Worthy's day of destiny

CHRIS WISE Nigel Worthington urged his detractors not to forget his side's bright start to the season as he prepared for one of the most important games of his managerial career.


Nigel Worthington urged his detractors not to forget his side's bright start to the season as he prepared for one of the most important games of his managerial career.

Norwich City's third longest serving boss of all-time goes into tomorrow's home clash with Burnley with his job firmly on the line after a dire 3-1 defeat at Plymouth which prompted club owners Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones to issue what amounted to a public warning on Monday afternoon.

Their strongly worded statement, which told Worthington and his players that they had two games to “rectify the situation”, has provided a tense back-drop to the live televised encounter, with the prospect of fans' demonstrations before and after the game adding even more spice to the occasion.

Worthington knows past achievements during his 279-match reign at Carrow Road, which leaves him behind just Ken Brown (367) and John Bond (340) in the club's hall of fame, will count for nothing if he fails to get the results required against Burnley tomorrow and at QPR in two weeks' time.

But as he prepared for a huge personal challenge he reminded supporters that his team had actually being doing rather well before the run of three defeats in four which has precipitated the biggest crisis of his managerial reign - and that they remained just two wins away from a place in the top two going into this weekend's fixtures.

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He feels some of his players got carried away with the publicity they were receiving after a 5-1 defeat over a 10-man Barnsley side which propelled them up to second place in the Championship table after five fixtures, and urged them to get back to basics in what is a surely a must-win game for the current coaching regime.

“For the whole group not to be at the races at Plymouth was majorly disappointing,” said the under-fire boss. “But, having said that, we are still just six points behind second place.

“We need to get back to the way we were. The nice thing from my point of view is that the group of players I have got performed well, worked very hard and got good results in the first month.

“Against Barnsley we then had an okay performance and an outstanding result and I think a lot of things were written and said which the players believed after that game. The mind plays silly tricks at times and I think we just got off the beaten track of where we were at.

“We forgot about the work ethic and thought we could just go out there and pass our way through teams. You can't do it that way. You have got to have the ugly side as well, which is hard work, to go with doing what we are good at, which is passing the ball.

“In the last two or three games we have got it the wrong way round, put the cart before the horse - and have not got the results.

“We have had a bad month, I know that. We lost against Coventry, Crystal Palace and Plymouth and at Southend we played very well for the first 70 minutes, stopped doing what we were good at doing and ended up with one point rather than three. We have to focus on getting back to where we were before those games. You have got to win all the individual battles before you can win the war.”

To remain in sixth place in the list of long-serving managers in England behind Dario Gradi, Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Sam Allardyce and Neil Warnock Worthington needs his players to pull out all the stops tomorrow - and he is fed up saying they will be fine if they replicate their form on the training fields of Colney.

“To be honest I am not bothered about the player's responses in training,” he said. “All I am interested about is their response in the game on Sunday, it's as simple as that. I said after the game last week that the training has been first class, the work ethic has been first class. But we haven't been seeing the performance level on the training ground at games. We have got to put that right - and we have had a chat about it.

“Training is your rehearsal for the big stage. And in the last couple of weeks we have left our performances on the training ground. We have got to perform on the big stage, it's as simple as that.”