Failings, heads gone, jogging back, jogging on and the real pain that’s about to kick in – here’s to six things we learned from Norwich City’s hammering at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday
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In a season of sorrow, Norwich City put themselves out of their Championship play-off bid misery in style at Sheffield Wednesday. Michael Bailey brings his six talking points to the Premier League wake.
1 – The double bubble burst
It was supposed to go so well – so where has it all gone wrong? Allow me to bring you two key points.
Firstly the players and coaching staff who did it two years ago don't look capable of doing it again. They may be hungry, but they're clearly not hungry enough to match those that haven't tasted the Premier League recently.
Secondly, those players who have been brought in since 2015 don't have what it takes to win a Championship battle on a regular basis. Some weren't brought in to, but some were – or at least should have been.
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Dean Kiely took over attacking and defensive set-piece coaching duties years ago when he was at West Brom, and turned them from one of the worst sides into one of their division's best.
He's doing the same job here – yet the players' efforts at both and for some time, have been little short of embarrassing.
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2 – Heads they almost always lose
Of course, set-pieces all too often come down to headers – and boy has that been a weakness, as proven again on Saturday when three of Wednesday's five goals came in the air. No one has now conceded more this season than City's 18.
Add another five-star opposition performance against Norwich on the road, and only the side that have been doomed to League One almost all season have conceded more than City's 37.
In fact, City actually have the third worst defence in the Championship overall. It's damning.
I asked Alex Tettey on Friday what City could do differently to make sure Saturday wasn't the same story on the road. He said they had to avoid conceding first inside 20 minutes. Wednesday had five shots on target all game.
There are 11 games of the season remaining. City still haven't beaten any of the top nine and only one side, once, in the top 11.
3 – On loan to the Championship
Much has already said already about Mitchell Dijks. People have been getting very excited and just last week, he was even being touted as City's best ever loan signing.
No doubt Dijks has so much to offer. He has been superb going forward, robust enough to steamroller Championship rivals, clever enough to beat them with the ball.
But let's not revise history too much. He has also been incredibly lucky not to concede penalties in both of City's two most recent home matches.
As for Saturday at Hillsborough, the sight of him jogging back as Wednesday countered in the second half is sadly exactly what you would usually expect of a loan player when things get tough. It's why when they seem to really bust a gut, people are so quick to call them an overwhelming success.
Apparently Dijks' face lit up when he first absorbed Hillsborough's grandeur. It was downhill from there.
4 – Spare Cam your wrath
Cameron Jerome had two thankless tasks on Saturday.
There was the one on the pitch, where City were so poor with the ball and so asleep defensively that I could have played up front – although I wouldn't have scored.
And then there was the one after the full-time whistle, where he had a few minutes to wrestle with his emotions and the raw reactions of the dressing room, before having us prod him on exactly what that was supposed to be that Norwich City performed in front of their travelling fans.
Jerome is doing it all on his own at the moment – through bad luck, the club's bad recruitment decisions and a degree of bad man-management. Yet he's arguably done all anyone would have expected him to do at the start of the season.
What irritated him on Saturday was that many of those behind him aren't, and there is no doubt that clearly hurts.
5 – Outclassed and outpriced
City fans aren't getting the breaks at the moment. Many put fair effort into the campaign to cap Premier League tickets for away fans – and they were duly capped at £30 from this season.
The problem is City play in the Championship now and Wednesday charged them £36, making Saturday's game more than likely the most expensive away match in the country. At least they got to see six goals.
Wednesday's performance was outstanding: dynamic, energetic, slick, stylish, robust. They did everything a successful Championship side should do, with a little more on top.
It was everything City have looked so incapable of doing so often this season and under their current manager.
The Owls' squad dwarfed City's on the back of the programme. They've splashed the cash, as Jordan Rhodes proved. But don't forget, City's owners can't plead poverty given the only model they can physically undertake is the only one they will countenance.
6 – The real pain starts now
I was pitchside at the time but apparently the waiting media were warned Alex Neil would be delayed for his post-match presser – because the shouting in the visiting dressing room hadn't stopped.
Jerome's comments point to deep issues in that dressing room whether at Hillsborough, Carrow Road or Ashton Gate where we head on Tuesday. Their very nature suggest to me City may actually be incapable of offering a reaction against Bristol City.
Selecting younger players could give Alex Neil something of a free pass – as much as he'd get from fans now anyway.
Despite all that's happened it seems enough of the City board still has faith in Neil rebuilding City beyond May, although Jerome's backing to me only went so far.
If City fans are not happy with that, now is the time to make their point however they want to make it – because as a competition, this season is over. That's the painful bit.