Stand by for a long, hot summer of strife

RICK WAGHORN For those of us paid to wander about in No Man's Land, dodging from one muddy shell hole to the next as people have a pop in every direction, this week's events have merely seen positions entrench even further.


For those of us paid to wander about in No Man's Land, dodging from one muddy shell hole to the next as people have a pop in every direction, this week's events have merely seen positions entrench even further.

Thursday night's public meeting at St Andrew's Hall suggested that significant numbers are now rallying to the 'Worthy out!' cause. In fairness, getting 500 bodies out on a freezing March night is no mean feat.

Meanwhile over there - away beyond the barbed wire - the Norwich City board were still insisting that they will fire and hire their manager at a time of their own choosing, the Norwich City manager was busily insisting he has no intention of quitting while Norwich City director Barry Skipper was lobbing some fairly big, 16-inch shells down on the opposition's lines from somewhere over the horizon.

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Who pops their head up next is the interesting bit - presumably that comes on Monday when Norwich City Independent Supporters' Association chairman Roy Blower meets Canary chairman Roger Munby somewhere in the midst of No Man's Land to discuss terms.

And no surprises as to what those terms are likely to include - the head of Nigel Worthington.

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At which point, I suspect, we will all go round the same old circle again. NCISA and friends will say: 'We want the manager sacked!”; the board will say: “No, we discussed that in January, we're giving him until at least the summer…” and with the manager himself saying: “I'm not about to quit…”, in every likelihood, all parties will be back in their respective trenches come Tuesday morning, digging in for a long, hot summer of conflict and division.

For one side, at least, peace is a simple solution. For now, anyway. For the other, it is far, far less simple than reaching for a clutch of P45s. To add to the sense of confusion, the field of battle itself changes with every passing game.

For those with their heads down in No Man's Land watching as the shells fly overhead, the back-to-back home wins over Brighton and Derby County - while by no means perfect - gave a hope that some sort of uneasy truce could be arranged until the summer.

For those who have been manning the anti-Worthy trenches for most of the season - or, indeed, way before - Saturday's miserable no-show at Crystal Palace merely proved an excellent recruiting sergeant ahead of Thursday night's call to arms at St Andrew's Hall.

As will today's home clash with Stoke City - depending on which way this afternoon's cookie decides to crumble. The Potters grab an early opener - be it a fluked, free-kick deflection or whatever - and it'll kick off again; it might kick-off from the start given the talk of a pre-match demonstration by another of the Anti-Worthy brigades.

Darren Huckerby puts on a few of his party pieces and Rob Earnshaw does one of his tumbles and an air of uneasiness might be the order of the day. I suspect that might be the best anyone can hope for.

Then it'll be all off to Leeds United next Saturday and if it's a Palace-style fiasco, it'll be all out on the streets again ahead of the Sheffield United game.

Somewhere in the midst of all this lie the players. Which is one of the reasons that the board remain reluctant to act; they sense some big Worthington fans lurking in the dressing room; influential players who won't take too kindly to the man they still rate and respect being booted unceremoniously into touch. Perhaps they voted with their feet at Selhurst Park; further proof on that front awaits today's game; again, we're back to this game-by-game, minute-by-minute state of flux. “Worthy out!' when winning 1-0 at home to Brighton; “Worthy out!” doubts by the time it was 3-0 minutes later.

Likewise, don't dismiss the force of individual personalities in the midst of all this. If you haven't twigged it yet; it's time you ought - there are generals out there with their own personal positions and beliefs to defend. People with some unyielding attitudes; people that as positions harden, are less and less inclined to broker a compromise. Be it on either side, loss of face in front of the 'opposition' is a big, big driver behind the current stalemate.

How you break the current air of bitter and poisonous siege that Simon Charlton pointed to on Friday is, of course, the $64 million dollar question. For some, there is no room for compromise - Worthington has to go. And now.

For others, results may - just - buy him a little more time. For others still, they just hope the ship can steady itself again and the good ship Canary can bobble gently forward, hopes and friendships renewed.

That, for me, is one of the short-term solutions. Somehow people have to be given hope of a brighter future - even if, for now, that means Worthy stays.

Right now, I can think of only two people that can deliver such a prospect - neither of whom can be tarred with the failings and frustrations of a wholly wretched season back in The Championship.

Two people who even the hardest of anti-Worthy hearts would see as Norwich through and through; whose body language and actions can be taken at pretty much face value; whose arrival may, just, suggest a new start.

One is Leon McKenzie, who more than anyone else has come to sum up all that has been wrong with City's season, on and off the field.

Leon starts and scores the first goal; suggests that through all his turmoil and strife he's found a strong friend and support in the badly wounded Worthington and that will help.

The second is Michael Spillane. It could be Rossi Jarvis, but in a sense he's already had his moment in the limelight. Spillane is the one on which so many hopes - unfairly, perhaps - rest. He is Norwich's answer to Palace playmaker Ben Watson. Not necessarily in position - though you half suspect he could sit and play in there to reasonable effect - but in terms of punters' believing there is a brighter dawn lurking there in Ricky Martin's Academy. It is the kind of dawn that Ryan Jarvis, in particular, was due to deliver only for injury to thwart his every move.

Like it or not, all eyes are now on Spillane to step into that breach; to give people hope; a teenage straw to cling to in some difficult, difficult times.

Because the other beauty of playing the kids is that, by and large, fed-up punters will still give kids the benefit of the doubt; it's what puts the smile on the face of Ipswich fans. The kids are OK.

For both the senior players and, of course, the manager, being granted the benefit of the doubt is a luxury they have long been asked to do without. Right now, opinions are far too entrenched for that.

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