Ridiculing Norwich City’s tour ‘shambles’ will get us nowhere

Norwich City Training at Piergiorgio Perucca Stadium, Aosta
 - NeiL Adams. Picture by Stefano Gnech/Focus Images Ltd Norwich City Training at Piergiorgio Perucca Stadium, Aosta - NeiL Adams. Picture by Stefano Gnech/Focus Images Ltd

Sunday, July 27, 2014
11:05 AM

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a few days at St Andrews in Scotland.

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The reason wasn’t the golf, although I was in a hotel which, if you had the right room, overlooked the 18th fairway; I was there to cover Norwich City’s 2009 pre-season tour. You will remember the summer of 2009 as one which had lot of promise, along with a healthy dollop of trepidation.

In charge was Bryan Gunn, one of the club’s great players, with Ian Crook and Ian Butterworth in support. Gunn had lost a few players - David Marshall, Lee Croft and Sammy Clingan departed, preferring not to have ‘League One footballer’ on their passport - while in came a shedload of new faces including: Owain Tudur Jones, Michael Nelson, Simon Whaley, Paul McVeigh, and of course, the one and only Grant Holt.

I recall that they did appear to be a happy little group as they trained in the heat of the day at the University’s sports ground. Yes, there seemed to be an air of holiday camp about the whole thing, but presumably the manager was keen for the new faces to gel as soon as possible.

Proof of the pudding would be in the eating, and we all know what happened next: Colchester and Paul Lambert.

Fast forward five remarkable years and City fans have had enough drama to last a decade: legend is axed by tough-nosed new chief executive; Lambert, the slayer, takes over and achieves consecutive promotions to take City into the Premier League where they consolidate until manager has his head turned by an ambitious but ailing former giant of the game and leaves under acrimonious circumstances to be replaced by the level headed Chris Hughton who confirms City’s place in the top flight but is never truly loved and eventually is sacked on account of a) City being in danger of relegation and b) City being more boring to watch than drying paint, with Neil Adams thrown into the fray but unable to prevent the drop into the Championship.

And here we are: former player turned manager in charge. Simplistically speaking, the omens of recent history don’t look good: Adams has his doubters, rather a lot of them, and his cause isn’t helped by matters outside of his control.

The events of the past week on the tour to Italy haven’t exactly cast the club nor its manager in a good light. One opponent cancelled, another pulled out altogether, leaving only one of the three scheduled games “as was”.

And if you wanted a bit of topping on your pizza cake it came when it was revealed that the club which stood in for Novara on Sunday wasn’t Italian Serie D side Saint-Christophe Vallée d’Aoste after all, but simply a regional select side.

Frankly, it’s all a bit of a shambles - and more sticks and stones to throw at Adams.

I am fairly sure he, and the club, were quite innocent in all of this, but it is the perception of Adams’ management that will take the hit, if only because there are many who can’t wait to throw some muck in his direction. The words “told you so” will have sounded loud and clear from the mouths of Mr and Mrs Doubting Thomas.

The truth is, what happened in Italy makes it more than clear that Adams and his coaching staff need to be allowed to do their jobs without the interference of work that can be done by someone else: the pen pushing. There is a need for Adams to use all of his time passing on his excellent coaching skills to players who carry the club’s hopes next season.

Five years ago, there was a justified uncertainty as Gunn inherited a weak and disintegrating squad and the new board came up with a better solution for the way ahead.

Adams now needs support from within and without: the board who stood by Hughton for far too long must be strong in their support of Adams if things go wrong.

And those fans (stay-away I shouldn’t wonder) who have started groaning a few weeks earlier than the rest, need to see beyond the events of the past week and start to do what it says on the tin: support the club, not ridicule it, just for the sake of a retweet and a millisecond of notoriety concocted from the safety of their bedroom.

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