Roeder's revamp gives Canaries new hope

Glenn Roeder's strike rate since moving into the Norwich City hot seat has transformed the fortunes of a club that was plummeting towards relegation - but think what might have been had Roeder been in charge since the start of the season.

Glenn Roeder's strike rate since moving into the Norwich City hot seat has transformed the fortunes of a club that was plummeting towards relegation - but think what might have been had Roeder been in charge since the start of the season.

The statistics show that City would be sitting in FIFTH place in the Championship, comfortably in the play-off chase, and just a handful of points off an automatic promotion spot - had former West Ham and Newcastle boss Roeder joined in the summer.

On the reverse side, had Peter Grant been given the same length of rope that his predecessor Nigel Worthington had, then City would be in dire straits today, cast adrift at the bottom with a three-point gap to make up on the next club.

City are currently 18th, on 32 points from 28 games and, while that's still only five clear of the drop zone, it's a huge upturn in fortunes considering their position when Roeder arrived.

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Peter Grant's tally from the 10 games he was in charge this season was eight from a possible 30 - that's 0.8 for each game. Jim Duffy's three games in charge yielded nothing, while Roeder's 15 games at the helm have produced 24 points from a possible 45. That's an average of 1.6 for each game.

Grant's average for this season would see City on 22.4 points - rounding the numbers down doesn't make happy reading because that's four less than current basement team Colchester have accumulated. Grant's overall record after he succeeded Worthington paints a slightly better picture - in 45 games City won 53 points - 1.18 each game, which translates to 33.04, say 33. Today, that would be one more point than City currently have.

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The problem that faced the City board in the summer was that Grant wasn't in a position to be relieved of his duties and while he never considered the October 2006 squad an inherited one and therefore didn't see the close season as a period when he could build his “own” team, it was clearly a pivotal time in the short-term future of the club.

He lost Robert Earnshaw, Dickson Etuhu and Youssef Safri - the latter by misfortune - but his acquisitions were hit and miss. Darel Russell has been excellent; Julien Brellier a flop. Some of his 2006-07 signings weren't producing: Luke Chadwick has been unlucky with injuries, but Chris Brown and David Strihavka failed miserably in attack and Ian Murray wouldn't be recognised if he sat in the crowd, such is the extent of his anonymity.

This season was to be the one where Grant's signings produced the goods. Except they didn't. His plan failed, and by the time he and the club finally accepted that fact, it was almost too late. City were facing the abyss, Grant and the club agreed to call it a day, and a new era began.

It was October 31 when Roeder was unveiled as Grant's successor. His first match was against Ipswich at Carrow Road. And if first impressions meant anything, City had to come through unscathed. That would become the platform on which he could work. He had a difficult afternoon ahead: the Tractor Boys were sixth after 12 games and had not lost in their previous five games. Norwich were bottom, four points behind Crystal Palace - it wasn't a day for the faint of heart.

At half-time, with Town leading 2-0, the headlines writers were already scribbling down the words “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”. Roeder, arms crossed, watched aghast from the touchline, hardly moving as he surveyed the wreckage of Grant's reign.

It was like watching a car crash in slow motion - Roeder needed to get a firm hand on the wheel. An hour later, after what would have been an “interesting” half-time team talk, City were walking off the field to rapturous applause. Two goals, one via a blue shirt, the other from Jamie Cureton, earned City a well-deserved point after a fightback the like of which hadn't been seen for far too long.

That the next two matches were defeats didn't, in a way, matter too much: Roeder had to see his players in action before deciding what to do with them. The 3-0 defeat at Plymouth was the turning point, when he stamped the cards of Simon Lappin, Ian Murray, Julien Brellier and David Strihavka - and put questions marks against the names of Michael Spillane and Chris Martin.

November 10, 2007, Home Park goes down as the real starting point for Roeder. The day when he emerged to face the press only just managing to hide his fury. He's a fairly quietly spoken chap is Roeder, with a decent line in off the cuff humour, but you can bet your bottom dollar that he showed his players his dark side that afternoon. It was terrible. It was also what he had to build on.

It's been his reference point ever since. And since then he has lost just one game - to a late goal at Stoke. That's a run of 12 Championship games which have yielded a total of 23 points. It might have been better; City did enough to win at Palace and beat Charlton and Leicester at home, although the other 1-1 draw in that little sequence, at home to Wolves, was fortuitous. Chances have gone begging, and it's proved costly.

But the very fact that draws against the likes of Palace - whose own run of form has been stunning - and Charlton are considered unlucky suggests that City can finally compete with the best.

Dion Dublin was asked after the Barnsley match on Saturday whether or not the play-offs were a possibility.

“It is wide open, but at the moment I don't think realistically the start of the season was brilliant for us,” he said. “It has let us down and it has put us in a situation where we are still in that relegation zone, just four points off it, so we are still in there.

“But after the second half here we do look a team that would deserve to be in the play-offs at the end of the season.”

And that just about summed up City's fortunes this season.

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