Smith grappling with uphill task in City survival bid

Dean Smith has found it tougher going at Norwich City after a bright start

Dean Smith has found it tougher going at Norwich City after a bright start - Credit: Denise Bradley/Archant

Dean Smith admits Norwich City’s Premier League salvage mission feels a bigger job now after injury, illness and Covid-related absences wiped out his early gains. 

The former Walsall, Brentford and Aston Villa chief has never been relegated as a coach, but heads to Crystal Palace on Tuesday bottom of the pile. 

Smith was unbeaten in his first three games but has lost the last four, without scoring a goal, culminating in a 5-0 Boxing Day mauling against Arsenal that marked a new low. 

“It is the first time I have to be honest when I have not been happy with their attitude or their application,” he said. “They have been spot on in that regard. They are a good, honest, hard working bunch of lads but they simply made too many mistakes.  

“It’s a bigger job, now, definitely but that is because when I came here we had a healthy squad. We had Mathias Normann, we had Milot Rashica, we had our captain, Grant Hanley, plus Andrew Omobamidele, so we have lost a healthy squad.

"We will do what we can to lift the players but I am also very keen to give them responsibility. I took responsibility for that first half against Villa, because we shouldn’t have played that game. 

“It doesn’t help losing good players, but I expect better decision-making. That was a big difference in the Arsenal game. They were better than us in that area.

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"The quality of their finishing was better, and what is tough for us in trying to turn it around is we have the same group of players who we have to recover and get ready for a game in less than 48 hours.” 

Smith and his assistant, Craig Shakespeare, will aim to draw on their vast experience to guide the Canaries out of a losing spell.  

“We spoke immediately after the (Arsenal) game in the coach’s room about drawing on the experience we have,” he said. “It is not about points totals from here. It is the next game, and treating those three points on offer in isolation. Then if we get them let’s see how it changes.  

“We know we need to be able to win games to stand any chance of clawing other teams in around us. I am genuinely not looking at the teams above us. My job has to be concentrating on us.

"But we certainly can’t have too many of those Arsenal performances.” 

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