Chris Hughton’s exit will come as little surprise to those who gathered deep in the bowels of Carrow Road on Saturday night waiting his arrival to dissect a 1-0 Premier League defeat to West Brom that signalled the death knell.
Hughton looked weary and beaten down by the onerous task of trying to preserve the Canaries top flight status. There was no spark and precious little different in what he said to try and minimise the damage from a desperate defeat to the Baggies that edged them closer to the precipice. Hughton remains an honest, decent man, but his managerial limitations had become all too apparent in a season of incremental gains and prolonged fallow periods.
City’s top brass made it clear in the statement released on Sunday night confirming the departures of Hughton and his assistants Colin Calderwood and Paul Trollope they had to act to end a spiral of decline. Four defeats in the last six and no points on the road since January 1, was a recipe that threatened to consign them to the Football League.
Hughton’s own future had been a pernicious sub-plot for most of a testing campaign, but Norwich had managed to win the games that mattered. They did not this time and Hughton had to make the ultimate sacrifice. Many outside Norfolk will struggle to comprehend the timing with just five games left, but the compliant nature of City’s surrender and the furious reaction it provoked around the terraces demanded a tough response. Hughton was berated by sections of the home support. After the match he was struck with a stray cardboard clapper board, hundreds of which were handed out before the game to whip up the atmosphere. Instead, they were used to unleash a wave of protest as they rained onto the turf at the final whistle.
Norwich have turned to a club stalwart in Neil Adams to pull them out the tailspin. His credentials among the fan base are impeccable. A loyal player and the man who engineered a remarkable FA Youth Cup triumph last season when Norwich’s collective of homegrown talent stunned the holders Chelsea over two stirring legs. Hughton was in attendance at Stamford Bridge to see the young Canaries lift a first piece of silverware at the national level in 30 years. Few then would have predicted Adams would be his anointed successor barely 12 months on.
City’s statement is laced with none of the ‘interim’ terminology that accompanied Garry Monk’s unveiling at Swansea. A full press conference scheduled for Monday will add more detail and plenty of colour. Adams knows the rewards for keeping Norwich in the Premier League but first he must overcome some major potential pitfalls. Starting with a trip to relegation rivals Fulham this weekend in a Craven Cottage tussle that has assumed a totally different dimension.