Hughton had lost support

12 April ~ Chris Hughton’s 22-month reign as Norwich City manager ended in acrimony but, the national media aside, there have been few dissenting voices. Hughton exceeded expectations in his first season as successor to Paul Lambert, steering the team to 11th despite a playing style that divided opinion early on. Last summer his brief was to strengthen the squad in readiness for a challenge for the top ten. To do it the board gave him £26 million to spend and, in short, he blew it.

Ricky van Wolfswinkel was the most high profile signing among seven. Few made the impact Hughton had hoped. Gary Hooper, Van Wolfswinkel and Johan Elmander were supposed to solve City’s goalscoring problems but have collectively contributed just seven goals. Only Martin Olsson and, in flashes, Leroy Fer have been deemed a success. In addition to the dearth of goals, the style of play has, for the most part, been safety first. For a Carrow Road crowd used to gung-ho style of Lambert, the stark contrast proved too much.

The side’s cautious, defence-minded ethos soon crumbled with heavy away defeats becoming all too regular. Relatively good home form kept Hughton in his job – until the West Brom game when the resentment that had simmered beneath the surface exploded with players and management confronted by angry fans. Evidently a post-match meeting between the manager and the club’s power brokers – majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones and chief executive David McNally – did little to suggest that Team Hughton had anything left to offer.

Neil Adams, the coach of City’s victorious 2013 FA Youth Cup-winning team, has been offered a five-game interview for the job. If he can muster four points from a fixture list that reads Fulham (a), Liverpool (h), Manchester Utd (a), Chelsea (a), Arsenal (h) then surely the job is his. Failure to do so will likely mean relegation and a return to coaching the youngsters. While the final four games look daunting, today’s trip to Craven Cottage is every bit as tricky. The Canaries have failed to win there since 1986 and have conceded 13 goals in three visits in the Premier League era. A win or a draw and the season is still alive. Gary Gowers

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