Just where has it all gone wrong?

It's a few days short of a year ago that Peter Grant stood in the directors' box at Loftus Road, hands on the rail in front of him, eyes forward, surveying his new team.

By CHRIS LAKEY

It's a few days short of a year ago that Peter Grant stood in the directors' box at Loftus Road, hands on the rail in front of him, eyes forward, surveying his new team.

Grant's pose was an imperial one, meant as much for the cameras as for his new players and the travelling fans.

An hour and a half and one 3-3 draw later, Grant disappeared - with the media kept a very long arm's length away - not to be seen again until two days later when he was officially unveiled at a press conference.

“I know the expectations that are here and we all look forward to that challenge. Not only of getting Norwich back to the Premiership but also trying to keep them there,” he told the assembled members of the Fourth Estate.

It's a task that seems to be beyond City for another season after the early promise under the new manager proved to be nothing more than a false dawn.

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A year on, Grant is a man under pressure, with his team faltering in the lower reaches of the Championship and League One football a very real possibility. For the first time in a year, the fans voiced their disapproval after the home defeat by Sheffield Wednesday. It was loud and it was clear, although the direction of their protests is more diverse than it was when Nigel Worthington was finally given the last rights 10 games into the season.

With results going like this, each game could be his last: QPR away tonight is no different.

So where has it all started to unravel?

First of all, there is absolutely no argument that Grant has been unlucky with injuries - to a degree. Players have gone down according to position: if one defender suffered an injury then so would another. The same happened in midfield and up front. But in January he suffered arguably the biggest blow of all last when he lost striker Robert Earnshaw for more than three months. Any hopes of promotion via the play-offs were finally extinguished and another season in the Championship prompted the departures of Earnshaw and Dickson Etuhu.

Grant had been rebuilding his squad, but then had to find replacements for two existing cornerstones.

It's not an excuse, it's a fact.

On-loan midfielder Jimmy Smith suffered ankle ligament damage and has yet to kick a ball in anger for City while Mark Fotheringham suffered the same injury, just when he had started to fulfil the promise Grant had been telling us all about.

Darren Huckerby, Gary Doherty, Adam Drury, Luke Chadwick, Dion Dublin, Ian Murray and David Strihavka have all been felled by some injury or illness of some kind.

Again. Not an excuse, but fact.

Now let's look at the other side: Grant allowed Earnshaw to play at Tamworth, but later admitted it could have been a contributory factor which led to him suffering the groin injury in training which kept him out for so long.

“I knew the wee man was desperate to play and wanted to prove he wants to be here,” said Grant between game and injury.

Grant also allowed Doherty to play on at Manchester City, even though he had a groin strain, and then allowed him to start the following two league games. He's now out for three weeks because it simply worsened the problem. And it's not as if he didn't have cover: Dublin could have gone to centre back, with Strihavka, Brown or Chris Martin starting up front.

Murray was played when he was ill, Jamie Cureton played against Scunthorpe on Tuesday with a foot injury.

So it's hard to accept wholly the problems caused by injuries when some are clearly self-inflicted.

It's also had to believe that professional footballers like Luke Chadwick and Darel Russell are not match fit - Chadwick because of the period he spent sidelined last season and Russell because he didn't have a full pre-season. Admittedly Chadwick had a nasty injury, but he's had a fair time to recover. And Russell? Grant bought him in knowing exactly what he had done in the summer - it didn't come as a surprise. Ditto Brellier.

So what of Grant's tactics and selection?

Summer signings David Marshall and Jon Otsemobor look good value, Adam Drury is Mr Steady at left back. Gary Doherty has been criticised by fans: some are right, some are wrong, but some have found an easy bandwagon to jump on. Grant says Doherty's done well and, given the changes in central defence, it's hard to disagree. His partner, Jason Shackell, hasn't quite led by example and while Murray hasn't got the same physical presence, you feel he reads the game better. Certainly better than he did when he was played at left back, not long after saying it was his least favourite position. Especially when he's ill.

But Grant has suffered because he hasn't brought in another central defender - for whatever reason - to give him options and to give the others competition. The back four picks itself - which it shouldn't have to do through any other reason than good form. The lack of numbers means that Dion Dublin gets dragged back when there are problems, but while Dublin is excellent at the back it clearly deprives Grant of a good striker - and doesn't he just need one right now?

Up front Grant managed to secure the services of Cureton, but the Golden Boot winner has been hampered by a lack of good service. David Strihavka looks a little out of his depth while Chris Brown's efforts are admirable - but the fact is he has yet to score a goal in Norwich colours in 15 starts.

On the sidelines has been Chris Martin: a player of huge talent, huge promise and, according to some, huge attitude. Perfect. What more could you ask for? But Martin must be wondering what he's done wrong: Grant says 'yes, he's quality' but then leaves him on the bench - or worse. One turn, one shot, one upright in one minute against Scunthorpe and he had done enough to convince many that he deserves a place in the starting line-up.

But whoever plays there needs service - and that isn't coming from midfield. Russell is full of endeavour, Brellier hasn't adjusted to the pace, Chadwick doesn't impose his authority on games. Rossi Jarvis and Michael Spillane are, sadly, fairly raw, although they've shown enough in recent games to suggest they deserve a run.

Huckerby's injury is another that has taken its toll on his match fitness, says Grant, but the manager's “keep them on the back foot” attacking policy hadn't extended to playing two wingers - Huckerby and Croft - in the same starting team until last Tuesday. Some say that's odd - and some say playing Doherty in midfield is odd too.

The big question when City trot out is not just over the line-up, but what Grant is going to do with them - will it be intricate formations of 4-1-3-1-1 or will it be something simple, traditional, tried and tested and, as he said this week, something which allows players to do things “off the cuff”?

Perhaps the players themselves don't know - Grant has accused them of a lack of intelligence on more than one occasion, which would have done little to help the relationship between dressing room and manager's office a sweet one.

But between them they have failed to turn in a decent 90-minute performance this season: drawing 0-0 away to Preston was average, as the Lancashire side's form since has proved. Southampton was average, Hull horrible. First half against Cardiff was good, second half bad. Palace was a relief, Charlton a bruising defeat - and Wolves was an absolute shocker. It got a little better against Sheffield Wednesday and Scunthorpe, but that wasn't hard.

Frankly, the performances are simply reflected by the league position.

So how to solve it? Money is tight at Carrow Road, but Grant has been told there's enough to bring in loan players - and transfer dealings over the summer haven't exactly broken the bank. But still there no joy. Is Grant too picky? Until we know his targets it's a tough one to answer, but seeing QPR take one-time Grant target Rowan Vine this week touched a nerve. And Sheffield Wednesday look to have done well by bringing in the experienced pair Michael Johnson and Graham Kavanagh. But City have drawn a blank. Grant admits he's been the one to veto some loan moves - because he thinks the deal's too expensive. Noble, but surely a false economy.

Grant needs new blood, that's crystal clear. An honest pro who has no axe to grind with anyone, who doesn't do it for the money, just for the satisfaction of doing well. Someone like Dublin would suit - perhaps a few years younger, but who's arguing?

There is a school of thought that not all the players are fully behind Grant and it's easy to make a case for some players being less than enamoured with their manager. Only those in the inner sanctum of the dressing room no the truth behind that, and if there is any, Grant has only one option: to get rid of them. If not, they will eat away at the core of his squad. Then it's hello, League One.