Opinion: Never mind the Norwich City manager, what about the players?

Josh Murphy of Norwich and Martin Demichelis of Man City in action during the Barclays Premier League match at the Etihad...

Josh Murphy of Norwich and Martin Demichelis of Man City in action during the Barclays Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

It was City's worse defeat in almost 75 years, but as the goals went in it wasn't the prospect of a new club record loss that worried me.

The eight-goal margin in the 10-2 hammering at Swindon in 1908 could have been matched or surpassed, and I could have lived with that, but the key factor is that Ipswich's record of losing 9-0 at Old Trafford remains unchallenged today.

Had we had conceded another couple of goals at the Etihad Stadium – and I have no idea how we didn't – I cannot believe that David McNally would not have been forced into some facesaving action on the back of such a local PR disaster.

Relieving Ipswich of one of their Premier League claims to fame would have been an impossible - never mind bitter - pill for the manager's most staunch backers to swallow.

As it is Chris Hughton will know that he is now only one bad result away from the sack in the eyes of an increasing number.

The Canaries could redeem themselves by beating West Ham convincingly this Saturday, but lose to Crystal Palace three weeks later and I'm sure that would still be that. (And given that we've won only one of our last six meetings with them, it's not exactly an unlikely scenario.)

It's one thing to 'do a Charlton' and bounce straight back after one season in the top flight. But after three?

Most Read

You suspect that were the Canaries to kick off the 2014/15 season next August in the Sky Bet Championship it would come as an enormous culture shock on and off the field.

There would be no guarantee they'd come straight back – consequently it's impossible to believe that they wouldn't do anything to risk their top-flight status and if that involved pulling a trigger uncharacteristically early, then so be it.

It's interesting that there was no 'improve or else'-type statement coming out of Carrow Road yesterday along the lines as the one which followed defeat at Plymouth in September 2006.

Neither was there anything that could in any way be remotely construed as a vote of confidence.

All of which suggests that the Carrow Road hierachy aim to give the manager more time - despite what a steadily increasing number of supporters might want.

The board will be mindful of what happened at Wolves after the departure of Mick McCarthy.

Now, unlike the team, for all I know they may be putting together a plan B in the event of things going wrong.

But is the alternative – in a Terry Connor fashion – to see Neil Adams placed in interim charge for an increasing number of games, with the end result being the Barrys of this world ringing up Canary Call in a real role-reversal to brand him stupid?

No, at the moment three words spring to mind: 'dead', 'man' and 'walking'. On Saturday's showing would you back this City line-up to come out on top in a must-win fixture?

It starts this Saturday. An under-pressure Team Hughton must fashion a win against a decent side with something to actually play for – a feat not achieved since the defeat of Everton in February.

Not that everything can solely be laid at the feet of the managerial team.

Saturday saw one of the most pedestrian performances put together by a team in yellow and green since… the final days of Bryan Hamilton's management, possibly.

There's too many people who will talk the talk and pick up million-pound contracts but do anything but walk the walk when it matters, safe in the knowledge that clubs can always sack a manager but it just won't happen to a player unless they do something on a par with being given a prison sentence. As much as you can cite offsides or deflections, the fact is that Manchester City did not have to work at all for their victory in a match, let's not forget, which was not their most demanding assignment of the week, given that they're about to face CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.

We just never made life difficult for them and we were waving the white flag from the moment Manchester City won their first corner in the opening seconds.

Usually when you find yourself 4-0 down at the break you shut up shop in the second half.

Even against Colchester, a five-goal interval deficit only worsened by a margin of one.

And looking further back there were 4-0 first halves at Luton and Preston which ended up finishing 4-2 and 4-0 after major damage-limitation exercises.

But on Saturday the Canaries were so outclassed that this was never a possibility.

Our only hope was that Manchester City would prove to be as wasteful in front of goal as Tottenham were seven weeks earlier. Some hope.

Team Hughton should ultimately survive this week because it's not as if Saturday was the only recent occasion that the Canaries have been hammered by Manchester City. But the likes of West Ham, Newcastle and Crystal Palace are different.

These are the sort of teams you need to be taking points off in the everyone-can-beat-everyone-else world of the Premier League.

Between now and New Year's Day only two of City's 11 fixtures are against teams in the current top eight.

This is when you should be able to make up for humiliations such as Saturday's.

But the suspicion is now growing that our only game plan against the big teams is to defend, and frankly we can't do that.

In which case there is an Ipswich Town 'achievement' in the Premier League that we may need to match: their run of 11 games without a win at the end of the 93/94 season which would have been enough to send them down, but for Sheffield United conceding an injury-time goal at Chelsea.


And so another City manager prepares for a high-noon date on Sky, well five-and-a-half hours late, but you get the general idea.

Because Saturday's West Ham game is going to be just like the home date with Burnley in 2006 and 2007's trip to QPR.

On each of those occasions the Canaris wilted under the pressure. Will this time be any different – it's hard to tell.

If City score first, fine, but an early goal for West Ham – a team who appear to be playing without a recognised centre-forward – and you sense that things are really in danger of kicking off.

There's nothing like a televised match for being able to get your feelings across.

Had the City board of 2009 not panicked about being able to sell season tickets, losing to Charlton in the FA Cup at a half-empty Carrow Road would have gone largely unnoticed on the national stage.

If the Canaries fail as badly again – and remember they're playing a side who have been hard to beat of late and have recorded three straight clean sheets – there will be no hiding place. It won't need to come to post-match demonstrations outside the City Stand.


Hull continue to be the unlikely form side who are one of the root causes of the Canaries' current problems.

Ignoring our deserved defeat at the KC Stadium, a glance at the rest of their results is a sequence of points collecting of which we can only dream at the moment: Chelsea (a) lost; Manchester City (a) lost; Cardiff (h) drew; Newcastle (a) won; West Ham (h) won; Aston Villa (h) drew; Everton (a) lost; Tottenham (a) lost; Sunderland (h) won.

Now take away the perhaps unexpected points against Newcastle, West Ham and Aston Villa – all matches you would have expected them to have lost beforehand – and imagine they might have scraped a draw against an 11-man Sunderland and they would be third bottom of the table with five points from 10 games.

And while the Canaries' form would still be below pre-season expectations, at least there would be three struggling sides at which to look and console yourself: 'It could be worse, we could be ….'

However bad City might be at the moment we still look a good deal better than Crystal Palace, who look completely out of their depth and an attractive proposition only to someone who 'needs' rather than 'wants' a job and doesn't mind an almost-certain relegation staining their CV.

And then there's Sunderland, who might, as a club, seem more at home in the Premier League but appear to be beset by all manner of problems on the playing side. As long as these two carry on being completely incompetent we have a chance.