Moxey’s promotion vow has a hollow ring to it at the moment for Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 November 2016
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Promotion, promotion, promotion – Jez Moxey’s words echoed around Carrow Road at the AGM as the chief executive insisted the club’s aim of an immediate return to the Premier League hadn’t waned, despite an increasingly abysmal run of form.
Almost three years ago it was another headline-grabbling statement from his predecessor that did little to convince fans. David McNally’s comment that Premier League relegation would be ‘a fate worse than death’ when supporters called for Chris Hughton to be replaced after Christmas came back to haunt him months later.
Moxey’s determined repetition doesn’t hide the fact that after a fifth straight league defeat, Norwich City are two points closer to the relegation zone than they are an automatic promotion spot.
Back in 2014, the board stuck by their man for another four months before making a change. The powers that be may have given Alex Neil their full backing, but as Moxey was keen to point out, we are in a results business.
How long that faith in the manager will last if he remains unable to halt an alarming slide down the Championship standings is not as clear-cut.
City have the joint second-worst defensive record in the league and have gone 15 matches without a clean sheet.
Neil’s side have played seven teams who are currently in the top half of the Championship table and haven’t managed to win any of those fixtures, losing five and drawing two. Hardly a record that screams promotion favourites.
Recent defeats haven’t been unlucky, they have been fully deserved. Defensively, Norwich haven’t been poor in that time. They have been shambolic. It has come to something when a 1-0 defeat at Derby has signalled improvement.
Neil had likened his treatment by certain aspects of the media to a ‘witch hunt’, and accused them of writing what the fans want to hear rather than an honest opinion. Alex, recent criticism has not been personal, it’s been based on performances, results and damning statistics like those above.
The board appears to believe this spell to be an out-of-character dip in form, a blip that most teams suffer, albeit not quite on this scale, at some point in a long campaign. That view, though, does not take into account the dreadful run that saw City tumble towards the Premier League relegation zone and stay there. In the past 12 months, Norwich have suffered 22 defeats in 43 league games.
In that time there has been continual criticism of two areas which are inextricably linked: Norwich’s defence and its recruitment strategy. Three of Saturday’s back four have suffered two relegations at the club. While Timm Klose and Ivo Pinto have been brought in, it’s concerning that more players haven’t been identified to drastically improve a department which has underperformed for months on end.
Despite being in charge for almost two years, only three players in the starting XI at Derby were Neil’s signings. The board has now entrusted Ricky Martin to head up the restructured recruitment department, an appointment that has been met with criticism of its own among supporters and one that is sure to be closely scrutinised as the January transfer window approaches.
While Neil knows that ultimately the buck stops with him, there seems to be a worrying lack of accountability from some of the players. Seb Bassong’s extraordinary post-match radio interview is the latest example, in which he argued against suggestions the defence had been fragile.
If Bassong had put as much effort into his challenge on Derby midfielder Will Hughes as he did questioning a perfectly justified statement, perhaps he would have stopped him from providing the assist for Bradley Johnson’s winner.