Paddy Davitt verdict: Norwich City's civil war must cease
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Russell Martin spoke again about fractures that must heal for Norwich City to move forward. It feels more like a chasm.
The captain’s post-Blackburn soundbites may have referenced the dressing room as much as the terraces but that lack of unity was sadly all too apparent once more at Carrow Road.
One might have thought the removal of Alex Neil would sate the appetite of the disaffected. Instead it was re-directed towards Alan Irvine, when he opted to sacrifice Alex Pritchard in the midst of Mitchell Dijks’ red card. Then squarely at the board, when Lucas Joao rose above Ryan Bennett to head Rovers in front.
Cameron Jerome’s 14th goal of the season salvaged a point and in all probability averted more acrimony at the final whistle.
True. they were spontaneous outbursts that receded quickly but they were sourced from the same sense of unrest that erupted against Huddersfield before Christmas, or Reading and Rotherham United thereafter. By the time we reached Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol City in recent days it had lapsed towards resignation.
The mood for too long now, bar the odd brief respite, has bordered on the mutinous. Whether it is the majority or not can be debated but there is a seam of Norwich’s fan base who feel at odds with the club they support.
Tony Mowbray tapped that vein when he spoke about the soaring expectation around the Canaries this season. Norwich retained the bulk of a Premier League squad to plot an instant return. Neil discovered to his cost on Friday City’s roster did not possess the guile or the cunning to bridge that gap from a Championship which is no respecter of reputations.
Norwich’s board sanctioned the Scot’s desire to keep his top flight performers. Nathan Redmond was afforded the opportunity to retain his Premier League status but Timm Klose an Robbie Brady stayed and the likes of Pritchard and Nelson Oliveira were added to swell the growing mood of optimism.
But that strategy came at a cost. City have carried too many passengers on large salaries who, it would appear on the evidence of a wretched campaign, were quite prepared to pocket the financial rewards while they remained on the periphery. That is hardly a conducive formula for a collective promotion push.
Neil barely disguised his frustration at not being able to shift his shadow men when he spoke at what became his farewell press call prior to Rovers’ visit. This summer power will reside firmly with the club in those contractual negotiations with those on the margins. Neil was denied a chance to ride out the storm to embark on his overhaul. The ability of Neil’s replacement to perform successful surgery will dictate where this club goes from here. Whether bridges can be recconstructed.
Norwich have done it before, they can do it again, but the ground appears far less fertile and the financial situation more challenging when you drop from a great height rather than plan your ascent from the depths of League One. City have chased the dream and savoured the glittering delights of the Premier League’s deep revenue streams, but it is time to sober up.
Neil referenced the need to add hunger and desire to this playing pool; accusations that hint at a lingering sense of entitlement which must be shed inside and for that matter outside the football club.
The unveiling of a new corporate structure later this week appears designed to equip Neil’s successor with the framework to enact such major change. But there is one constant underpinning this new philosophy. What happens on the pitch is where Norwich will be judged. That is why frustration and anger feels like a default setting at Carrow Road. That is why the stand-off feels deeper than the removal of Neil.
The dissent is just below the surface.
In isolation, a battling comeback with 10-men for the best part of 80 minutes should have been portrayed as a noble, character-affirming effort. Not another afternoon to endure and a fixture to fulfil while the excitment of a Championship promotion battle occurs elsewhere.
The chairman made it clear in his pre-match press briefing he wants City’s support to judge the board on deeds and actions from this point onwards.
Find the right manager and assist them in a cull of the playing staff this summer and those who routinely seek to berate may accept a genuine renewal is underway.