Stick or twist for City?
With 17 games left of the 2013/14 season Norwich City find themselves in a relegation scrap. The good news is: so do nine other clubs, as just six points separate Crystal Palace at the bottom and Hull City in 10th. Beat Hull City, Hull Tigers, Hull City Tigers, or whatever they're called this week at Carrow Road on Saturday and the Canaries could go 12th. Lose, and they could enter the bottom three.
January 20th, 2014
Only the most optimistic City fan would expect anything from the last four fixtures – Liverpool at home, Manchester United away, Chelsea away and finally Arsenal at home. Any other team scrapping for Premier League survival will do well to match that tough a run-in. That leaves 13 games to get 20 more points and reach that magic 40-point mark.
So seven wins from 13 games should see Chris Hughton’s men safe or, as chief executive David McNally said this week, five wins and five draws. McNally also said he would prefer “death over relegation” so the board are well aware of the club’s position. Either way, City have won just five games from the first 21 and haven’t won in the last eight – so hitting 40 won’t be easy.
As well as that points tally to chase down, Hughton must be concerned with the growing number of fans showing their discontent – a manager has never turned the fans around once they’ve decided they want him out. On Tuesday night at Craven Cottage we saw the first ‘Hughton Out’ banner displayed and it was a professional job too – not your bog-standard handwritten effort on a piece of card but both printed and laminated. The fact that this was displayed at the players’ entrance BEFORE the team arrived for an important cup tie could not have helped matters as City were dumped out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle (albeit a replay).
As well as discontent there is also disinterest. In the week when Norwich City announced a price freeze on season ticket renewals for the 2014/15 campaign, supporters are starting to question parting with £500 for a repeat of the dross that was served up in 2013. Defeat to Hull could see those that still back Hughton start to join those that are both angry and no longer bothered with a club they once felt part of.
Hughton has not been helped by losing key members of his midfield for an extended period of time. After an impressive start to the season, Leroy Fer has seen midfield partner Jonny Howson fly past him both on the pitch and off it by leading the way for the Canaries’ Player of the Season award. But he hasn’t played for a month and Alex Tettey – the third of a midfield trio that were starting to click – hasn’t kicked a ball since October. Hopefully the loan deal bringing Newcastle’s Jonas Gutierrez to Carrow Road will help plug that gap in the middle.
City’s survival, however, won’t just be down to key players returning to the fold. Too many times this season the Canaries have gone a goal down and immediately waved the white flag. In fact, the majority of games on the road have seen Hughton’s players start the game seemingly set up for failure. A change of manager – especially this late into the final transfer window before the end of the season – may not stop the slide but I’m not sure continuing with Messrs Hughton, Calderwood and Trollope will either.
by WILL HUDSON