From dominant to desperate – the erratic enigma of Neil Adams’ reign as Norwich City manager
10:45 07 January 2015
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For such a short tenure, the highs were huge and the lows felt desperate – MICHAEL BAILEY digs into why it didn’t work out for Neil Adams as Norwich City manager…
Fist pumps at Brentford, accompanying chants of ‘We’ve got our Norwich back’ and ‘We’re going to win the league’ – to the body language witnessed at Deepdale, and cries weeks earlier of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’. Quite simply, Neil Adams’ reign as Norwich City manager was the most erratic many supporters will ever see at Carrow Road – and one not easily explained.
In many ways, Adams followed his brief: The Norwich City way and antidote to the previous 12 months. The attacking football and almost disregard for any counter-attacking consequences felt intoxicatingly good, because his players had the stomach for a fight.
Be it 2-0 down at Cardiff. Or 2-0 down at home to Birmingham. Or level with a handful of minutes to go at home to Blackburn. The examples are numerous.
But as the Championship figured out City’s modus operandi, the world changed.
Teams knew they could sit, invite on and wait. The longer they were in the game, the more likely they were to take something home.
City’s luck didn’t help – such as the odd refereeing decision in the home defeat to Charlton. But in reality, City’s problems started when luck was being used as a reason for stumbles. Sadly, that only smacked of an abdication of responsibility. The same that leads to defeat from a position of strength at Nottingham Forest, two tremendously poor cup exits at lower league opponents, and the curious incident of the league double by Reading.
It all seemed a little harsh on Adams that the Royals took such embittered distaste at his comments suggesting City fans would expect to beat them at Carrow Road.
But maybe more of an issue was declaring the consecutive home failures to Charlton and Rotherham as “freak results”. At the very point City needed to face up to the division they were playing in and what was going to be demanded of them for the several months to come, there should have been no place for fate to intervene. Still, as I said at the start, this was all as complicated as it was erratic.
City were butchered at Middlesbrough, mentally stuffed by Forest, but had recovered with Mike Phelan’s arrival. Both performances against Reading were abject – but may have always gone down as anomalies from a Royals side with their own issues. City’s stomach for a fight was certainly back in evidence at Derby. Twice.
There were few complaints of Adams as a coach at Colney. And certainly none of him as a man. If anything, maybe he was too liked by some of his charges – who ultimately could do little more than completely let him down at Deepdale.
• Check out part two of Monday’s Mustard News for Sport Extra – and our initial reaction to the news of Neil Adams’ resignation as Norwich City manager
During the opening 15 minutes of that game on Saturday, there was some atrocious body language displayed on the pitch and, as the game wore on, a collective lack of work, fight or appearance to care.
Many a City manager has been on the receiving end of that kind of display in a cup competition – but maybe this time, a few concerns from some senior players were enough to force the board’s hand.
Don’t forget, it’s a board that admitted it left its action too late last season and wasn’t about to contemplate making the same mistake again.
Likewise, this is a one-shot season. Success equals promotion. Failure equals anything else.
It makes Adams’ departure following an abject cup exit appear harsh – but the context of the season was always likely to magnify how the players were feeling about things going forward.
Adams is an extremely good man, who took a job he desperately wanted – one he seemed qualified to do, apart from the fact he hadn’t done it before. And that was in September, never mind the summer.
In the end, he simply couldn’t motivate enough of his players to the standard required for Championship consistency, on as many occasions as he needed to.
The sum of the parts was rarely exceeded – and in the end, he has taken the blame for it. What we now find out is whether there was really much chance of him preventing it.
• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey