Is this the end for Worthington?

Exasperated Norwich City supporters today called for Nigel Worthington to step down as manager in the wake of an unprecedented ultimatum issued by the club's owners.

Exasperated Norwich City supporters today called for Nigel Worthington to step down as manager in the wake of an unprecedented ultimatum issued by the club's owners.

Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones have given the beleaguered City boss two games to save his job in a move that has caused shock weaves because of the couple's fierce loyalty to him during last season's storm of protests.

But today, supporters' groups made it clear they want Nigel Worthington's reign to end whether or not Norwich beat Burnley at home on Sunday and QPR away two weeks later.

The manager looked to have seen off the detractors who spent much of last season's disappointing Championship campaign calling for him to go, after an impressive opening to this season's campaign.

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But Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Plymouth - City's third away defeat of the season, which sent the Canaries spiralling to 14th place - prompted an unprecedented move from Delia and Michael.

The statement said: “We and the board are deeply disappointed by the lack of passion and commitment in the team's performance on Saturday, and wish to apologise particularly to the 776 loyal supporters who undertook the long and arduous journey to Plymouth, but also to all our fans who have given us such wonderful support. You deserve more.

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“We are determined to achieve success at Norwich City and to that end we expect this situation to be rectified at our next home game on Sunday and at our next away game. We rely on our manager and squad to do this not only on behalf of our supporters but for the long-term future of the club.”

Kathy Blake, secretary of NCISA, said: “I thought he should have gone a long time ago. It's a bit of an odd statement really. I think they should have asked him to leave now. I think it might be a ploy to undermine the protests a bit.

“What does it mean? By improve, does it mean we have to win both games? I can see us winning against Burnley, but then it's two weeks until our next game. If they'd asked him to leave now it would have given whoever comes in a chance to settle in.”

Alex Warren, 38, from fans' group Waveney Yellows, said: “I think it is about time. I am glad something has been said. Delia and Michael have been to the games and they know how the supporters feel. It might make his mind up and he might even walk when he realises he has not got the full support of the board.”

Even before the statement was issued, the heat on Worthington had been rising after it emerged fans were planning another protest before Sunday's televised clash with Burnley at Carrow Road. Familiar cries of “We want Worthy out” could be heard during the latest away day failure. City have just one league win on their travels in 2006, which prompted dozens

of fans to call for his head on message boards, including the Evening News's sister paper The Pink 'Un.

Last season proved a difficult year for Worthington, who came under fire from fans for the poor performances of a team which finished a season they started as title favourites in ninth place.

Last December the Norwich City Independent Supporters Association (NCISA) issued a statement calling for a change in manager after a poor first half to the season. In March when more than 500 City fans packed a public meeting at St Andrew's Hall, organised by NCISA, to demand his sacking.

Norwich North MP Dr Ian Gibson, a Canaries fan and former professional footballer, said he felt it might be time for a change at Carrow Road.

“I've always thought Norwich should be in the Premiership and a manager that can't achieve that is vulnerable,” he said.

Chris Higgins, landlord of the Trafford Arms and ardent City supporter, said he was not surprised by the statement, although more by the timing of it. “They've probably come to the end of their tether,” he said. “There's only so much supporters can take. “I think the amount of leeway Nigel has been given, bearing in mind our away record, is abysmal. It's absolutely appalling and the board have been more supportive than probably any other board in the country would have been.”

Fans who spoke to the Evening News last night indicated that their patience had run out.

Russell Crowe, 49, Rowington Road, Norwich, a team manager for Britvic, said: “To give him two more games is ridiculous. How can he turn it around in this short time? He should have some courage and be honest and admit it is time to go.”

Rupert Emblem, 50, an engineer from Grove Walk, Norwich, said: “Delia and Michael should not have stood by him for as long as they have. He should have gone some time ago. When we fell from the Premiership is when he should have been canned.”

David Smith, 59, and retired, of Cecil Road, Norwich, said: “They should sack him now and make their minds up. If Worthington is an honest man he should walk away now. It will be better for the club.”

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