No more Mr Nice Guy?
For Norwich City fans, the number seven is one that few can forget.
November 4th, 2013
Losing 7-1 at Blackburn in October 1992 was followed by finishing third in the Premiership. Losing 7-1 on the opening day of the League One campaign in 2009 led to the rollercoaster ride provided by Paul Lambert that included two promotions and Premier League stability. On Saturday that number seven popped up again – in the goals against column, as Chris Hughton’s men did little more than put on a football shirt at the Etihad.
If the pressure wasn’t on before this game, it certainly is now. Nobody expected the Canaries to return from Manchester with anything, but the fans did at least hope the players would put a shift in. All the pre-match talk surrounded Joe Hart being dropped in the Manchester City goal – as it turns out the home side could have played rush goalie; such was the lack of threat upfront from the visitors. The games that do matter are those at Carrow Road that City – as an established top flight side – should treat as home bankers. Before the visit of Cardiff both they and upcoming fixtures against West Ham and Crystal Palace should be seen as games to get City back up the table – at least seven points from nine. Despite 30 shots towards David Marshall’s goal, all the home side got from Cardiff was a point in a 0-0 draw. If Hughton wants to keep his job then he has to beat West Ham in front of the Sky TV cameras on Saturday. A repeat of the abject performance at the Etihad will not see the players getting off so lightly in front of a Carrow Road crowd.
The problem is, how do you sack the nicest man in football? Newcastle’s owners have yet to be forgiven by their fans after they gave Hughton the boot – although, admittedly, those in charge at St James’ have bigger problems on their hands right now. Even Lord Sugar – a fan of firing people – tweeted on Saturday as the goals flew in “Oh dear 5-0 to Man City. Poor Chris Hughton. Nice fellow, deserves better support from his players.” But Norwich City have learned the hard way in recent years that being nice doesn’t get you anywhere in football other than sliding down the divisions. But if Hughton were to exit then who replaces him? Presumably this is an occasion where chief executive David McNally earns his impressive salary.
The City management team have suffered from injuries to key players in the last week. Record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel is out with a toe injury; Robert Snodgrass received a knockout blow at Old Trafford; England under-21s star Nathan Redmond has a hip problem and, having just discovered his best formation in midfield – Alex Tettey, Leroy Fer and Jonny Howson – Hughton has now lost Tettey until the New Year. But injuries can’t excuse a record that includes just two wins from ten games this season, and just six wins this year.
Norwich City fans may be divided over Hughton but we are all united in our love for the Canaries so if a decision is to be made then it needs to be the right one and not a knee-jerk reaction. If we must lose our manager then let’s not lose our heads as well.