Norwich City would do well not to go back on their Premier League principle now

The Norwich City board and Chris Hughton, following the managers appointment in 2012. Picture: Denis

The Norwich City board and Chris Hughton, following the managers appointment in 2012. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

Norwich City have laid it all on the line this season in the pursuit of one principle that is all too often remiss in football. A principle you often find is dissected in columns like these when things go the other way.

Stability – ably accompanied by something of a more perplexing football riddle, loyalty.

Clubs live or die by venturing on such a defined yet precarious pedestal – and we’re still to find out which side the Canaries will fall off.

It’s something that has underpinned every minor success – and glaring failure – this season.

It has made recent discussions about City bringing in an attacking coach ring hollow, however well argued. The reasons for such a move have been around since the autumn – in fact, I’m pretty sure they got a mention on this page before September was done.

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Let’s be clear, City’s goalscoring issues are not new to this season or this year. They are the very reason Norwich shelled out more than £15m on a new strikeforce in the summer.

Sadly, they haven’t solved the problem – and that has naturally accelerated the debate on to what would? Stability hasn’t figured in that one.

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Keeping the status quo has been easy for the City board in some regards. The players like working for Chris Hughton, and that has driven them to results whenever we get to crunch time: Stoke, West Ham, Crystal Palace, West Brom, Hull. And that’s only this season.

But it’s also the source of great annoyance, when you consider that just one more of those bust a gut, show a bit of quality performances could have had Norwich currently five places and four points clear of the Premier League relegation zone.

It also begs the asking of a pretty fundamental question – when should you make a managerial change?

Fulham’s approach seems to be a combination of ‘whenever you like’ and ‘often’.

Indeed, getting rid of a manager after a defeat is an easy – or at least easier – decision because the result gives you the reason. It’s worth remembering Southampton ditched Nigel Adkins after coming from 2-0 down to draw at Chelsea – because they were convinced Mauricio Pochettino would be a long-term improvement. Arguably, that’s another interpretation of stability.

I’m not saying Chris Hughton should have already departed City. Far from it. But the fact is City’s current problems have been the same all season. Regular watchers will see there have been few surprises over the course of the campaign.

If anyone thinks the right time for such a managerial decision to be made is the moment Norwich drop in to the Premier League relegation zone – especially this late in the season – then that is just as big a gamble as Fulham’s attempts to repeatedly grab the bull by the horns and shake out some short-term success.

Having made a conscious decision over seven months to grow stability, changing the manager now – even suggesting it could be on the cards – only offers failure.

Norwich’s intentions may be more honourable than Fulham – there isn’t a team below them in the Premier League table hasn’t already changed their manager this season.

Sadly, you don’t get extra points for the quality of your principles. But you do, indirectly, with the quality of your decisions.

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