Neil Adams knew his time was up at Norwich City

Neil Adams has called time on his stint as Norwich City boss. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Image

Neil Adams has called time on his stint as Norwich City boss. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The timing was the only element of surprise in Neil Adams' managerial departure from Norwich City.

In a cut-throat business the long-serving Canaries' stalwart made a dignified exit. It was an honourable gesture befitting a man who genuinely cares for the club he has served for more than two decades and will potentially do so again, once he has a period to recover from the stress and strain that comes with the top job at Carrow Road.

Adams was still defiant in the darkness at Deepdale after the lights had dimmed on Norwich's brief FA Cup sojourn. He was busy protecting his players to the last, not that they deserved it for a woefully anaemic display that merely confirmed the suspicion they would rather be anywhere than a footballing backwater in Lancashire.

Norwich's former manager dismissed any suggestion there was a rotten attitude from many of those under his command as the League One hosts serenely brushed aside the Canaries.

He was at pains to share the collective responsibility, while acknowledging the buck stopped firmly with him. Now he has departed the scene, perhaps realising he was simply not the man for the herculean task of extracting a consistent seam of results from a squad which is routinely trumpeted as one of the best in the Championship.

Now there are no excuses. The manager who was supposedly too inexperienced, too nice, too raw has vacated the seat. Whether it is Mike Phelan or a fresh alternative the focus is firmly on those who carry the club's colours into battle.

City, barring a pre-festive spurt, have been a fading force since storming to the top of those early standings. Ipswich's stellar rise merely compounds the sense of drift and that will have cut Adams as deep as any supporter.

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His reign was light and shade. The tumult of smash and grab raids at home for the likes of unheralded Charlton and Reading interspersed with that glorious visit to Portman Road and the joyous scenes on the final whistle in Suffolk.

Adams was forced to apologise for failing to observe the customary post-match ritual of shaking Mick McCarthy's hand as he headed across the turf to celebrate with his players and a delighted travelling support. That was not a slight but a symptom of his passion for the Canaries and it was what endeared him to many before he opted to succumb to the gruelling nature of Championship combat.

His demeanour was markedly different when he trooped wearily into the media room at the City Ground to make sense of the late carnage that saw Norwich toss away a league win in the closing minutes through their own shortcomings. Adams looked like a man who had suffered a debilitating blow. Mark Robson paid the price in the aftermath before Phelan's arrival triggered a revival which came to a jarring halt over the past 10 days.

It is no sign of weakness to admit you have failed. It is a strength to concede defeat and leave the way clear for another manager to salvage a season which had spiralled into a prolonged descent. Few, if any, placed in the same situation as Adams last summer would have bypassed the opportunity to lead his football club. The 49-year-old should not be castigated if the early promise dissolved into a pit of under-achievement.

City's board now move centre stage again. Adams was seen as the antidote to the experienced, cautious Chris Hughton but neither policy delivered sustainable success.

It is imperative they make the right call this time around. Expect no long drawn out recruitment drive with the transfer clock ticking and the incoming boss needing time to tweak a squad which looks vulnerable from back to front. Nor do they have the luxury of a period of grace where results are secondary to positive signs of revival. Norwich are off the pace and it will take a sustained burst from whoever is at the helm to justify all the hype and the blue chip billing that accompanied Adams and his players on their return to the second tier.

It is now up to others to finish the job he started and would dearly have loved to complete.

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