Canaries fans turning on Chris Hughton
12 May ~ A friend described the home crowd's reaction to Villa's 90th-minute winner at Carrow Road last weekend as "the sound a frog makes when you step on it". Chris Hughton has told the local press that he is suffering "all the torments" and "sleepless nights" as Norwich edge for the marathon's finishing line inside a 120lb antique diving suit. Whether Hughton's waking up to the haunting sound of that frog or simply shellshocked by the importance of Norwich's home match with West Brom today, he hasn't faced a managerial challenge this big.
The Premier League relegation battle has seen the terror spread across a clutch of teams, with the Champions League dogfight also directly affecting the teams fearing the drop – Chelsea's draw with Spurs kept them focused against Villa and they ended up using players they probably didn't want to, given the Europa League final on Wednesday, in their hard-fought 2-1 win. Villa may now need something against Wigan on the final day, depending on how the FA Cup-winners get on against Arsenal on Tuesday. Apply the dynamic of Arsenal and Spurs and add to that the "deckchair effect" of the title winners, runners-up and mid-table teams with nothing to play for and it's getting hard to breathe down there.
Wigan losing to Swansea last week calmed the nerves at Carrow Road and for all the ramifications of what can happen between now and next weekend, Hughton knows that a win against West Brom today should secure City's safety. It has been asked whether Hughton's tactics are negative or if he got it just about right for what is a comparatively low-cost, short-on-quality team. After all the cavalier, big-spending QPR were put to bed some time ago. The boos aimed at Hughton during a decent performance but desperately poor result against Villa suggest that a growing number of fans are firmly in the "negative" camp. They want two strikers to start.
Goals have been a major issue for Hughton. Steve Morison and his Leeds replacement Luciano Becchio have hardly featured, on-loan Spurs youngster Harry Kane didn't make the grade, Simeon Jackson has rarely removed the bib and Grant Holt has failed to recapture the form of last year, with a lowly six goals. On-loan Kei Kamara – who has returned to Kansas – lifted the club for a while after joining in the January transfer window but playing out wide, as the lone striker or as a sub, he fell some way short of messianic.
One proven goalscorer who will be paying particular interest is the £8.5 million capture from Sporting Lisbon, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, who is due to join the club on July 1. He might be dreaming of Old Trafford while googling "Bournemouth". Andrew Woods