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David McNally, It's Over To You

David McNally, It's Over To You
It is often said that football fans are fickle and often with good reason. On paper this is the most prolonged period of Premier League success the club has ever had - we have just signed a couple of Dutch internationals and broken our transfer record twice, off the back of finishing 11th in the league. On paper Chris Hughton was (and still is to a certain extent) the standout choice to manage this club. Yet, the crowds` reaction to Saturday`s defeat to Villa put together with the mood overall amongst the fans paints a different picture. Despite his relative success on paper, the fans are unhappy, they`re arguably not fully behind Hughton anymore and as one local (pro-Hughton) journalist put it "when you`ve lost the fans, it`s only a matter of time."

So, are the fans simply being fickle - is it a case of "he`s just not Paul Lambert"? Or is there more to it? Is it time for a change?

Hughton`s approach is often cited as defensive or dull, but that is not the biggest issue, the biggest issues are the inflexibility and the tactical ineptness.

It goes right back to his first game in charge. Hope was high for the trip to Fulham back in August 2012, but a crushing 5-0 defeat in an unhappy hunting ground first set alarm bells ringing, followed shortly afterwards by a similarly abject (and perhaps flattering) 5-2 reverse at home to Liverpool. Hughton had the whole summer to prepare for that first month of football but as the season kicked off the side looked totally out of its depth and ready to lay down arms at the merest site of an opposing in-form striker.

A successful 10-game period aside, the rest of the season was a fairly forgettable affair of scrapped draws or embarrassingly one-sided defeats. There were some surprising highlights - a 4-3 win at Swansea and a late win against Everton being good examples, although if rumours are true, Chris was not a happy man with either of these performances.

In the winning run, Chris had found a way to compete in football matches with Wes playing behind Holt, but crucially if it didn`t work it was clear he had no idea what to do.

We all knew this Wes/Holt partnership worked, having seen it over the previous 3 seasons, but what we expected was for our football manager to know this when he joined (to know that Wes is not a left winger), and also to develop a plan B. However, he didn`t.

The run came to an end after Wigan at home in December 2012. In the 26 games since the Wigan win, we've got 23 points. In those 26 games, we have won only 5 times (Everton, Reading, West Brom, Man City and Southampton).

After the miserable trips to Hull and Spurs, many fans are questioning why they would ever travel to an away game again, after all we have only won twice away under Hughton, and we`ve only scored more than one goal on 2 occasions in the league.

After Saturday`s game, Jacob Steinberg in The Guardian wrote, "Norwich's fans will have looked at an exciting Villa side and wondered why their team, which has been strengthened by the arrivals of Redmond, Leroy Fer, Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel, was so predictable.

"Unfortunately for Hughton, he will always be compared unfavourably to Lambert, who is hellbent on playing attacking football, tactically innovative, brave with his substitutions and inventive in the transfer market. In short, he is everything that Hughton, a safe pair of hands but a naturally cautious manager, is not."

Another broadsheet journalist also added along the same lines, 'Chris Hughton, who has overseen a period of what appears to be inescapable relegation form since December. Norwich have won only five of their last 26 Premier League matches and picked up 23 points in that time, as the manager increasingly looks to be out of his depth. That Ricky van Wolfswinkel has only managed one shot on target in the last four matches highlights the Canaries' problem with providing effective service to the striker and that solving that particular puzzle remains Hughton's priority as doubts begin to grow.'

At the time of writing, and with Sunderland having disposed of Paulo Di Canio, City are fourth favourites to be relegated, with Hughton the second favourite to leave his post. Roberto Di-Matteo is the standout choice for Sunderland and thus will only be available for so long.

So, can the nice Mr Hughton with his predictable and inflexible tendencies shake things up and turn things around? I wouldn`t bet on it.

David McNally, over to you.

Date:Tuesday September 24 2013
Time: 8:45PM

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nor would I stay of execution
24/09/2013 22:36:00
With huge regret I largely agree. Hughton has so much that I like but infuriates in equal measure. I so wish to see Howson at the top of a diamond, to see RvW given service, I understand sometimes we may concede but to win football matches eventually a team has to score goals. Hughton isn't done yet and a reasonable run may well swing the crowd his way but if by the end of October and into November we aren't seeing better performances he has to go.
24/09/2013 22:40:00
Hanging onto Holt was Hughton's biggest misjudgement, he should have wielded the broom from the off when a clearly overweight Holt was proving ineffective in last pre-season. It would have sent out a powerful message to the rest - not least Wes who flatters to deceive at times. But clearly this was not an option politically as Holt could do no wrong. Trying to work with someone else's team was never going to be easy - especially one instilled with Lambert's gung-ho spirit. Hughton has wanted Hooper in there for months, and last night showed why. Give CH time to get his preferred team fit, functioning and available - and results will come. Remember this the same Hughton whose newly promoted (but underfunded) NUFC thrashed Villa 6-0 and Sunderland 5-1. His problem now is there's a whole core of fans out there who don't want results to come, they simply scent blood.
The Yellow Shark
25/09/2013 08:52:00
CH WILL NEVER CHANGE. I have wanted results to come since I was at wba away last December and they have not for 11 months and are unlikely to. Some fans may be happy to spend loads of money and time travelling away to watch rubbish but I am not one of those so am not going to arsenal. As for Hooper, if he was so desperate to get him on the pitch why did he bring on tettey at spuds instead of him when we needed goals.
25/09/2013 10:29:00
Results will change once the changes bed in, DG. Like you I was frustrated with the substitutions against Spuds, but if you read CH's comments after last night he has been desperately concerned about Hooper's lack of match fitness. Given the paucity of attacking options to hand if injuries strike, and how well (and quickly) Spuds were playing the ball on the day, he probably (sensibly) realised Hooper was some way off that particular game's pace and it could only end in (more) injury tears. He did the right thing, I suspect, although like you that was not my opinion at the time!

He also did the right thing in taking off young Redmond last Saturday, but the breaks didn't come as a result.

OK, I accept Hughton is frustratingly at times pragmatic, but when he gets the formula right (and he will) I have no doubt the doubters will be silenced. Unfortunately Stoke away is no easy fixture - and I fully accept your point that he needs to put points on the board soon or the pressures will become unbearable.

The Yellow Shark
25/09/2013 12:18:00
Victory last weekend would have put us 7 points, and it's not as if we were outplayed. A quick look at the table and we would be shoulder to shoulder with Stoke and Man U. Is it really that dark on the horizon???
26/09/2013 23:49:00
IF was a song by kojak and a dream by all football fans
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