Grant must be worried by lack of support
DAVID CUFFLEY If it is true that it is always darkest just before the dawn, then manager Peter Grant must feel his Norwich City side is due a change of fortune in Monday night's Championship match at Queen's Park Rangers.
If it is true that it is always darkest just before the dawn, then manager Peter Grant must feel his Norwich City side is due a change of fortune in Monday night's Championship match at Queen's Park Rangers.
With just four points from the last seven league games, no goal in 465 minutes of football, and a place in the bottom three of the table, it is hard to imagine a more bleak state of affairs as City head for Shepherd's Bush.
If, however, you subscribe to the view that things could yet get worse before they get better, it might be a good idea to steer well clear of Loftus Road or a TV screen on Monday evening.
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Depending on today's Sheffield Wednesday v Leicester result - not known at the time of writing - Rangers may be the only side in the division below the Canaries by the time the two teams kick off in West London.
And, having already been beaten by one bottom-of-the-table outfit in the Owls, last Saturday, losing to the side who took over from them in 24th place - and have yet to win a league match - doesn't really bear thinking about. Avoiding defeat against Rangers is the minimum requirement for a manager who admits he is under massive pressure.
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Grant was putting a brave face on City's predicament as he contemplated Monday's televised encounter and the prospect of having to make further changes to his line-up after the goalless draw with Scunthorpe.
He has not named the same starting eleven in two successive games this season, sometimes by choice but mostly through injuries and suspension, and correctly predicting the side to take on Rangers at this stage is virtually impossible.
What is certain is that Gary Doherty is likely to be ruled out for several weeks by a persistent groin injury, which made the decision to include him against Scunthorpe a puzzling and rather costly one.
Meanwhile, Ian Murray, who has a foot injury, Jamie Cureton, who was carrying a foot injury against Scunthorpe, and Adam Drury, troubled again by a stiff back, missed training the last two days.
Skipper Jason Shackell is available again after a three-match ban and, judging by his performance for City Reserves against Stevenage, Luke Chadwick, who has still yet to play a full 90 minutes in a first team game since joining the club, has shaken off hamstring trouble and could be involved again.
But whatever the line-up, City simply have to get something out of the game as they head into another blank weekend.
Against this background of poor results, red cards, niggling injuries and an ominous lack of public support from his employers - perhaps reluctant to be drawn into issuing the dreaded “vote of confidence” - Grant insists he is determined to devote every waking hour to the job he was brought in to do a year ago.
In his Norwich Evening News column yesterday, he said: “I can understand the criticism of our performances and I take full responsibility for that.
“It's very tough but a lot better people than me have come through this kind of situation and survived.
“Every day in this job is a different challenge. When you are on a winning run, you are desperate to get victory number three, four or five. When you are losing, it makes the job a lot harder, but I knew what the job entailed when I came in the door.
“It's a big commitment but it's the job I wanted to do and I'm not going to run away now.”
Even those fans with serious misgivings about the manager and City's poor start to the season will not dispute his desire to make a success of the job - and the supporters have made more of an effort to support Grant publicly in recent weeks than the people who appointed him.
Even pundits and organisations always very forthright in their views have called for Grant to be given more time to get things right. By contrast, there have been few words of comfort from above.
“We should certainly not be where we are in the table at the moment. Our supporters do not deserve what they witnessed on Saturday. They are entitled to expect better performances,” said chief executive Neil Doncaster when he unveiled the club's annual accounts just two days after the admittedly awful 2-0 defeat at Wolves. “The board continues to monitor progress on and off the pitch on a regular basis.”
It was an answer to a question and it did not have the same ominous tone as the post-Plymouth ultimatum issued to Nigel Worthington last season, but it was a warning nonetheless and cannot have filled the manager with a great deal of confidence. The only consolation for Grant was that it was better, perhaps, than being damned with faint praise.
t PAINTER'S DREAM DEBUT
Special thanks this week to Rachael Hunter, who contacted the Pink 'Un after reading last week's list of 10 teenage dream debuts.
She points out that her father, Trevor Painter, was also well qualified for a place in the list after a notable debut for Lol Morgan's Canaries.
It was on November 25, 1967, that 18-year-old Painter made his first senior appearance in a 2-0 victory at Blackpool in Division Two.
He was deputising at centre-half for captain Laurie Brown, who was serving a two-match ban.
“Norwich were playing Blackpool, who were top of the league at the time, and it was my father's first team debut,” said Rachel.
“He played in the position of centre-half and marked the leading goalscorer of Division Two at the time, Gerry Ingram, and City won the game 2-0.”
Indeed, we featured the match at Blackpool a few years ago in an Evening News “Match of the Day” series.
Not only that, Painter kept his place the following Saturday in a 5-2 home win over Millwall.
Blackpool, incidentally, missed out on promotion at the end of 1967-68 by the thinnest of margins. They finished level on points with second-placed Queen's Park Rangers, but had an inferior goal average.
So Painter's contribution at Bloomfield Road had a telling effect on that season's promotion race. The Division Two champions? Ipswich - by one point.