our old mate Chris Hughton is far from ideal. You may think I’m mad, but I believe we’ll get one over on CH and win the game.