Thrashing of Arsenal can't dispel the gloom

David Cuffley Regardless of whatever transpired at Hillsborough today, it's pretty certain that November 2008 will not be looked back upon with any great affection by Norwich City fans.

David Cuffley

Regardless of whatever transpired at Hillsborough today, it's pretty certain that November 2008 will not be looked back upon with any great affection by Norwich City fans.

If there is such a thing as good news week, this has been bad news month, and even a rare televised away victory and the sight of an Arsenal team being thrashed at Carrow Road have not been able to dispel the general air of gloom that has descended.

The seemingly relentless rain and the icy blast that brought last week's snow have provided a fitting backdrop to four largely forgettable weeks on and off the pitch.

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The flickering optimism generated among fans by two successive home wins towards the end of October, one of them of handsome proportions against runaway Championship leaders Wolves, was swiftly overtaken by their dissatisfaction at two away defeats, especially the grim performance at Burnley on the first day of the month.

And while the Canaries appeared to have three distinctly winnable home games in November, with seven points out of nine certainly not an unreasonable expectation, they collected just one, against Preston, and might easily have lost that game in the closing minutes after dominating it for long spells.

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Last week's 2-1 success at Nottingham Forest, achieved despite going down to 10 men after 20 minutes, provided a brief shaft of light, but it took just three days for Glenn Roeder's team to undo the good work with a tired, strangely torpid first half performance against Crystal Palace that left them with a mountain to climb after the interval.

Individually, it has not been a great month for certain City players, either.

Centre-half Dejan Stefanovic sustained a knee ligament injury that has ruled him out for the rest of the season and, at the age of 34, who knows what his long-term prospects are?

Darel Russell was sent off for the fifth time in his City career and, having missed six matches last season through suspension, was banned for another three, two of which were home defeats.

Gary Doherty's red card, his third in as many seasons, and a string of niggling injuries for four of City's loan players have contributed to more chopping and changing for Roeder.

And, if events on the field were not enough to depress the manager - and he would be the last man to admit to that - there was that rather fractious annual meeting to add to the mix, when he, not the board, was given a difficult night by shareholders.

To crown it all, his attempts to bring in another loan signing before Thursday's 5pm deadline were thwarted by the player's reluctance to spend the rest of the season at Norwich.

The exit of out-of-favour Jamie Cureton to Barnsley on a three-month loan suggested the new target may have been another loan striker, but Roeder insisted otherwise.

He said yesterday: "We were close, as in we didn't get the player we wanted at 4pm which was very, very frustrating and I was expecting that the player would have come.

"We got into the scenario again, which I got into this time last year when I tried to bring in a couple of senior players on loan, where they seem to be in the comfort zone of only sometimes playing for their team and perhaps the rest of the time sitting in the stand and staying somewhere where they're not really wanted, rather than coming somewhere where they are wanted and playing football every week.

"This particular player has been playing quite regular football for his first team but had become surplus to requirements in the last couple of weeks. He would have been a very good signing for us, and he wasn't a striker."

So City must cope for the rest of the year with their existing squad, four of whose current loan deals run out in December or January. And there is not the prospect of a huge amount of cash for further recruits when the transfer window re-opens, with the club still dealing with the fall-out from the summer exit of Andrew and Sharon Turner as directors.

Roeder was trying to take a philosophical view of the financial reality this week.

"There is no point beating about the bush," he said. "We are like many clubs in football at the moment, finding it difficult.

"But I was under no illusions last year. The interview process at Norwich was the most stringent I've ever been through and it was very much a case of me being able to ask any questions I wanted, but I was never given any indication that we could go and spend what we wanted to.

But I would have expected that of any Championship club.

"I'm not into the politics of a football club but one particular thing happened in the summer that made it much more difficult and we're trying to work through that disappointment."

Making decisions on current players out of contract at the end of the season will also have to wait until January at the earliest.

"I think it's quite clear now - no one's hiding behind anything - financially at the moment it's not easy to be committed to too many long-term plans," said Roeder.

"Maybe with one or two of them you might start talking to their agents now, but at the moment we've got our hands full trying to get up the league and that has to be put to one side just at the moment."

December will have to be a great deal better than November if Roeder, City and their fans are to be spared a potentially difficult January.

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