Savvy with his statistical view on the managerial performance of Chris Hughton in 2013 and what this means in 2014…
On the cusp of a New Year it`s natural to look back and reflect on your own life and focus on any changes you think you should make to either reach your objectives or improve things.
So this feels as good a time as any to take stock and reflect on the last calendar year at our beloved football club and look ahead with expectation to 2014.
Firstly a bit of context about me and my views here. When Lambert left us acrimoniously on a balmy summers` evening back in May 2012 I was totally gutted and feared for our future in the Premier League. It had been arguably the best ever 3 year period to be a City fan and his departure could easily have destabilised very quickly sending it back from whence it came.
However, despite my yellow and green tinted glasses I wasn`t surprised as I`d predicted he would be off that summer and in I fact took a lot of flak from other fans for suggesting he would even want to talk to Villa. When McLeish left, it was clear to me being somewhat of a rationale individual that this was the likely outcome.
When the club swiftly appointed Hughton from a five-man shortlist, I assume this proved they had some foresight to plan for this eventuality too. I was impressed with the way in which business was efficiently done and equally impressed that we`d appointed a manager with strong credentials in the Premier League and Championship who had also served under a number of high profile managers as a coach. I must admit I was less sure about his coaching staff, with Colin Calderwood in particular lacking a strong reputation based on his time at Nottingham Forest and Hibernian. Despite this, I was positive about the appointment overall.
Things didn`t start well for Team Hughton, as we suffered a number of early season drubbings. However I remained with him. Hughton soon worked out that his strongest attacking player was Wes Hoolahan and picked a system that allowed the team to go on that now famous 10-game unbeaten run. Back in the middle of December 2012 we were 7th in the table, but we were hardly playing free-flowing football. In fact for Grant Holt, this defensive approach was such a bugbear that he asked to leave in January.
Something was not right, and as well as the embarrassment of getting knocked out by non-league opposition at home, the club went on an awful run in the league.
I continued to back him. Despite the struggles, the argument was that this was not Hughton`s team. He`d improved us defensively but he needed his own attacking players to really take us forward. After a nail-biting survival that went down to the last two games, Hughton needed to build again.
He did, and was supported better that any other Norwich City manager in history as we (notably) signed Ricky van Wolswinkel, Gary Hooper, Nathan Redmond, Johnan Elmander and Leroy Fer to bolster our attacking threat.
I even backed Hughton after the no-show at Spurs early this season. It was early in the season and Spurs were flying, things should improve. We played well for a few games without getting much in the way of points and then came the 7-0 defeat at Manchester City. Again, a massive embarrassment, but again the club have stuck with him.
At the AGM we were reassured by our Chairman and CEO that we ‘would soon climb the table`. Well we haven`t. We were 14th after the AGM with 14 points from 13 games, 4 points off the drop zone. Now we are 14th with 19 points from 19 games, 3 points off the drop zone with 5 points from 6 games.
And here`s the thing. Rationally, I don`t think Chris Hughton can get us out of trouble.
In 2013 Hughton has averaged 0.95 points per game. If this carries on, we will finish on 37 points, enough to relegate us or have us fourth from bottom in 8 out of the last 10 seasons.
Let`s remember at this stage that our last 5 games are Fulham (a), Liverpool (h), Chelsea (a), Man City (h), Arsenal (h), and although we might get a couple of points here and there from teams who`s seasons` have already finished, we shouldn`t be relying on these.
In fact, to get to the magic 40 points (which almost, but not quite guarantees survival), we actually need 21 points from 14 games prior to this horrific run in. An average of 1.5 points per game – and that is top 8 form.
Do you believe we can do this under Hughton`s stewardship?
We need to be going for the win in every game until the end of the season and trying to squeeze every point out of each one. If we are drawing 1-1 with Palace on 90mins tomorrow, I want Ruddy going up for corners. Christ, I bet he won`t even be going up if we are 1-0 down at the end. Liverpool did this against Chelsea last week so, why don`t we give it a try?
The Vital Norwich Twitter feed shows that there are plenty of fans who still believe Hughton is the best man for the job. Well, looking at it rationally and based on his performance over c. 18 months in charge, I say he is not and anything other than a win against a revived Crystal Palace should mean he is removed from his post before it is too late.
This does not make me any less of a fan than anyone else. I`d love 3 points at Palace, I`d love to look back at this article in May and be proved wrong, watching as Hughton leads us on another 10-game unbeaten charge, but at this moment in time I can`t see it.
There are plenty of people out there suggesting we should all still blindly back the man, and anything else is tantamount to treason. I love this club deeply but as a fan of football heavily burdened by an unswerving love of Norwich City it currently feels like I am in a permanent stage of dismal Purgatory, watching largely poor football and losing to struggling teams who get trounced 6-0 by a recently promoted team.
So here we have a manager who has a team of his own players. Whose team have conceded 5 or more goals on 5 occasions and received their biggest defeat since 1908 in the process, whose team were knocked out of the FA Cup by a non-league side (the first time this has ever happened to a Premier League club), whose long term form has us relegated or fourth bottom.
Still back Hughton?
If Hughton stays or goes, if we are to survive and grow, we need change and we need it now. Someone said to me the other day that they think McNally is bottling the big decision. I don`t for one minute this McNally is a bottler…