Worthy’s official warning

CHRIS WISE The future of Norwich City manager Nigel Worthington was thrown into doubt yesterday when he received what amounted to an ultimatum from club owners Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones.


The future of Norwich City manager Nigel Worthington was thrown into doubt yesterday when he received what amounted to an ultimatum from club owners Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones.

The majority shareholders reacted to Saturday's embarrassing 3-1 defeat at Plymouth by issuing a strongly worded statement expressing their displeasure at City's performance - and demanding an immediate improvement in results.

Delia and Michael have backed Worthington to the hilt since he took over as manager nearly six years ago. But their patience was clearly tested by events at Home Park and they have now piled on the pressure by calling for the situation "to be rectified" in the next two fixtures - Burnley at home on Sunday and QPR away on Saturday week.

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If City fail to deliver in those two games then the clear implication is that Worthington will be on his way - although yesterday's statement stopped short of setting out the situation in such black and white terms.

The full statement read: "We and the board are deeply disappointed by the lack of passion and commitment in the team's performance on Saturday and wish to apologise particularly to the 776 loyal supporters who undertook the long and arduous journey to Plymouth, but also to all our fans who have given us such wonderful support. You deserve more.

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"We are determined to achieve success at Norwich City and, to that end, we expect this situation to be rectified at our next home game on Sunday and at our next away game. We rely on our manager and squad to do this, not only on behalf of our supporters but for the long-term future of the club."

Those strong words will doubtless be ringing in the ears of management and players alike ahead of Sunday's home fixture with the Clarets, which is being screened live by Sky. It's now, to all intents and purposes, a must-win game for Worthington. If his side were to slip up in front of their own fans, on a day when a supporters' protest is planned, then he would be under enormous pressure ahead of the two-week break which precedes the trip to Loftus Road on Saturday, October 14.

If they follow their statement to the letter then, whatever happens against Burnley, the board will hold fire until after the QPR match before making a decision. But Worthington knows only too well that there are no guarantees in football and he clearly needs a three point haul, coupled with a convincing performance, at the weekend to keep his employers happy.

If the statement from the majority shareholders wasn't enough, Worthington will also go into the game under pressure from a supporters' group who yesterday confirmed plans for a protest before the Sunday lunch-time showdown.

The Worthy Out campaign, who organised similar events towards the end of last season, have decided to go on the offensive again after Saturday's dismal defeat, City's third in four league games, which left his side in 14th place in the embryonic Championship table.

The disgruntled fans have called for those with similar views to gather an hour before kick-off before making their feelings known outside the directors' lounge - and want supporters to reconvene after the game to deliver a second wave of protests.

Having seen support dwindle last season, with a mere handful of malcontents attending a protest before the QPR match following reasonable attendances at the Stoke and Leicester fixtures, Worthy Out officials are hoping for a big turn-out this time around, and are urging those taking part to be on their best behaviour.

"All chants should be about Worthington and be aimed at the board," read a statement. "No negatives about our players. Keep it peaceful. Please refrain from swearing and do not be confrontational. It is important to behave in a sensible manner, just like in previous protests.

"Co-operate with the authorities, they will be monitoring."

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