Norwich City never choose the easy route to Premier League improvement

Norwich City's Bradley Johnson salutes the away fans after his goal in the 1-1 Premier League draw at Crystal Palace. Picture: Tim Parker/PA Wire. Norwich City's Bradley Johnson salutes the away fans after his goal in the 1-1 Premier League draw at Crystal Palace. Picture: Tim Parker/PA Wire.

Thursday, January 2, 2014
9:10 AM

If Norwich City’s Premier League life story since 2011 tells us anything it is the Canaries never do things the easy way.

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Angst and anxiety are staple ingredients but on each of the two previous attempts, top flight safety has been achieved. A club record summer transfer outlay may have been designed to alleviate such struggles but the benchmark for the majority of the Premier League, including Norwich City, will always be set just above the waterline that is the difference between financial self-sufficiency and an uncertain future.

Achieving that objective is a unifying cause for all those who rally behind the Canaries’ banner but a battling point in adverse circumstances is unlikely to appease those who have already decided Chris Hughton is no longer the man to guide the ship.

Defeats like Fulham on Boxing Day or even the failure to beat an improving Crystal Palace side proficient enough to run Manchester City as close as any this season at the Etihad just last weekend do little to improve Hughton’s standing with a growing constituency who feel the Canaries should be joining the growing fad of managerial regime change.

Hughton would be the first to admit City’s festive return was insufficient, with that damaging loss to the Cottagers a particularly sour episode, but the seemingly endless sub-plot to City’s third season in the Premier League is largely self-defeating.

Norwich’s board have steadfastly supported the manager and the events at Selhurst Park provided fresh evidence he has a set of players who believe in his methods. Whether those who hold an alternative view like it or not, Norwich and Hughton have suffered debilitating injuries right from the moment Gary Hooper collapsed to the turf in the final pre-season friendly against Panathinaikos. You could even go back further to the summer surgeries to Sebastien Bassong and Michael Turner; the latter hobbled away from the action at Palace with a suspected hamstring injury that one hopes does not add the central defender to a growing casualty list which had threatened to ease this month with the expected returns of both Alex Tettey and Anthony Pilkington.

Jonny Howson’s total absence from the club’s festive tussles and Hughton’s post-match admission yesterday the key midfielder could be set for a longer lay-off merely increases the degree of difficulty for Norwich in a Premier League season that is shaping up to be the most competitive for many a season at the top and the bottom.

City also had to cope with the dismissal of Leroy Fer in the closing stages for a second yellow card offence on Eagles’ captain Mile Jedinak. The first brought the hosts a penalty to cancel out Bradley Johnson’s unerringly accurate finish five minutes before the interval of a game largely dictated by the prevailing weather conditions. That in itself is not another excuse to absolve Hughton and his side but recognition of the difficulties both teams faced in trying to construct menacing attacking motions when just controlling the ball in the swirling gales and driving rain was a test of their technical ability.

Turner’s exit was entirely related to such uncertainty after the big centre back failed to anticipate the trajectory of a Palace cross into Norwich’s penalty box and instead swiped at fresh air before collapsing clutching the back of his right leg.

City’s first-half breakthrough was all the more commendable as the hosts had the benefit of the elements which blew towards Ruddy’s goalmouth. Johnson and Fer established a measure of control in a congested central midfield area but after early set-piece incursions from Robert Snodgrass it was Palace in the ascendancy until Wes Hoolahan and Hooper hassled Danny Gabbidon into a miscued clearance that Johnson stroked home.

There was a wonderful few seconds of silence around the stadium as the ball caressed the inside of Julian Speroni’s left-hand upright before nestling inside his post, but Tony Pulis’ sides are not built around a willingness to surrender and Johnson’s opener merely triggered a frenetic spell prior to the interval.

Martin Olsson reprised his goal line heroics from the corresponding fixture to deny Cameron Jerome before Marouane Chamakh could count himself fortunate the officials failed to spot his assault on Hoolahan after the Irishman appeared to incur the petulant striker’s wrath. City really needed to take the heat out of the proceedings immediately after their incision, but Fer lost Jedinak and then hauled him to the ground in a bid to retrieve his error. The impressive Jason Puncheon made no mistake from the penalty spot and set the tone for a second period where Palace again pushed forward without quite hinting at the precision required to beat John Ruddy again.

Fer’s dismissal for a lunging challenge at Jedinak may have tipped the balance in the final moments but Norwich played out time with few genuine alarms to secure a third unbeaten outing.

But it is the Fulham home defeat which arguably colours how Norwich’s festive labours will be perceived. City have been resolute on the road at Sunderland and now Palace but it is on home soil they will need to up the ante.

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18 comments

  • I sense from the comments here, fans frustrations have grown even more over Christmas with our current management and coaching staff, and in my mind rightly so. In the past, CH was being given credit for astute buys, but now questions are being raised on whether these really were astute buys based on the style we are playing and the combinationcapabilities within the team to make people like RVW work for NCFC. Based on the past season and a half with CH in charge, I cannot see how things can turn around without a total change of manager and coaches. For the fan base to be happy we need to move back to the Paul Lambert style of going for the win, not substituting the main striker for a defender (as New Year's Day) when things go bad to try and hang on for the draw. Come-on McN and co., step-up and be counted quickly before it is not recoverable - if we go down, let's at least go down fighting and maintain the fan base.

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    MichiganCanary

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • I wondered how long it would be before the injury crisis came up as an excuse. However, every club is allowed to have a squad of 25 over 21 aged players yet CH chose to go with just 22 despite losing Elliott Bennett very early on. All teams get injuries throughout the season so man management is required to ensure you can cope. We now have David Fox back at the club and the previous manager managed to form a midfield with him included, likewise Whittaker, Olsson and Martin can all play there if required so any competent manager would have no problem at all with this so called crisis.

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    TrevorKeith

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • At the cow pasture of Crystal Palace, called a pitch for EPL football, we get a referee, one Mike Dean, who clearly needs serious help, both with his `vision` and his understanding of the rules. He also likes to collect names and be the centre of attention, ala Clattenberg. Dean is the largest collector of names in EPL. Why do we get this helpless individual twice over Christmas ? Fer was stupid to behave as he did, you could see his pushover from Norfolk. Crystal Palace should get their stadium and pasture up to EPL standards or play somewhere else. The FA needs to get referees to a proper level and make them use the off pitch info. or get out. The MotD last night is littered with very poor refereeing.

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    willb

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • Sorry Paddy but could you please explain: ".....the events at Selhurst Park provided fresh evidence he has a set of players who believe in his methods". There was no evidence at all that the players are any happier with Hughton than many fans are. For example Fer's frustrations are beginning to show and many players are not playing to the standards they were in previous seasons eg Ruddy and Bassong. The players must be as bewildered as the rest of us as to his selection and substitution policy. Now the board has a problem. Sack him or Back him. If it's the latter they will have to allow him to spend a lot more money in this window. What would you do if it was your money?

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    waclor

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • excuses always excuses.All the top teams can play badly and gets the win,and at the end of the day it is only points that matters.Not that you are playing pretty football or creating chances or just looking at the positives.play ugly and get three points.

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    jack1888

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • What would I do if it were my money? It IS my money. Well, some of it. I would not waste any more of it on CH or let CH waste any more of it on players he can't get to perform.

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    Cecil

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • Negative comments like these do no good at all, read as they will be by CH, players, and the Board. NCFC has been unlucky this season with injuries, refereeing decisions and the slim margins between winning, drawing and losing. Conditions at Crystal Palace meant it impossible to play decent football, but the team dug in. I personally think Norwich are a bit risk averse, but was at the Arsenal game when for long periods they were the better, more fluent team. a few good results and they will be in the top half and we can stop moaning...and if Wes chosen to unlock defences those results more likely (and yes I know he was a sub v Gunners).

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    Lastsongster

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • As usual PD with nothing to say and saying it badly.

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    Cecil

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • 'Choose' has two 'o's.

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    Colin

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • Sorry Paddy but could you please explain: ".....the events at Selhurst Park provided fresh evidence he has a set of players who believe in his methods". There was no evidence at all that the players are any happier with Hughton than many fans are. For example Fer's frustrations are beginning to show and many players are not playing to the standards they were in previous seasons eg Ruddy and Bassong. The players must be as bewildered as the rest of us as to his selection and substitution policy. Now the board has a problem. Sack him or Back him. If it's the latter they will have to allow him to spend a lot more money in this window. What would you do if it was your money?

    Report this comment

    waclor

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • Here living in Canada for 13 years since leaving my home city of Norwich, seeing them get to premier league has meant I can follow them on tv here. If they drop down then it will be goodbye to that! Each morning as we are 6 hours behind uk time I check the pinkun online hpoing to see someone new in charge. This has been my ritual since October. Hughtons wins have mostly been lucky except for last season at west brom and man city. I dont think our luck will repeat unless we get more creative and passionate staff in.

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    Cuttlefishpie

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • Apart from the inane comments for our country cousins, we are all dyed in the wool City supporters. Nothing would please us more than to praise " our " team. Unfortunately ,this isn't the case. Under this manager it is hard to see where the improvement has been. Large amounts spent and yet we have another relegation battle on our hands. I find it difficult to actually see a pattern of play. The defence leaks like a sieve, the attack doesn't and the mid field isn't. Every team has injury problems and really is a poor excuse. City players do not seem to have the heart to fight for every ball and soon give up. Fitness a problem? They look sluggish. I do not care who is in charge , I just want improvement. We , the supporters , deserve better. This is our third season in the top flight and we are behaving like novices.

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    stormy

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • Spot on TK and wactor. In the summer he said he had recruited to cover all the positions but has since failed to use a squad type system effectively or substituted early enough to keep them all match fit. There is no evidence whatsoever to support Paddy's assertion that the 'players believe in his methods.' The frequent 'no shows' suggest strongly the reverse is true. CH had the best budget ever last summer available to him. Based on results can anyone honestly say it has been a good investment? Generally we have brought in players who are thought to have been good quality but CH has failed to get the best out of them. I seem to remember the hype that we should be knocking on the door of 10th spot in the league. Falling well short are we not?

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    andy

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • Do we really imagine CH, the players, and the board read our negative comments? And that if they do it lowers their morale? I seriously doubt it.

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    Cecil

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • I'm amused + bemused by the headline. The evidence suggests we haven't chosen any route to improvement @ all. We've stayed out of the relegation places largely by other teams being even worse than we are. We should be kicking on + aiming to be midtable now. Don't bother lecturing me about where we were 4 or 5 years ago, because quite frankly we should never have been in Div 1 in the first place. RVW is totally the wrong type of player to lead the line for City. He's injury prone + can't carve out his own chances. Offload this over-priced import NOW + get a younger version of Iwan or the Horse in. An aggressive target man who's lethal in the air + can set up knock-downs for Hooper to run in on. Play wingers on the proper flanks so they can hit outswinging crosses + get some solid defenders into the back 4. If Bassong can't find his form of last season, then sell him too. No we aren't Man City. But with a new, attack minded manager eg: Marcelo Bielsa we could be a very much better Norwich City !

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    Timbo

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • The growing casualty list has clearly taken its toll. With Pilks, Howson, Tettey, and Bennet out injured CH's options across midfield have obviously been severly limited. I'm sure that most will agree that these four players respresent a first choice midfield in their own right. Nonetheless, and whilst I'm still willing to back CH, we need to look at how we have let go the advantage so easily in recent weeks....first versus Fulham and again against Palace. Both games we went ahead and at that point were comfortably on top.

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    Mellow_Yellow

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • Lastsongster, if these comments are read by CH, the players and the board and I am not sure that they are, what assumptions would they draw? I would hope the following: CH and the board should conclude that CH's style of football and management and his choice of coaches and tactics are considered inadequate by at least some fans and the players should realise that most fans are on their side putting the blame for the disappointing results squarely on CH and his entourage. I suppose it could induce some lethargy and complacency in the players but I would prefer to hope they would consider they had more to prove and a debt to the fans for their faith, when Hughton's successor takes over. I do hope that day is very soon.

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    waclor

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

  • I went to the game and the condition of the pitch was very poor, not helped by the constant swirling wind and rain. Not the easiest environment to play in. However at times, and this is the frustrating part, we looked no better than Palace. Hitting long balls to Wes, the shortest bloke on the pitch, will never work. Given this is now our third season in the PL, with the quality that has been brought in, we should be markedly better than Palace. Atmospheric conditions are a great leveller, but we should still have the edge in those situations. Our problem is, we go a goal ahead, assume that it will be enough, and then concede. We can't defend a single goal lead, it's blindingly obvious. Look at the Fulham game for further evidence. Although we had a few other chances, none were converted. Fulham then lost 6-0 Hull in their next game. Yes. Hull. The way we play currently suggests to me we will never, ever, beat a team 6-0. We'll score twice, maximum three, then sit back. Just let them play how we all know they can!

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    Eddie

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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