Strained relations at Norwich City are nothing new
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After the anger had subsided all that was left at Carrow Road was the acrimony.
Sadly we have been here before. Disgruntled supporters one side of the divide, directors, players and management the other; fractures and divisions in the gaps vacated by unity and a common sense of purpose.
The ugly atmosphere at the final whistle following Reading's Championship victory was reminiscent of West Brom's win towards the end of a failed Premier League campaign that claimed Chris Hughton within hours.
Neil Adams' summer appointment was meant to break the cycle. The elevation of a hugely popular and respected coach to frontline duty and a support network around him in the creation of a football executive board was portrayed as the way forward. But we are back there again; seemingly stumbling towards a dead end where only change will sate the appetite of a growing constituency who see a promotion bid stuck in reverse.
Someone must take responsibility and they must take it now. Much of the post-match fall-out inevitably demanded City's board show leadership when there is precious little emanating from either the dugout or the pitch.
Norwich's surrender of yet another position of promise provided by Gary Hooper's early strike marked a nadir even by the Canaries' recent standards. It was a stunning capitulation which illustrated the fragility of the collective mindset and the total lack of confidence within the home dressing room.
City were undone by a 19-year-old making only the second league start of his professional career. A fledgling central defender who not once but twice profited from dire decision-making in a backline which has exuded distress signals for weeks.
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There is far too much of the victim complex around this Norwich City squad; a fatalism that sees them contrive to squander leads and winning positions with depressing regularity. Against Leeds earlier this season they were in front for four minutes. Against the Royals it was four minutes again just a week on from being pegged back by Brighton. Worse was the muted response from the hosts in the second half.
Norwich produced isolated flurries of intent as Reading comfortably dug in defensively. Josh Murphy will know he should have notched in stoppage time, so too Hooper when he choked a shot at Adam Federici, while Adams was convinced City deserved a penalty for Michael Hector's hand ball. But that was a sparse return in perilous circumstances.
City's new first team coach, Mike Phelan, must now realise the scale of the task. It is not just technical flaws, it is the lack of belief that sees Norwich picked off with embarrassing ease.
On this occasion counter-attacking forays deferred to amateurish defending at two identical set-pieces. Norwich's rearguard may have been left exposed too often against the Seagulls, but there was no mitigation this time as Jake Cooper towered above Michael Turner at the far post before anticipating the trajectory of Jordan Obita's corner far better than John Ruddy. Norwich's last line of defence increasingly resembles the nervy performer from the very outset of his City career, when he struggled to fill the considerable gloves of Fraser Forster, than the assured operator who deserved to go the World Cup.
Phelan spoke with a calm, measured authority when he was officially unveiled ahead of the Royals' visit. You would expect nothing less from a coach who worked under Sir Alex Ferguson. This pearl of wisdom stands out in the wreckage of Norwich's latest weak offering.
'It is down to the players, the quality and determination of those players determines what direction you take as a coach and a manager,' he said at Colney, last Thursday. 'Of course there are certain things you can influence and I can bring experience to what is already here, but there is no secret to it.'
Adams' future is in the hands of those players. They decide whether he is the right man for the job. The outpouring from the terraces or even the verdict of the powerbrokers above merely reflects events shaped on the training pitch, in the dressing room or on a match day.
City's board, by their own admission, waited too long to dispense with Hughton. You can be assured there will be no sentimentality shown towards Adams, despite his long-standing association. The financial imperative and the stated aim, repeated at last week's annual meeting, to return to the Premier League at the earliest opportunity ensures there can be no drift. No prolonged waiting game.
Norwich are in a massive rut. Change is needed but that change must be on the pitch. The removal of Adams by itself will not address defensive calamities or fitful attacking urges. Phelan has been brought in for a purpose. It is reasonable to expect a period of grace to see if the experiment can spark. But time is a precious commodity with each passing failure compounded further by the upward mobility of their bitter rivals across the border.
Norwich are undeniably better than the slim rations served up in recent months but if they do not deliver soon Adams will be dismissed. He knows that better than anyone.