What Norwich City could learn from rugby stars

PUBLISHED: 10:13 27 February 2016 | UPDATED: 10:13 27 February 2016

Russell Martin congratulates Wes Hoolahan after his goal against West Ham a fortnight ago. Photo: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Russell Martin congratulates Wes Hoolahan after his goal against West Ham a fortnight ago. Photo: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited +447814 482222

I usually hate blank Saturdays in the football season, but I have to admit that a stress-free weekend was quite welcome after a horrendous few weeks that have seen an increasing number of people losing faith in City’s ability to beat the drop.

Of course, that’s hardly surprising given the way in which points have been surrendered against Liverpool and West Ham with yet another no-show on the road sandwiched between those games against an Aston Villa side whose glaring lack of quality was ruthlessly exposed two weekends ago as Liverpool ran riot.

However, that result may well have benefited City if it has destroyed the last remnants of self belief at Villa Park and it’s hard to see Remi Garde’s side getting out of the bottom three now. Swansea and Bournemouth are firmly in the relegation dogfight too, but at present City’s primary objective will be to stay ahead of Newcastle and Sunderland. With both having to visit Carrow Road, those two games and the trip to Swansea may well be pivotal.

While City undoubtedly have quality in their squad, that simply hasn’t translated itself into enough points, and unless that changes quickly we will be watching Championship football next year.

I think that what’s really disappointed most fans this season has been City’s inconsistency. Away from home they have veered from being organised, committed and effective to having the softest of underbellies, with the committed performances at the Stadium of Light, Old Trafford, Upton Park and Anfield bearing no resemblance to those at St James Park, Vicarage Road, St Mary’s and Dean Court where the white flag was run up well before the end.

Home performances have been equally unpredictable and the worrying thing is it was the collapse of City’s form at Carrow Road that ensured relegation two years ago.

If City do go down it will be despite having probably their strongest squad in the Premier League since promotion under Paul Lambert, which suggests two conclusions; either the standard of the league has increased significantly or City are collectively underachieving.

I suspect there’s an element of both, although the fact the league has become more competitive actually means the “big” clubs no longer carry the same aura of invincibility, something Leicester have ruthlessly capitalised upon.

And there’s the key word; ruthless, which is something City have been all too rarely this season. Lambert’s side would run through brick walls to get a result. The current one doesn’t seem to have that sort of mental fortitude.

In a recent interview City skipper Russell Martin said: “I think that as a team we lost a little bit of enjoyment for a while.”

It’s perfectly understandable that losing regularly is disheartening, but contrast Martin’s words with this quote from the autobiography of Phil Vickery, World Cup winning rugby player; “Whatever you do in life, give it everything. Fight every problem to the death, and throw your weight behind everything that means anything to you. Most of all, have fun doing it.”

I applaud Martin’s honesty, but the underlying implication of his comment would seem to be the players’ enjoyment is dictated by the results themselves and its absence leads to further under-performance, whereas to Vickery, enjoyment comes from total commitment to the challenge itself. As he also adds “If you’re going to fail, die trying.”

That’s the attitude that’s needed to get out of the sort of hole City are in, and with Alex Neil apparently reverting to his original aggressive approach to games, perhaps we can expect to see a style of football in the coming weeks that will not only provide enjoyment for the players but also the long-suffering fans.

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