Manager never completely accepted by fans
14 January ~ Rumblings of discontent are growing at Norwich City. Defeat to Everton on Saturday saw Chris Hughton's side slip to 15th in the table, as the Canaries offered feeble resistance at Goodison Park. Norwich are without a win since early December, and there is growing feeling among supporters that Hughton's time as manager should end. While Carrow Road is not yet a chorus of dissenting voices, the message boards and fan forums reveal a deep dissatisfaction with a manager who seems out of ideas and, some suggest, out of his depth.
In truth, Hughton has never been universally accepted by Norwich supporters. When he was appointed in June 2012 he received widespread support from the footballing world, but much of this was a backlash against the way he was treated by Newcastle. Many Norwich fans had the optimism of a fresh start to a new season, but there were those too who voiced concerns over Hughton's credentials to manage in the Premier League, especially at a club that would realistically be looking down rather than up the table.
Hughton guided Norwich to 11th place in the league last season, but that position belies how precarious their top-flight future was. Consecutive victories in their final two games hoisted them out of the mire, but until that point they had been far from secure. This season there is a strong sense among fans that if the club find themselves in similarly testing conditions then they will not be able to pull clear. A run-in of matches against three of the current top four, and Manchester United, is a daunting prospect for any team that have to pick up points to survive.
Those who still favour Hughton point to a sense of perspective. It was only in 2009 that Norwich were plumbing the depths of League One, thumped 7-1 by rivals Colchester United on the first day of the campaign. Back to back promotions under Paul Lambert boosted the Canaries to where they are now, and those in favour of Hughton and stability are wary of ill-thought out decisions causing disruption to the season.
Indecision can be crippling to a club in the Canaries' position – the plight of Wolves being an unnervingly recent example. Mick McCarthy was sacked after the January transfer window, leaving the new manager without the opportunity to bring in new players to mould his team. Wolves were duly relegated in shambolic circumstances.
Norwich's predicament is not as severe as that of Wolves, yet frustration over results and, more damningly, style of play have increased the pressure on Hughton. The FA Cup replay against Fulham tonight offers a respite from the drudgery of recent league form. Defeat may lighten the fixture list for Norwich but it would also place Hughton's position under even more strain. Owen Morgan