Two weeks for Norwich City manager Neil Adams to rediscover that missing mojo
06:30 21 November 2014
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In any walk of life the body language and mood of a manager is likely to impact that of the people they oversee.
Next 12 games to define the season
1: Brighton (20), Reading (14), Wigan (22), Huddersfield (16), Derby (1), Millwall (18), Reading (14), Bournemouth (2), Cardiff (12), Brentford (6), Birmingham (23) and Blackpool (24). This is a list of Norwich’s next 12 opponents – and their current league position. Eight of these 12 games are against teams in the bottom half, including five of the current bottom seven. Could these dozen games define the season?
City skipper is a Scot revelation
2: A friend and Scottish sports journalist was astounded upon being told about the debate over Russell Martin’s best position. As far as Scotland fans are concerned the Canaries’ skipper has been nothing short of a revelation at centre back; they wouldn’t consider playing him elsewhere. He can’t be up against lesser opposition when playing international football, so what is at the heart of the apparent difference? Could it be the extra pressure of being captain?
Hot for England, why not City too?
3: On a similar subject, winger Nathan Redmond continues to thrive for England Under-21s, playing with the freedom and confidence with which City fans have still only seen in patches. Is this a sign of how good he can be if free from the pressure and mass expectation some supporters place on him? I remain a massive fan of the young winger and would be bitterly disappointed if the rumours of interest from elsewhere were true. Our management team need to work out how to get the best out of him.
City fan group make us proud
4: Thankfully homophobia is not a problem I’ve witnessed at Carrow Road, but anyone who believes it doesn’t still go on at grounds around the country is simply deluded. Well done therefore to the supporter group Proud Canaries, who are successfully leading the way nationally against such discrimination. Too many still wrongly regard attending football as the way to release their rages against the world. Check out @proudcanaries for more.
If in my own day job, as a manager for this very newspaper, I walk around with chin on the floor, the weight of the world on my shoulders, I can’t complain when the team do exactly the same thing.
On the flip side, should I appear up for the challenge (even if on the inside it’s a bad day) and happy to be at the workplace, there’s more of a chance those around me will feel the same.
This is as true in football as it is every other profession, though possibly even more of a factor for football managers to be aware of, given that lack of confidence and poor body language can influence results on the field of play.
And it’s of particular relevance to Norwich City’s fortunes at the moment because I can’t be the only one to notice an apparent change in the demeanour of manager Neil Adams as his managerial career has unfolded.
Think back to when Adams was first appointed as stand-in manager to replace Chris Hughton. Despite the club’s perilous position and the immense pressure that must come with facing potential relegation from the Premier League, there stood a man who believed in what he was doing, had faith in his ability and confidence that he would succeed.
Though that faith may have been ultimately misguided, the players (most of them anyway) did raise their performance levels for those final tough matches.
Again, at the start of the season, I remember being struck by just how at ease the 48-year-old looked in his new role. During games he appeared under control and calm no matter what the circumstances.
In fact, there’s a fantastic photo of him stood in front of the dugout, chest puffed out like a general overseeing his troops, which highlights this very fact. Surely, that confidence must rub off on those he commands?
But as the results have soured during the last few weeks that strong, confident demeanour appears to have ebbed away too. Suddenly he looks like a man conflicted and troubled – and at times in trouble. The smiles come less frequently, the brow is more furrowed.
Of course some of that is only natural when on a bad run. I don’t expect him to react to defeats by walking off the pitch full of smiles and bounding into press conferences like Tigger the tiger. We’d all have something to say were that the case.
But I do fear that as Adams’ disposition has darkened, so too has that of some of his players. The all-for-one and one-for-all attitude of the early season would seem to have dipped considerably. We’ve seen team-mates argue, snipe and point fingers when things go bad and goals go in – often tell-tale signs that all is not well in the camp.
I’ve seen this in a new manager before. In a previous journalism job in the midlands one of the teams covered was Derby County. In the summer of June, 2005, Phil Brown, on the back of success behind the scenes at Bolton, was given his first full-time manager’s job.
At first he would breeze into press conferences, his confidence as topped up as his permatan. He chatted to the press like they were long lost friends, always helpful, always smiling, extremely confident.
At first the new appointment worked, but soon results dipped, as did Brown’s bravado. Colleagues spoke of how withdrawn and troubled he became. Within seven months he’d been sacked. It took him another year of rebuilding his reputation in the coaching staff at Hull City before he was given a chance to be gaffer once more.
I hope none of this happens to Adams and that Saturday’s game brings victory, heralding the start of a revival. But for that to happen I hope the manager has put the last two weeks to good use and rediscovered his mojo. While talent is clearly the most vital trait for anyone aiming to be a success in management in professional football, the right body language plays a big part.