It truly is grim up north – now Norwich City boss Neil Adams needs to see a positive reaction

PUBLISHED: 06:30 06 November 2014

The Norwich bench during the Sky Bet Championship match at the Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough. 
Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The Norwich bench during the Sky Bet Championship match at the Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited +447814 482222

To think that we all thought Fulham was the place at which Norwich suffers from a horrid hoodoo.

Fab Four

It has to be right for City skipper

1: In truth the defence hasn’t really let Norwich down this season, up until Tuesday night of course. But surely Neil Adams must see that Stephen Whittaker remains too much of a liability – and Russell Martin is better at right-back than in the middle? The skipper may want to play in that position, but it’s time for an honest conversation between him and the gaffer. If he’s the right man to lead the side, he’ll take it the right way.

More signs that fans don’t matter?

2: There used to be a time the announcement of Tuesday night mid-winter trips to places like Middlesborough would lead to howls of derision against the powers that be and their lack of concern for travelling fans when sorting out the fixtures. That supporters don’t seem to bother venting that fury anymore is a depressing sign many have accepted their convenience means little in this day and age. City devotees face epic midweek trips to Blackburn and Huddersfield before winter is out.

Has this Canary flown the nest?

3: “This is a club which, as the fans know, is close to my heart, so I jumped at the chance to rejoin.” So spoke Elliott Bennett upon his loan move back to Brighton, the club from which Norwich signed him. Did anyone else detect some finality in his quotes? I hope I’m wrong and that a return to form will instigate a return to Carrow Road first-team action, but fear that could be it from a player who will always be fondly remembered for his efforts in yellow and green.

Noise concerns struck a chord

4: The criticism by Jose Mourinho of ‘quiet’ Chelsea fans struck a chord, as volume levels have been down at Carrow Road for a while – even when Norwich City are winning. The reasons? Tim Rolls, chairman of Chelsea’s supporter’s trust, cited the main factors as home fans being forced to sit constantly, younger people being priced out of football and replaced by an older and quieter demographic. Sounds familiar.

History does in fact show that city’s form at Craven Cottage is positively brilliant when compared to the misery experienced during the long old poke to Middlesbrough.

Tuesday night’s harrowing 4-0 defeat was the 25th competitive game in which the Teessiders have played host – and the 15th time the Canaries have had their wings clipped, body stuffed and sent back down the A1 with tail placed well and truly between their legs.

Four victories is all they’ve been able to muster in those 25 miserable matches – and two of those date back to the 1960s.

There are probably 500-plus fans who travelled to the game and wish I had shared those stats a few days earlier. They could have saved themselves a fair few quid.

For too many years now visits to grounds in the north of the country have resulted in not just defeats, but serious poundings at the hands of whichever team awaits. This seems especially true on dreary Tuesday nights in the winter.

I’ll come on to Norwich’s current woes shortly, but do wider questions need to be asked as to why Norwich have for so long repeatedly under-performed for longer trips? Is it poor preparation? Have the club got its travel plans wrong? Do the players need to learn how to perform when the away contingent is much smaller than they are used to? I for one refuse to accept that it as an inevitable by-product of Norwich being so remote – and the north being so far away, as I’ve heard some claim before.

Forgetting the past, even the most positive of city devotees (and I regard myself in that category) has to be concerned by the continuing dip in form and fortunes. The last 10 games have brought just two victories. The nine games in the Championship have seen City secure just 10 points. That form over the whole of a season would place Norwich amongst those fighting to stay in the league, not get out of it.

To be fair city haven’t played particularly poorly for most of this spell – and that’s why the message from Neil Adams has until now been that he’s not massively concerned and that a thumping victory lays just around the corner.

The problem with that outlook, while very positive, is that form is just as likely to dip, as rise – and when that happens you get performances, and results, like that on Tuesday. Clubs need to win when playing well, to cover for those periods when they are not.

What concerned me most about Tuesday were the claims from those present of a lack of desire and effort from some. That’s not an accusation we’ve been able to throw at an Adams team since he took over. Let’s hope it’s a blip, rather than a sign of deeper issues.

The beauty of the Championship is that a poor run can be recovered from very quickly. When the games come so thick and fast, a couple of wins soon make everything rosy once more. Even a lowly team still has a chance of promotion through the play-offs if it can pull together a decent run in the last 10 or so games.

This isn’t the time for panic, but it is time for a positive reaction from the players. We should get a measure for how much the players believe in ‘Project Neil’ when we see how they react on Saturday against Nottingham Forest.

A few weeks ago the Forest game looked like a perfect opportunity for both clubs to show they have what it takes to take the Championship title. Now it’s still a vital game for both managers – but because Stuart Pearce needs to stop the rot just as quickly as Adams does. Over the last two decades we’ve witnessed too many City seasons where no-shows like Tuesday are a regular occurrence, Season upon season where Norwich show temporary glimpses of class – but it soon fizzles out.

A strong run is needed now to make sure 2014/15 isn’t one of them.

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