Though Fulham and Cardiff City had been tipped for relegation throughout the season, Norwich City had looked like one of those clubs that might just garner enough points. Ultimately, though, they suffered the same sorry fate as the Bluebirds and the Cottagers.
Everybody knew that they had a tougher than tough final four games, which saw them face Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, but their remained a general belief inside the club and outside of it, that they would have ensured their safety before their final almighty test.
It was not to be though, and with 5 games to go, Norwich prepared to face Fulham, in what was the biggest relegation six-pointer of the season. Both clubs needed the points, but City were particularly desperate for them due to the big teams that they had yet to face. For some strange and foolish reason, the Norwich board felt that during the week leading up to the game at Craven Cottage, the best move was to sack then manager, Chris Houghton.
Houghton had endured a miserable season, and fans had been calling for his head from before Christmas, but the powers that be decided to act very, very late in the day. Houghton was shown the door, and unproven youth team coach, Neil Adams was invited to step up to the role. A former City player, the board had probably hoped that his appointment would please the romantic Norwich fan.
There nothing pleasing or romantic in his failure though, as the Canaries slumped to 1 point from the remaining 15, and lost the crucial away game at Fulham. At no point did the fans blame Adams for the results, who had clearly tried to make the best of a horrible situation. Now though, the finger of blame wasn’t even particularly pointed at Chris Houghton, it was quickly and correctly thrust at David Mcnally, Delia Smith, and the club’s board of directors. They had quite clearly got this one wrong!
Norwich are a proud club who value stability and progress. After 2 seasons in the Premier League, once under previous manager Paul Lambert and then under Houghton, they looked to be achieving both. However, last season the green and yellow unravelled magnificently.
In the opening weeks, Houghton’s negative style was beginning to irk some of the fans, in the same way that Allardyce was doing at West Ham. In the lower leagues, Norwich had been famed for their free-flowing football, but that looked to have dried up completely. Houghton wasn’t helped by the massive disappointments that were his strikers, especially Ricky Van Wolfswinkel.
The calls started to come for his sacking, especially following Malky Mackay’s parting company with Cardiff – the former Norwich centre-back seemed made for the role as manager. However, the board chose to ignore the clamouring, and the club braced itself for a nervy season. Having backed their man over Christmas, all logic shows that he should have been in the job by the summer – either as a spectacular victor, or an inevitable failure.
But when City went against their stable principles, the late move smelt of panic. Even if they were able to bring a top-quality manager in, with 5 games to go in the Premier League, there is little that anyone could do! As it was, they selected a rookie, and they were rewarded with defeat – it was schoolboy errors all round.
The opportunity was very much there to part company with Houghton early in the campaign, allow for integration, and push the club into a new direction. That didn’t happen, and there wasn’t too much dissent from the terraces – the fans had placed their faith in the club. But the least that they could have done is to live up to their loyalty! Sacking Houghton when they did was clearly a big mistake – he should have remained in the role until the end of the season, and then the Canaries’ squawking would have been a lot less angry!