Paddy Davitt: Shock treatment is required for Norwich City but who will administer it?
- Credit: PA
Collective strength may have catapulted Norwich City into the Premier League but they need a hero or two to emerge now.
Much as the connotations of true heroism become blurred when you consider this is about 22 or so elite athletes kicking a ball around on a patch of grass – rather than, say, life or death on the battlefield – Norwich crave inspiration.
This is less about Alex Neil now or his coaches and how meticulously they plan to counter-act what Arsenal, Manchester United, Watford and Everton may offer over the fraught run-in.
It is really about those he entrusts rising to the challenge.
Neil may be able to cajole from the sidelines or inside the dressing room, but Russell Martin and the rest hardly need motivation or stirring speeches; this is about their livelihoods as much as the supporters' passion.
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It is not even about pressure.
They have played under pressure since they were young men striving to make a career as a professional, trying to survive the culls and the cut-throat nature of academy selection. They are among a select few who have reached the pinnacle from millions of hopefuls. Clearly they possess that inner drive and desire to maximise whatever talent they were bestowed with.
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Nor is it even about character.
Those who have seen this before in Norwich colours, who have endured the pain of relegation, like Martin, like John Ruddy or Wes Hoolahan, Jonny Howson and Seb Bassong, must carry that stain on their careers.
Yet the same players were key actors in a swift revival, cornerstones of a squad moulded initially by Neil Adams and dragged to promotion by Neil.
Given City slipped back into the bottom three last weekend, after Sunderland ground out a goalless draw against Arsenal and Newcastle roused themselves at Liverpool to cut the gap, this is going to take something special from here.
The tried and tested will not do. One or more of those under Neil's command must embrace the perilous nature of Norwich's plight and alter the path of a season that started with so much promise, but is careering in the opposite direction.
Whether it is Ruddy manfully producing the type of display that thwarted Liverpool at Anfield in 2011.
Whether it is Howson, unleashing another rocket to sit alongside the one that arced beyond Ben Foster in 2013, when Norwich effectively secured their Premier League status. Whether it is Hoolahan making the difference, just as he did last season in that epic play-off semi-final, second leg at Carrow Road, to pile more misery on Ipswich Town.
Or whether it is Bassong, sticking out his chest and proving he is still the defender who enticed Tottenham to part with a reported £8m to bring him south from Newcastle.
Timm Klose's untimely knee injury has again thrust the spotlight on Norwich's much-maligned central defence. Neither Bassong nor Ryan Bennett will care to dwell on the errors and uncertainty that underpinned a damaging defeat to the Black Cats.
Bassong's Norwich career is in grave danger of being remembered for the fall-outs and fallow periods than the class and undoubted quality he routinely displayed in his debut season, one that ended in survival for the Canaries and the player-of-the-year for their former talisman.
The 29-year-old may well owe his latest return to Klose's absence, but the Cameroon international can still be a key figure.
The Bassong of his first season at Carrow Road gives Norwich a fighting chance. The Bassong of Sunderland seals their fate, because it would be symptomatic of a set of players unable to change the depressing script.
The alternative is Norwich City exit the top flight with a whimper.