Worthy thanks the true fans’

CHRIS LAKEY Nigel Worthington issued a firm statement of intent - as well as a back-handed swipe at some of his detractors yesterday - as the Canaries finished their season with a disappointing 2-1 home defeat by Wolves and a ninth-place Championship finish.


Nigel Worthington issued a firm statement of intent - as well as a back-handed swipe at some of his detractors yesterday - as the Canaries finished their season with a disappointing 2-1 home defeat by Wolves and a ninth-place Championship finish.

Having endured a season of frustration and under-achievement which culminated in fans calling for his head, Worthington came out fighting after joining his players for the traditional post-game lap of honour.

But while many expected the Canaries boss to be the target of the boo-boys, it turned out to be just the opposite, as the fans rose to salute the man who has endured the most difficult of his five seasons at the helm.

It was a reception Worthington clearly enjoyed - although his post-game comments will undoubtedly stir up another hornets' nest on the electronic highway which has been judge, jury and executioner this season.

“I thought the crowd was excellent,” he said. “On the lap after the game I thought the true supporters were there and showed that exceptionally well, and great credit to them.

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“They are the ones who are there through thick and thin. You would love to have it your own way all the time, but it's a game of football. It's like life; it's up and down, in and out.”

And while the Worthy Out brigade might be hoping for changes in the summer, there was no indication from Worthington that he was going anywhere.

“It's been a great challenge this year, one that I have relished, one that I have grown to, and it has made me more determined to try and get it spot on for next year,” he said.

Worthington was also quick to dismiss any suggestion that he might have opted out of the lap of honour.

“No, not at all,” he said. “There is a challenge there - I will stand up to the challenge. The supporters deserve that, they work hard for their money, they travel far and wide, they come every week.

“To see 18,000 season tickets sold for next season and there's 1500 on the waiting list - there must be something going right somewhere, because if you look in the Premiership there are a lot of empty seats. To see a full house at Carrow Road is very impressive.”

Worthington will make changes in the summer, some forced, some not: Simon Charlton and Darren Ward are definitely leaving, Jason Jarrett looks almost certain to go, and loan players Jonatan Johansson and Zesh Rehmann, who have almost fallen off the radar anyway, are going back to their parent clubs. On top of that the Paul Gallacher situation has yet to be resolved, with the talks still “on-going” as the Scottish keeper mulls over a contract offer - and the rumours over number one Robert Green won't stop until he either leaves Carrow Road or he starts on the first day of next season.

“There are two or three players leaving who are out of contract and there will certainly be players coming in,” said Worthington. “Thereafter with players leaving the club we will have to wait and see what happens.”

There are a few guarantees, though, including Gary Doherty - this year's Barry Butler Memorial Trophy winner as player of the season - and striker Robert Earnshaw.

It was Earnshaw who gave City a glimmer of hope yesterday as he clawed a goal back a minute after Wolves had gone two up, his eighth strike in 13 starts.

“He's at the very start of his career with Norwich City and part of the reason we brought him here in the first place is because he scores goals,” said Worthignton. “We know he can score goals at this level and he's proved that in his 13 games - eight in 13 starts - so he is delivering what he is capable of. He scores goals.”

But even Earnshaw couldn't save City from going down to their seventh home defeat of the season ending a six-game winning run at Carrow Road and brining a little cheer to fans who had expected so much, perhaps too much, from this season.

“It would have been nice to have finished in the play-offs, nice to get promotion - ifs and buts,” said Worthignton. “We deal with reality and the reality is if we had had as good a first half as second half you'd have certainly been in the running, plus the automatic promotion places but it was not to be.

“You look at all the aspects; the injuries we have had, people being at the club who wanted to leave the club in the transfer window period of time - that's unsettling as well, it all has to be taken into the scenario.”

City showed signs of what fans had been hoping to see more of all season, but in the end were undone by defensive frailties and good finishing - as well as a goalkeeper in good form.

“I thought it was a good game, I thought it was a very good performance. We worked hard and I thought we passed the ball probably as well today as we have for quite a while at home,” he said. “We just didn't get the rub of the green to get something from the game, but a lot of plusses.

“Our goalkeeper practically had nothing to do, Matt Murray has come in for his first game of the season and had a blinder. We have hit the post and overall there were a lot of good signs which I am very, very pleased with - disappointed that we have lost the game because it would have been nice to finish eighth or seventh, but you don't always get it the way you want.”