Michael Bailey: Ignoring the relevance of reality is City’s biggest warning sign
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Reality – the blunt instrument that's left a sizable lump on the head of Norwich City fans since Saturday afternoon's Championship onslaught down on the south coast.
For the record, I apologise for my part in proceedings – notably having a week off for half-term. One shootout cup exit at Leeds (more on them in a bit) despite having 10 men for the entirety of extra-time, plus that 5-0 hammering at Brighton, and the compulsion to apologise is as strong as it no doubt was to boo on the full-time whistle at the Amex.
Don't worry, I won't do it again. Well, not until Christmas.
My search for context immediately followed – and here is what I stumbled across:
1) Ivo Pinto has failed to start just three league games for City this season through injury – and they have lost them all. In fact, the two away from home have finished 0-3 and 0-5. Get well soon Ivo;
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2) City's 5-0 defeat at Brighton was their worst second-tier loss since their 10 men went down by the same score at Stoke, five games into Peter Grant's reign back in October 2006;
3) The last time City suffered a heavier loss outside the top flight was the 7-1 League One humiliation by Colchester in August 2009;
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4) And the last time City lost by more that five in the second tier, was a 6-0 defeat at Crystal Palace way back in April 1968. All in all, that loss at Brighton was hideous stuff.
And let's be honest, the defeat at Birmingham was supposed to be a wake-up call. The late loss at Newcastle was the freak result. The trip-up against Preston something City needed to learn from.
Even for a side sitting fourth in the table that's still within striking distance of two points per game, there are too many question marks in that lot to simply brush over.
Which handily takes us on to Saturday afternoon.
'They represent the first major stepping stone in our path back. As we fell to our nadir, they stole from us. Even when in separate leagues, they bullied us and looked down at us with disdain.'
So wrote Leeds blogger Ben Mallis (pun intended?) – albeit with his focus being the EFL Cup tie last week. But the sentiments will have continued, almost certainly.
When Leeds get their second bite at the City cherry, it's irrelevant whether Garry Monk has changed his mind on how Norwich's season will pan out. It's irrelevant if anyone else thinks City have one of the strongest squads in the division.
It's all as irrelevant now as it was this time two seasons ago, when Neil Adams was desperately trying to get a tune out of his freshly relegated Championship side.
What won't be irrelevant is if it's the worst of City that awaits Leeds – from the passive football on the pitch, to the complacency in the stands.
Leeds' thirst to return to the big time looks like it could finally be married with a manager able to put a proper campaign together.
Brighton's hunger saw them tear City apart – yet the jugular has evaded the Canaries since August.
And that's the reality of the situation for Norwich City, for Alex Neil, for his players and ultimately for the City supporters.
If they can't match the hunger, they won't match the results and they won't be going anywhere come May. Over to you City.
• Just Saying…
• It says a lot about where Norwich City have found themselves this week, that the man may not even get on the pitch come Saturday – but if he does, it deserves to be celebrated: Wes Hoolahan's 300th appearance as a Canary.
There is a lot to be said for how good the Irishman can be to watch, for how committed he has been to the City cause as the club's currently longest-serving player.
Wes has done it all at Carrow Road and as City try to work out how to get back on track, he will be a key as anyone to making it happen. Therefore, here's hoping it's a fitting occasion – if 300 is up.
• Realisation time. Newcastle were the shortest title odds (9/4) I've ever seen before the season starts. With a +20 goal difference and 10-point buffer to seventh, they're already close to disappearing over the hill.