Norwich City’s dismal away form continued on Wednesday night as they were heavily defeated 3-0 by promotion hopefuls Huddersfield Town at The John Smith’s Stadium. After a relatively solid opening hour, City produced their standard weekly collapse as a string of defensive errors saw us concede 3 goals in the space of 7 minutes.
The most painful thing about the defeat, and the manner of the defeat, was that it was all so predictable. We have seen it so, so many times before.
Our first half display was by no means impressive but we didn’t concede (hooray) and, whilst we offered very little going forward, Huddersfield’s wide array of attacking talents were kept relatively quiet. Moving into the second half, the opening quarter of an hour saw City at their strongest as the likes of Alex Pritchard and Yanic Wildschut began to get some joy in the final third and suddenly, albeit for a very brief period, Huddersfield were struggling to get out of their half. As in the opening twenty minutes at Villa Park on Saturday, City were visibly growing in confidence and the possibility of snatching an unlikely victory suddenly appeared more realistic.
Unfortunately, when you have a four man defence with the combined speed inferior to that of a wheel-less traction engine then you are never going to get very far. As soon as we began to take the game to Huddersfield we were immediately at our most vulnerable and it is no surprise that within minutes of enjoying our strongest spell in the game we had conceded. Even less of a surprise was that Ryan Bennett was the man culpable and, even less, was the fact that we capitulated and conceded twice more in the 6 minutes that followed.
It is one thing losing – over the past 6 months Norwich fans have become more than accustomed to the taste of defeat. To simply roll over in such a gutless fashion, however, is unforgivable. It is an insult to the loyal City fans who made the 200 mile trek up to West Yorkshire to witness it.
In the aftermath of the defeat, I saw one fan claim that this is the worst Norwich squad he has seen in his 50 years of supporting the club. In terms of individual talent, this is a huge overreaction. In times as dire as these it is easy to forget that we have been far, far worse. Let’s not forget that in the 2008/9 season Lee Croft won Player of the Season. Lee Croft, perhaps the least technically gifted winger I have ever seen in a City shirt, player of the season. If that doesn’t tell you everything about just how awful our side was that year then nothing will.
In terms of cost in relation to performance, in terms of the lack of fight, will or any semblance of pride to wear the canary yellow, however, you would be hard pressed to find a squad worse.
It has got to the stage now where I could count on one hand the number of senior players that I would even be vaguely upset to see depart in the summer: Alex Pritchard, Nelson Oliveira, Jonny Howson, Ivo Pinto and Cameron Jerome. Beyond that, the feeling is apathy. Our squad is rotten to the core, brimming with ageing, demotivated and gutless players. This was obvious to everyone apart from Alex Neil and the City board in the summer and we are currently paying the price for their negligence. The more players that leave, the better. The club is ridden with negativity – something which is carried largely by the players – and if we are to have any chance of moving forward then we need to be rid of all of this. This involves getting rid of every player who has been contaminated.
For the past five years we have been clinging on with our fingernails to the cliff of Paul Lambert’s success. We have now lost our grip and are crashing down the cliff-face at an alarming rate. We have no other option than to start all over again. Blood the youth, bring in players that see playing for Norwich City as an honour rather than a mere job. Recruit players from below rather than above.
There is going to be no quick fix. Last summer was our one and only chance for that, an opportunity to paper over the growing cracks and bounce-back at the first opportunity. Poor recruitment and poor management spurned that chance.
We now have no other option than to rebuild and I am glad that the newly-appointed Sporting Director Stuart Webber is going to be the man in charge of this. He has a huge, huge job on his hands and if the level of squad turnover this summer is anything near to what I expect then it could well be a good few years before we can even contemplate competing for promotion again. We will have to be patient.
Mr Webber, all we ask is that you build a squad that we can believe in once more. A squad that we can genuinely be proud of. We haven’t had this for some time and it hurts more than you can imagine.
I wish you all the luck in the world.