Monday 18 December 2017

Writing on the wall for Hughton as history shows Canaries don't tolerate humiliation


Chris Hughton
Chris Hughton

Tim Rich

The last Norwich City manager to see his side concede seven goals did not last the week.

David McNally, the club's chief executive, dispensed with Bryan Gunn six days after the 7-1 defeat by Colchester United. Since it was the opening afternoon of the League One campaign, it was quite a sacrifice.

Gunn was a Norwich hero, the goalkeeper who had kept Bayern Munich at bay on one of the most fondly remembered nights in the club's history.

Chris Hughton enjoys nothing like that reputation at Carrow Road and even before Saturday's disembowelling at Manchester City his captain, Russell Martin, was issuing appeals for fans to rally behind the manager.

He might have saved his breath. Hughton fulfils most of the criteria for a managerial sacking. Norwich spent a lot of money in the summer, £21m, including £8m on the highly rated striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel, who has scored one goal, and they have started the season uncertainly.

The man who will decide Hughton's future is the man who fired Gunn. McNally's decision to bring in Paul Lambert led to the rebirth of football in Norfolk and whether he stands by his man or casts him adrift will be equally important.

McNally had been an avid user of social media in recent weeks, interacting with supporters and often sharing their concerns about the downward trajectory being taken by the Canaries.

However, his Twitter account was suspended in the wake of Manchester City's biggest top-flight league win in 45 years, although that did not prevent it being bombarded with scores of messages from Norwich supporters anxious for Hughton's 17-month reign at the club to end.

"I am manager of this football club and I have to take criticisms from whatever performances," said Hughton of the twitter outpouring.

"I can only be confident that the owners share my belief. I am the man who has to take full responsibility. At this moment it is hurting because it is something I am not used to."

With a run of 27 points from their last 31 league games, and eight away points from the last available 45, Norwich's home meeting with West Ham on Saturday takes on added significance.

After that Colchester thrashing, goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos never played for Norwich again. John Ruddy, who signed a new four-year contract last Friday, will keep goal against West Ham. However, unless he is given better defensive protection, neither he nor his manager have much of a future.

City goalkeeper Joe Hart, meanwhile, was warned that there will be no imminent or easy return to the starting line-up.

"Of course I have confidence in Costel Pantilimon – that's why he's the second goalkeeper," said City manager Manuel Pellegrini when asked who will start tomorrow's Champions League tie at home to CSKA Moscow.

"If I don't have trust in him I will change it. It's done and I am sure he will do very well.

"For the moment we must support Costel. Joe made a lot of mistakes – he knows. Not just this year, also last year. So I think for Joe it is a good moment to stop. But I am absolutely sure that working hard he will – I don't know when – but in a moment he will return to his normal position."

This was a result that owed as much – arguably more – to Norwich's inadequacies as it did to City's excellence. Having been deceived by a deflection off team-mate Bradley Johnson for the opening goal, Ruddy dived over David Silva's shot for the second goal, was rooted to the spot as Matija Nastasic headed home and left exposed as Alvaro Negredo turned in a fourth before half-time.

With the match over as a contest, it was just a matter of how many more City would score. The answer was three. A superb Yaya Toure free-kick was followed by a Sergio Aguero volley before Edin Dzeko's turn and shot completed their biggest victory in the top-flight since putting seven past Burnley in 1968.

Then, City were defending champions. Now they want their crown back. (©Independent News Service)

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