One last look back at the Premier League – before Norwich City can start the long walk forward

A Chelsea fan took it upon himself to start Citys long goodbye on Sunday. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images A Chelsea fan took it upon himself to start Citys long goodbye on Sunday. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Sunday, May 11, 2014
11:28 AM

There’s nothing else for it. I’ve got limited space for the copy and a lot to get through, so let’s get on with it. And it’s best we start at the relative beginning.

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Just saying…

• I’m sure we will all miss the high-profile nature of the Premier League next season. From complaints about City’s treatment on Match of the Day, supporters will be left tutting over a complete blank from all national outlets in the Championship.

• There are going to be some old scores to battle through too. Leeds fans are already licking their lips at taking on their parent club, Ipswich have a 9-2 deficit burning a hole in their pocket and Wolves will be on a mission to follow City’s lead of a few seasons ago. All I would ask from Norwich next season is to be really, genuinely ready for what lies ahead.

Firstly, Chris Hughton’s initial appointment. It was the right move, because City stayed up and consolidated after the man who earned their meteoric rise walked out. But finishing 11th was artificial, given the two wins that ended the season.

City’s summer recruitment was expensive and attracted plenty of credit from here and there. It also engendered talk of a top-10 finish.

As Ricky van Wolfswinkel said when he arrived, he anticipated joining a club that would kick on from 11th – rather than joining a struggling Premier League outfit.

All the signings almost certainly arrived with an expectation of doing what Southampton have done. In the end, they were left simply watching what Southampton were achieving.

I had a fear going into this season: that money was chucked at what was hoped were better strikers, with the aim that they would automatically take the chances the previous lot were missing.

That is how it looked for this whole campaign too. City’s play did not evolve from last season to this. That was clear at Hull, at home to Aston Villa and Cardiff, and even in the wins at Stoke and at home to Southampton. All early games. For many, all warning signs.

The fact the style didn’t seem to fit with some of the summer signings looked like evidence of a breakdown between scouts and management. Seeing Wilfried Bony work so hard up top for Swansea only underlined the fact Norwich put their eggs in a handful of wrong baskets.

And that points to somewhere else. City’s survival last season was hailed because the club had the Premier League’s lowest wage bill. They excelled. Punched above their weight. Defied the odds... And this season, it has already been said the Canaries’ wage bill will still be in the bottom three.

If last season was a noteworthy achievement, does that not make this season eminently predictable?

Of course, the board holds a financial responsibility to look after the club – but losing £40m in income next season is a far trickier situation in comparison. And the fact is, City’s relegation still feels avoidable.

Certainly it makes January’s recruitment look like a missed opportunity – even if the business done by Cardiff and Fulham didn’t really work out for them either.

I’ve said it before – managerial change shouldn’t be dictated by a result. It should come when things appear to not be working. Waiting for a home defeat was a catastrophic error – but we’ll never know if the players were good enough to stay up under someone else. The evidence is mixed under Neil Adams.

Relegation effectively traces back to mistakes being made in the summer. And the blame for that is a collective one. That’s that. The only direction left to look is forward.

That means stability. Time is of the essence too. However hard things are in the Championship, City have a great chance to bounce straight back at the first attempt – if they shake off the dark clouds of relegation and make some better decisions this summer.

And those decisions, for me, have to come from the man who has driven the club to such a wonderful position off the pitch – even if it was just short of sustaining things on the pitch.

Everyone has something to learn from this season at Norwich City.

Almost every supporter that has spoken or contacted me wants chief executive David McNally to stick around and guide City back to where people in these parts like to think the club belongs.

For me, he has a responsibility to do that – but the fans have a responsibility too: to fire everything they’ve got at shaking off a horrible season, and getting behind whoever turns out in yellow and green for a Championship promotion charge – starting on August 9.

Even in the midst of relegation, that could yet help Norwich really kick-on, in the long term at least.

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