Tough job to sell City to newcomers
DAVID CUFFLEY After the bitter disappointment of the December home games against Sheffield Wednesday and Southend, one might have been forgiven for concluding that one more trip to Carrow Road, for today's game against Queen's Park Rangers, was quite enough for one month.
After the bitter disappointment of the December home games against Sheffield Wednesday and Southend, one might have been forgiven for concluding that one more trip to Carrow Road, for today's game against Queen's Park Rangers, was quite enough for one month.
But the family Christmas game of Monopoly - the Norwich edition, of course - contrived to take us there again.
The home of the Canaries nestles rather unpromisingly in one corner of the board, sandwiched between Biffa Waste Services on one side, and the dreaded “Go to Jail” message on the other - and just a couple of spaces from the Dinosaur Park.
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No offence to the neighbours, but landing on the square with the yellow and green badge ought to have been something of a blessing.
“Oh, Carrow Road. How much?” said the proud owner of the battleship. “£280,” said the banker. “Less than the price of a season ticket.”
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“About all it's worth at the moment,” muttered the player with the crumpled boot.
It's hard not to sympathise with that view after a month when tidings of comfort and joy have not exactly been brimming over for Norwich City supporters.
Whatever the result of today's game against John Gregory's team, December has brought Peter Grant's men less than one point per match just at the time when they needed to be stepping on the accelerator.
A decent points haul over the past four weeks would not only have kept City within striking distance of the top six going into the New Year, but would have given potential new signings an extra incentive to put pen to paper in January.
Looking at the Championship table this morning, any player targeted by Norwich could be forgiven for thinking that he was more likely to be walking into a relegation battle, though in fairness City were still closer to the top six - in terms of points - than the bottom three before today's games.
Grant is under no illusions, however, about the uphill struggle facing his side if they are to make the rest of this season any more meaningful than a mere battle for mid-table security.
City even had one point more from the first 25 games of last season - generally considered to have been a dismal campaign.
“We're making it very, very difficult, to say the least,” said Grant after Tuesday's goalless draw against Southend. “I expected to be a lot, lot closer, if not in the play-off positions by now. No use kidding myself on, that's where I expected us to be.
“It's not worked out that way, we've not performed well enough to do that. With our performances, we deserve to be where we are.”
He knows that selling Norwich to prospective new arrivals will now be much tougher than he would have liked.
“To try and be an attractive proposition for somebody, you've got to get performances together that are going to push us up the table so we're challenging. And we've not done ourselves many favours with that,” he said.
City gave glimpses of what they are capable of in last Saturday's 2-2 draw at Wolves, but for the fifth time this season, they let valuable points slip away after the 90-minute mark.
Jody Craddock's equaliser at Molineux made it nine points that have gone up in smoke in stoppage time at the end of games, and those nine points would have put the Canaries level on 40 with sixth-placed West Bromwich Albion, as well as Colchester and Stoke, going into today's programme.
But it is no use crying over spilt milk. Whatever the mathematics, there is no escaping the fact that City have seldom looked like a top six side in taking just six points from the last eight games, a wretched run that began with the derby day humiliation at Portman Road.
The reaction of sections of the crowd at the end of the Boxing Day game will have left Grant in no doubt that he has work to do to win over supporters who have not seen the consistent improvement in performances or league position they had hoped for over the past 11 weeks - even allowing for the fact that he has inherited a squad put together by his predecessor.
Comparing the league table on the evening of January 1, 2007, with that of the evening of October 1, 2006, will be an interesting exercise - and is likely to show the scale of the rebuilding job needed from the moment the transfer window reopens.
Even if two or three new faces arrive, they will have to make a fairly dramatic impact in the coming weeks if this season's video is not another one to be crossed off the Christmas list, consigned to the back of the cupboard or, worse still, left out for the men from Biffa.