All good things come to an end
PUBLISHED: 13:08 02 October 2006 | UPDATED: 09:41 14 September 2010
He came, he saw and in the end he was conquered by an inability to get the Canaries' to perform whenever they flew from the safety of the Carrow Road roost.
He came, he saw and in the end he was conquered by an inability to get the Canaries' to perform whenever they flew from the safety of the Carrow Road roost.
As reported first by the Evening News, Nigel Worthington was given just two games by the board to “rectify the situation” following the 3-1 defeat at the hands of Plymouth on September 25- a defeat which meant his team scraped just one point from the four away games they had played to date.
But his fate was not only sealed by the events of this season but the chronic cumulative effect of the past two seasons and although it was a thumping home defeat which proved the last straw, it was performances on the road which undermined the manager's position.
City picked up six wins in the 42 league games they played away from Carrow Road in the two seasons after they romped home so spectacularly to win promotion in 2004.
Ironically, even the Canaries' promotion to the Premiership for the first time in the best part of a decade, was cemented after a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland after results elsewhere went their way.
Worthington's team failed to register a single win in their 19 away games in the Premiership and only picked up seven points on their travels in a season where relegation was emphatically decided following a 6-0 capitulation at Fulham on the last day of the season.
Yet even last year, in a season where City were expected to soar straight back into the Premiership, they still managed to lose 13 times away from home - picking up just six wins and four draws on the way to a disappointing ninth place finish.
In total City have just six wins, 13 draws, and 28 defeats from their last 47 away games - a record that at any other club, as many fans have been quick to point out, that would have meant game over for Worthington long before now.
Former City striker Leon McKenzie, who backed his former boss earlier this month despite a £1m deadline day move to Championship rivals Coventry City, said: “I don't know what it is with the away situation, but I've been there and it's been hard even when I've been.”
But despite the dismal away record Worthington had, up until now, the backing of a board which believe continuity, not change, lay at the heart of bringing the good times back to Carrow Road.
Last season, even when angry fans, disillusioned by the team's repeated failure to make a sustained promotion challenge, organised protests and called for the manager's head to roll, it fell on deaf ears.
They stood by him even after more than 500 fans packed into St Andrew's hall in February to register their dissatisfaction with Worthington at a meeting organised by the Norwich City Independent Supporters Association (NCISA).
The same group had turned up the heat on the under-fire manager in December last year issued a statement warning of “dire consequences” if the manager was not changed.
But the board continued to back him to the hilt right up until Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones issued their famous 113-word statement at 3.35pm on September 25 - giving Worthington just two games to sort it out.
For the first time in his five-year reign Worthington was effectively out on his own and faced with the thankless task of convincing fans and board alike that he was still the man for the job.
For Worthington, who was effectively hung out to dry by the statement, how long ago must that heady night back in May 2004 have seemed when he and the rest of his title-winning side stood on the City Hall balcony parading that famous old trophy around in front of the thousands of fans who took to the streets to savour the club's return to the top flight.
Alex Warren, 38, from fans' group Waveney Yellows, said it was time for Worthington to go - although it had not all been bad.
“I will remember him for winning the title,” he said. “Some people say it was on the back of Huckerby, but he still signed him. I don't think he should be remembered for all bad because he did more good than bad - he achieved quite a bit on a limited budget - but we needed a freshen up.”
Charlie Milburn, 27, one of 500 fans who packed out St Andrew's Hall in February for the public meeting called to discuss a change in manager, said it was right Worthington was gone but wrong if he was forgotten.
“He should be praised for some of his achievements and breathing a bit of life back into the team after a long period where we had nothing but mediocrity at the club,” he said.
“But having said that every dog has its day and he brought what he could to the club and having done that couldn't take it any further and it was time for someone fresh at the top.”
Paul Meek, 46, a Norwich City fan since 1972, was one of the thousands of fans who took part in the “Worthy Out” protests both at Burnley and at the end of last season.
He said: “We will thank him for what he's done - the Premiership, and the play-off final - but people do go stale in their job and we think it was time for him to move on.
“This isn't a knee-jerk reaction, to results this season, it's down to the past three seasons. The Premiership campaign was not good and he only made changes to the team when the fans asked for it. He mismanaged his players in the Premiership, played players in the wrong position, let players go like Edworthy, and last season had an opportunity to blood young players didn't do it.
“We just got loan players in and I don't know how Ryan Jarvis must be feeling, but for a 37-year-old to be picked over a England Under 21 international he must be thinking what does he have to do.”
Chris Higgins, landlord of the Trafford pub and Norwich City shareholder has been a season ticket holder for the past 22 years.
He said: “His legacy was that he got us a season in the Premiership which we will be thankful for. There have been a few good times, but they've been overshadowed in the past three seasons by bad ones more than good ones.
“The most distraught day I've ever experienced watching Norwich was at Fulham - that was just abysmal. We've got to have the worst away record in the football league. The board have been incredibly supportive, but it strikes me at times his man-management skills are wanting.”
But after taking over in the Carrow Road hot seat in January 2001, following the resignation of Bryan Hamilton, Worthington it seemed could do know wrong.
He consolidated the Canaries' place in the league before embarking on a memorable run to the play-off final at Cardiff's magnificent Millennium Stadium in his first full season in charge.
And despite missing out on a place in the Premiership following the agony of losing on penalties against Birmingham, and a decidedly average season the following year, Worthington still had the unanimous backing of fans and the board.
He would argue that he proved them all right when his side swept to the First Division title in that most memorable of seasons in 2004.
But Worthington's fall from grace, among bitter scenes with fans protesting, started almost as soon as City booked their place in the promised land of the Premiership.
With City hero Iwan Roberts already told he would not be part of Norwich's Premiership adventure before the title was won, defensive rock and leader of men Malky Mackay was soon following the Welsh talisman out of Carrow Road.
Thomas Helveg and Mattias Jonson both arrived at Norwich amid much fanfare, while the season-long loan of David Bentley was supposed to provide City with a creative weapon in the mould of a young David Beckham.
In truth all three flattered to deceive in the Premiership while Gary Doherty spent much of the start of his Carrow Road career, since his move from Spurs, playing up front rather than the defensive role which allowed him to win last year's player of the season accolade. It was an early sign of things to come.
Simon Charlton was brought in from Bolton but was never able to nail down a regular place as he flitted between defence and midfield while defender Marc Edworthy, an integral part of City's title-winning team, was released and now plies his trade at Derby despite being offered a new two-year contract just months before his exit.
Other promotion winning casualties included Gary Holt, who went to Nottingham Forest, while Phil Mulryne also departed as the team Nigel built for promotion was dismantled piece by piece.
While Dean Ashton and Youssef Safri proved good signings there was growing concern about Worthington's dealings in the transfer market and his dependence on loan signings following the success he had with Huckerby, who was signed permanently on Boxing Day, and Peter Crouch early in the title-winning season.
While many viewed taking the relegation fight to the final day of the Premiership season as a partial success, there were already murmurings of discontent among some of the City faithful about negative tactics and a failure to sort out a faltering defence.
The 6-0 surrender at Fulham is still one of the darkest days in Canary history and was in truth the start of the long goodbye for Worthington.
A swift return to the Premiership might have taken some of the heat off the manager, but even before a ball was kicked in Championship anger Damien Francis had effectively downed tools as he prepared for a move back to the Premiership with the newly-promoted Wigan.
And new signing Matthieu Louis-Jean, who arrived at Norwich as part of a swap deal which saw Holt heading for Forest, played just two games before the start of an injury nightmare which has kept him out of the side ever since.
Other new signings Jason Jarrett and Andy Hughes became symbolic of the type of season in store for the club as both were pilloried by supporters for poor performances.
Jarrett was loaned out to Plymouth before heading for Preston by the end of the season and Hughes, who was one of several captains tried by Worthington during the season, was repeatedly targeted by the Carrow Road boo boys.
Peter Thorne also arrived full of promise from Cardiff, but has so far just got two goals two his name while loan signings Dean Marney, Calum Davenport, Kevin Lisbie, David Wright, Jonatan Johansson, and Zesh Rehman, have all come and gone without making much of an impact.
Worthington, who has been accused of failing to utilise young talent, has largely resisted the temptation to call on the undoubted talent of Ryan Jarvis who scored a wonderful goal in the Premiership against Liverpool.
The manager also allowed Danny Crow to slip away from the club to Peterborough where his goals galvanised a play-off bid by the London Road club.
The capture of Rob Earnshaw from West Brom for £3.5m in January was supposed to fuel another late promotion charge, but despite the Welshman's goals City never threatened the top flight.
A season of underachievement was followed by a summer of sorrow in the transfer market where only Lee Croft was added with Worthington missing out on all other targets.
And now with Huckerby injured, McKenzie gone, City's scarcity of attacking options resulted in Dion Dublin being brought in until the end of the season despite Worthington refusing to consider the prospect of the without a club Chris Sutton making a hero's return to Carrow Road - because he is too old and injury prone.
Worthington has done it his way, but once he lost the support of the board as well as the fans, the end to his five-year tenure at the Carrow Road helm was never in doubt. It was not a matter of if but when.
T - What is your abiding memory of Nigel Worthington's time as manager? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.eveningnews24.co.uk/forums.
Nigel Worthington profile:
He was born on November 4, 1961, in Ballymena, Northern Ireland.
He is married to Sandra and has three children and lives with his family in north Norfolk.
His playing career began in the Midlands with Notts County under the management of future England coach Howard Wilkinson in 1981.
He stayed at Gay Meadow for three years before Sheffield Wednesday recognised his talents and signed him in 1984.
Worthington stayed at Hillsborough for a decade which included a league cup win in 1991, and appearances in the FA Cup and league cup finals in 1993 where they lost to Arsenal in both finals.
Although Worthington had a reputation as a tough-tackling defender he scored 12 goals for the Owls and went on to represent his country 66 times.
But he left the Steel City in 1994 and moved to Leeds United as a free agent.
Worthington left Elland Road two years later for Stoke City.
He played for Stoke for just one season before the lure of a career in management proved too much and finally ended his playing career at Blackpool to concentrate on his managerial duties.
Worthington began his managerial career with Blackpool in 1997 as player-manager, but after guiding the Seasiders to just 44 wins in his 134 games in charge Worthington and the board mutually decided it was time to part company.
He was not out of the game for long though and former Northern Ireland coach Bryan Hamilton brought him back into the game at Norwich in the summer of 2000 as his assistant.
Worthington was also soon appointed under-21 manager of Northern Ireland.
In December 2000 Worthington was appointed City's caretaker manager following Hamilton's resignation.
Worthington was given the job on a permanent basis in January 2001 and steered the club to 15th place in the first division.
His first full season at the helm was a rewarding experience as he led the Canaries to the play off finals after helping them to a sixth place finish. However Canary hearts were broken when Birmingham City won on penalties to book their place in the Premiership.
The following season Norwich failed to build on the foundations they had created and finished a disappointing eighth.
But the 2003/04 season proved to be Worthington's finest hour as his side, bolstered by the loan signing of Darren Huckerby and Leon McKenzie, romped home with the first division title finishing eight points clear of nearest rivals West Brom.
Although it went right to the wire Norwich's Premiership adventure lasted just one season and was ended by a 6-0 defeat at Fulham on the last day of the season.
And while hopes were high of a swift return to the Premiership's promised land, a faltering campaign saw the Canaries finish a bitterly disappointing ninth without ever making it into the top six.
A great start to this season looked to have silenced the critics who had spent much of the previous season calling for Worthington's head.
But following a 3-1 defeat at Plymouth, City's third in four games, the club's owners Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones issue a statement giving the manager just two games to turn things round.
Three of the best performances under Nigel Worthington:
Norwich 3, Wolves 1; Division One Play-Off Semi-Final, First Leg, Sunday, April 28 2002.
Mark Rivers, Paul McVeigh, and Malky Mackay were the goal heroes as City swept emphatically into an unassailable lead on their way to the Division One Play-Off final.
Team: Green, Kenton, Drury, Mackay, Fleming, Holt, Mulryne, Rivers, Nielsen, McVeigh, Easton. Subs: Crichton, Sutch, Notman, Libbra, Roberts.
Richard Balls verdict: “Given Norwich's habit of blowing it on the big occasion, I was nervous before this. When Wolves scored first my heart sank, but when we got into our stride there was no stopping us. We had some big characters in the side and we played with a lot of passion, setting the trip to Molineux up nicely. Malky's headed goal is my abiding memory.”
Ipswich Town 0, Norwich 2; First Division, Saturday, December 21 2003.
Leon McKenzie marks his debut in fine style with two goals as City go top of the league at Portman Road, and stay there for the rest of the season.
Team: Green, Edworthy, Drury, Mackay, Fleming, Henderson, Mulryne, Holt, McVeigh, Svensson, McKenzie. Subs: Crichton, Brennan, Francis, Roberts, Jarvis.
Richard Balls verdict: “Could there be a sweeter victory? No one could have written a better script. We were ecstatic when Leon latched onto a loose ball and swept in the first, but when his looping header went in everyone went wild. 'Top of the league at Portman Road' we taunted at the forlorn home fans as they trooped out. And there we stayed.”
Norwich 2, Manchester United 0; Premeirship, Satrday, April 9 2005.
Dean Ashton and Leon McKenzie score the goals as City give themselves a great chance of making the survival dream a reality.
Team: Green, Helveg, Fleming, Shackell, Drury, Stuart, Safri, Francis, Huckerby, McKenzie, Ashton. Subs: Bentley, Svensson, Jonson.
Richard Balls verdict: “Nigel Worthington had asked for a Premier League-sized performance against Alex Ferguson's team and he got one. Big names like Ronaldo and Van Nistelrooy looked on from the bench and by the time they were introduced the script had been written. Ashton and McKenzie were the goal heroes, but we defended resolutely and Jason Shackell's performance stands out in my memory. A game which will live long in the memory.”
Three of the worst performances under Nigel Worthington:
Fulham 6, Norwich 0; Premiership, Sunday, May 15 2005.
Norwich City are not only relegated but humiliated on the last day of the season in one of the worst ever performances by a City side.
Team: Green, Helveg, Fleming, Shackell, Drury, Bentley, Safri, Francis, Huckerby, McKenzie, Ashton. Subs: Holt, Jonson, Svensson.
Richard Balls verdict: “A disaster, plain and simple. Rabbits in the headlights stuff. We never got going, two of the City team were clearly not bothered and we spent most of the game hoofing the ball against a team made up of man mountains. Not just the nadir of Nigel Worthington's reign, but one of the worst results in the club's history.”
Luton 4, Norwich 2; Championship, Tuesday, October 18 2005.
City only start to play after they go four down and the game as a contest is well and truly over.
Team: Green, Colin, Brennan, Doherty, Davenport, Henderson, Charlton, Hughes, McVeigh, Ashton, Huckerby. Subs: Jarvis, Jarrett.
Richard Balls verdict: “I went to Kenilworth Road expecting a hard fought contest - a battle. As is so often the case, we started brightly but folded like a house of cards once the first goal went in. Especially alarming was the ease with which Luton carved us open in the first half and although we showed some spirit after the break with the help of Ryan Jarvis, it was all too late. Comedy defending, but the result was no laughing matter.”
Norwich 1, Ipswich 2; Championship, Sunday, February 5 2006.
A tepid, tepid display by City at home which results in them getting everything they deserved - nothing.
Team: Green, Fleming, Doherty, Rehman, Drury, Hughes, Etuhu, Safri, McVeigh, Earnshaw, Johansson. Subs: Huckerby, Robnson, Shackell.
Richard Balls verdict: “If there was a moment when many supporters turned against the manager it may well have been when the final whistle was blown after this. It all started so well with Jonathan Johansson scoring on his debut, but again we fell victim to a set piece and you could see their winner coming a mile away. Truly awful.”