No more Mr Nice Guys

Being nice will not get you anywhere. It's the one sentiment that seems to sum up new manager Glenn Roeder's attitude to the huge task facing Norwich City in dragging themselves away from the bottom of the Coca-Cola Championship.

Being nice will not get you anywhere. It's the one sentiment that seems to sum up new manager Glenn Roeder's attitude to the huge task facing Norwich City in dragging themselves away from the bottom of the Coca-Cola Championship.

As the Canaries prepare for tomorrow's derby match against Ipswich Town at Carrow Road, the difference in fortunes between the big East Anglian rivals has rarely been so marked.

One club is £17m in debt and stuck at the foot of the table after starting the season so badly there is a real danger of dropping into the third division of English football for the first time in nearly half a century. The other is among the early-season promotion-chasing pack and has just grabbed a £44m lifeline, news of which, whatever the financial intricacies of the deal, has rubbed salt in the wounds of their biggest rivals. For one club, the season so far has been hell. For the other, after years of struggle, there is just a glimpse of heaven.

Roeder, back in the game six months after his exit from Newcastle, is the man City's directors have turned to in a bid to stop the rot and so avert a third successive season of painful decline, sadly, much of it self-inflicted through a combination of procrastination, poor judgment and a vague hope, like Mr Micawber, that something will turn up.

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We must all hope that something - or rather, someone - is 51-year-old Roeder, now managing his fifth club.

The new boss, hosting his first pre-match Press conference at Colney yesterday, wasted no time in stating that City will need a more aggressive, ruthless approach, with much greater competition for places, if they are to fight their way out of trouble.

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He said: “From what I've seen here already, it's a fantastic stadium, the training ground is first-class, certainly every bit as good as Newcastle's, and I've been impressed by the staff that I've inherited - very young staff, a very motivated and enthusiastic group of young people.

“There are so many good things about Norwich City that I can see, but the most important thing is the team hasn't won enough this year. We've got to start doing that quickly and then we can build from there because this is a wonderful place to come to work every day.

“We've just got to make sure that when we do come to work, we are a lot more aggressive in our training and our attitude for those couple of hours every day and then we can go back to being the nice people we seem we are either side of that - because being nice doesn't get you anywhere.

“I think when you look around the great players around the world, they've all got an edge to them. They're all nice guys when they need to be nice and most of them nasty, ruthless people on the football field, whatever position they play.

“You know, even a striker can be nasty and ruthless in the way when the chance comes he makes sure he raps the ball into the net or in the manner that he aggressively gets across a centre-back to get to the ball first to score. And then you interview him after the game and you think, my God, what a nice guy, but out on the pitch he was an animal.”

Even though the City squad now includes no fewer than 14 players - three of them on loan - who have arrived since January, Roeder is in no doubt that fresh faces are needed, and quickly.

The new manager didn't use the words “comfort zone” but clearly believes too many players feel their place is secure regardless of results.

He said: “I think the squad needs to grow in size. You want quality but I feel there are too many positions that are not under threat, where the lads haven't got enough pressure on their place if they don't play well. I think there are a number of players who, if they don't perform, basically know they're going to play the next game and that's unhealthy.

“They need new faces in here. They probably won't admit to it but in the back of their minds they will look forward to three or four new players in the dressing room. If you've been here a while and you've been playing here at Norwich and some new faces come in, you might feel it's a threat to your place. It just focuses the mind a little bit on the training ground, knowing that you can't have an easy session, not that I would allow that.

“I absolutely demand training as close to match tempo as you can possibly get it, because if you don't train right, you won't play right.”

Roeder has wasted no time in making changes with a new assistant manager in Lee Clark - who helped relegate City as part of the Fulham team who beat them 6-0 on the final day of the Premiership season in 2004-05 - and a new loan recruit in defender Martin Taylor.

More changes are promised, including a coach to work with both the first team and reserves, and further loan signings in the pipeline.

One thing that has encouraged the new boss, however, is the morale of his new squad in spite of a six-week nightmare, in which they have secured just one point from the last eight league games.

He said: “I've been pleasantly surprised. Here at the training ground they've been very bright. I think they've enjoyed the two days that we've worked together and, just walking around the building, you can hear them shouting and screaming and enjoying themselves like I would want them to be.

“We know that we're in a very difficult situation at the moment but that is not a reason to be miserable.

“They'll know when to be serious come kick-off time and in between matches I want them to have a great team spirit.”

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