It’s Craven Cottage again – only this time, without the Norwich City vultures
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It is basically three months since Norwich City's squad and management team rocked up at Craven Cottage for their FA Cup third round replay against Fulham – off the back of a routine 2-0 defeat in the Premier League at Everton.
What greeted the first team coach as it pulled up outside Puntey's famous cottage seems more fitting now than it did before kick-off that Tuesday night – a banner that simply said 'Hughton Out'.
Its presence was argued with, given it was pretty much the first thing the Canaries' representatives saw when arriving at the ground.
But after an insipid 3-0 defeat, the mood was ripe for a managerial change. Even for a manager in Chris Hughton who seemed to spend more than a year fire-fighting, that night marked a significant swing in the supporters' opinion – both inside Craven Cottage and outside.
Celtic boss Neil Lennon was also at the ground, doing some scouting – but that may be for its own column.
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From that point on, it felt like Hughton was only one home defeat away from the sack at Norwich City. That may be the gamble that costs the Canaries their Premier League status – we will have to see.
The point I've always tried to make is a managerial change has to come when the decision feels right, rather than waiting for a result to justify the decision.
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You could argue after City's Fulham failure, they had both.
While some City fans – and they are out there – would have liked Hughton to have been given the rest of the campaign to achieve the goals he mentioned in his League Managers' Association statement this week, most will have been wondering when Chris Hughton should have been dismissed, now that action has taken place.
It's a difficult question to answer – although a double substitution in the 89th minute while 2-1 down at Newcastle was of immense frustration at the time.
The fact it still sits so visibly in my memory probably says a lot too.
In many ways, given Norwich supporters at Carrow Road were accusing Hughton of not knowing what he was doing towards the end of last season, he did remarkably well to stay afloat for so long. When the fans make their feelings known to such an extent, the writing is on the wall – the only question is when.
And so City return to Craven Cottage this Saturday – so often their supporters' theatre of nightmares. Neil Adams will be the man leading the squad off the bus, almost certainly without a negative banner in sight. What there will be is thousands of City fans willing their side to the win they need to book another season of Premier League football.
If they can do what the Albion fans did at Carrow Road last weekend – effectively propel their side to victory – then that will be a victory for everyone with a bit of yellow in their heart.
And if your stuck lamenting the fact it's Fulham – and an in-form Fulham at that – where City are headed, then just remember this. The only reason they are in good form is because last weekend, they managed to win at Villa Park for the first time in 40 years.
City's cottage freeze may not be quite that long – but it's certainly due a melting.