Change of manager not the answer – yet

STEVE GEDGE It was exactly a year ago today that Norwich City sacked Nigel Worthington, and for 51 of the subsequent 52 weeks, it was impossible to imagine the club getting itself into the same sort of messy circumstances, resulting in possible repeat action any time soon.


It was exactly a year ago today that Norwich City sacked Nigel Worthington, and for 51 of the subsequent 52 weeks, it was impossible to imagine the club getting itself into the same sort of messy circumstances, resulting in possible repeat action any time soon.

But the Canaries are now on the upper reaches of the same sort of slippery slope that they plummeted down in September 2006 - which ended with the inevitable parting of the ways between club and manager.

And you suspect that were they to fail to win either of their next two games, then that's what is likely to happen again.

Saturday's performance was considerably better than the Wolves debacle, but there's no getting away from the fact that City were beaten at home by a side bottom of the table, who had lost six out of their previous seven league fixtures.

There was certainly more effort and commitment shown than at Molineux, but City fell away after the break and were unable to muster much in the way of even half-chances and Sheffield Wednesday's winner was on the cards long before Wade Small eventually found the net.

Most Read

Some fans' reaction might not have helped, but once they had fallen behind, the Canaries seemed totally bereft of inspiration in the closing stages.

No third substitution was forthcoming when you thought that at the very least they might have thrown caution to the wind and brought on Chris Martin.

Or possibly Darel Russell, like Lee Croft, an unexpected absentee from Saturday's starting line-up.

Or maybe even push Gary Doherty up front. Anything, in short, to try to test an Owls side, who, though well organised, were another in the “nothing special” bracket of clubs who dominate the Championship and are there to be beaten. Except on Saturday, they visibly grew in stature as they drew strength from being allowed the easiest of their now five successive wins over the Canaries.

In contrast, as far as the home side were concerned, there seemed precious little leadership displayed on or off the field, but don't just blame those on duty - the three players who needlessly got themselves suspended for Saturday should not escape the blame either. How much did City need Dion Dublin's calming presence in the closing stages against Sheffield Wednesday?

Norwich cannot afford to lose again tomorrow night. But, given a choice, I am sure it's the last fixture that they would choose.

It's not just that Scunthorpe are an astonishing sixth in the table, but their very identity.

It's one thing to, say, lose at home to West Bromwich, you could get over that, but the Iron are a team that Norwich haven't played for more than 40 years - and who, just over three years ago, came within five points of dropping into the Conference.

In short, they're another Colchester. There might not be any regional pride involved this time, but there will be just the same level of embarrassment if City fail to see off opposition that, frankly, most home fans would still classify as “small fry” despite their current lofty position.

Scunthorpe are plainly enjoying their swim among the bigger fish, and, having already drawn at Charlton, are hardly going to come here with any sense of fear.

In addition, Paul Hayes will want to enjoy a happier second return to Carrow Road, having had only a deflected consolation effort to remember from Barnsley's 5-1 drubbing last season.

Lose to Scunthorpe - or even draw and play badly - and it's hard to see where City would go next, apart from, that is, to QPR. Confidence would be even further through the floor than it is at the moment, and the coincidence of their manager's future again being played out in front of the Sky cameras would probably be too much to bear.

And given the standard of City's away league displays of late, you almost wonder would Peter Grant fall on his sword ahead of a visit to a ground where Norwich have all too often conceded goals for fun?

Rightly or wrongly, some people are beginning to sense that were there to be another change at the top, some very different groundwork is already being laid following previous episodes when the club have been accused of delaying the inevitable and/or getting too close to managers. The post-Wolves comments of Neil Doncaster have been analysed and, in the absence of any firm knowledge of the make-up of managerial contract small print regarding pay-offs, there has been speculation about whether the money saved from not employing a replacement for Martin Hunter and the apparent disappearance of transfer funds for permanent signings has resulted in the creation of a contingency account to pay for the costs of a change of manager.

All of the above would be rendered instantly academic, of course, were City to take at least four points off Scunthorpe and QPR.

But if they don't, you can see an increasing number of people calling for a change.

But would that solve anything? In the past, yes, but now? Well, I'm not so sure.

Given that post-parachute finances at Carrow Road are tighter, get rid of the current manager, and his replacement - and that's ignoring the thorny question of who a struggling club would be able to appoint anyway - isn't going to have much in the way of transfer funds to play with.

And if the manager who signs a clutch of new players can't get the most out of them, would his successor, who probably wouldn't want half of them in any case, be able to do any better?

Past incoming managers might have been able to generate fresh funds by selling the star name of the moment, but who of the current City squad would realise any kind of big fee?

No, poor as the recent league games have been, it's too soon for a change - short of the next two games resulting in heavy defeats. Less than a point a game is a cause for concern in January, but not in the first week of October.

Expectations are too high in some circles and it'd take more than merely changing the manager to suddenly transform the Canaries into genuine promotion, or even play-off, contenders.

I reckon Peter Grant has another month to turn things around.

If City's struggles continue throughout October, and Ipswich - current away league record seven games without a victory - were to come to Carrow Road on November 4 and win, I cannot see any way he could then survive.