It’s not a habit – it’s an addiction

The margin between success and failure is wafer thin; a week's a long time in football; and there's nowt as fickle as football fans. Yes, I know they're all boring clichés, but repeating tired old mantras seems appropriate at the moment as we revert to type and live our own version of Groundhog Day - at least as far as our away form is concerned.

The margin between success and failure is wafer thin; a week's a long time in football; and there's nowt as fickle as football fans.

Yes, I know they're all boring clichés, but repeating tired old mantras seems appropriate at the moment as we revert to type and live our own version of Groundhog Day - at least as far as our away form is concerned.

This time last week, most of us were happy with the great start to the season. It was no less than what we should have expected, mind, but it was certainly a huge improvement on last season's rubbish.

Two games later, however, and the wheels are in serious danger of falling off.


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It's not just the fact we didn't win either game this week - it's the performances and the excuses and the rumblings of discontent that are bubbling away under the surface that are causing the concern.

I don't know a single person who had a good word to say about the 3-0 defeat at Coventry last Saturday.

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To be fair to Nigel Worthington, it's all very well saying in hindsight that Darren Huckerby shouldn't have played with his groin strain, but if he'd been rested and it had later emerged that he'd wanted to play, you can imagine the message-board posters' comments aimed at Worthington . . .

However - and just when you all thought I was about to launch an all-out, staunch defence of our manager - I was surprised at Worthington's comments about the referee not protecting his players from Coventry's physical challenges.

If you were to write down a list of physical teams, any side managed by Micky Adams would be near the top of the list.

Worthington is forever telling us - and, presumably, telling his players as well - how important it is to be strong and get stuck in and keep up the workrate and all the other things, and you'd have thought he'd have prepared them for nothing less than they got at Coventry.

“You hope the officials help you out a bit, but today was a game where I didn't think they did,” he said afterwards.

But the ref can't have been that bad. Jason Shackell could have been sent off in the first few minutes for a professional foul, and that would have left us in real trouble. Worthington forgot to mention that bit.

Nevertheless, one defeat doesn't ruin a season, and Tuesday night's trip to Southend was the perfect chance to sort out the away form. Especially once we were 3-1 up.

But no. We finally manage to score in an away game - not once, not twice, but three times - and still we can't get three points. At Southend.

We played some good football at times, and I've no doubt we'd have won easily if we'd kept up the pressure right to the very end.

But once Southend got their second goal, there can't have been a single fan at the game or listening to the radio who was surprised when they got their equaliser, given the way we sat back and let them throw everything at us.

And while Worthington was quite rightly furious about the lack of leadership being shown on the pitch, he wasn't exactly doing his nut on the touchline as Southend piled forward in the closing stages.

Perhaps a pitchside rant would have done the trick rather than waiting until the players were back in the dressing room.

I'm no fan of the Gary Megson or Neil Warnock school of bawling out players just because you can, but Tuesday night was crying out for someone to be on the touchline, urging the players on and trying to get them to think about what they were doing rather than just knocking it long to Robert Earnshaw in the vain hope he might beat their big central defenders in the air.

Paul McVeigh got a pat on the back from Worthington when he was substituted - but I hope he got a rollicking in the dressing room. His attitude summed up the last 20 minutes - getting the ball by the corner flag and doing tricks rather than getting stuck in and helping to kill the game.

Our away record over the past few years has been dreadful (we've won six out of the past 46 league games), and poor performances on the road are becoming less of a habit and more of an addiction.

It simply has to get better - and if it doesn't, another season of mid-table obscurity beckons. At best.

t Lee Croft has already endeared himself to the Norwich fans with his performances on the pitch, and his off-the-field antics will also go down well with the supporters if he continues to wind up opposition fans in the way he did on Tuesday.

But a word of warning: we are already down to the bare bones of our squad, and if Jason Shackell had been sent off at Coventry last week, his suspension would have made things even worse.

So the last thing we needed was for Croft to get himself into hot water and pick up a ban for annoying the Southend crowd.

It was still funny, though.

t Adam Aiken is the EDP's senior business writer

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