Norwich City’s new manager Neil Adams has form for upsetting the odds as he strives to pull the Canaries out of their Premier League tailspin.
Adams’ appointment as Chris Hughton’s successor for the final five games has hardly received universal backing. For all the club’s stated ambitions and record transfer activity in recent windows they must endure another fraught passage to safety, much like 12 months ago when City’s survival was only guaranteed in the last week of the campaign.
Those further away from the heartlands have focused on the timing and the jettisoning of a decent, honourable man in Hughton who underlined his class in his first public utterances since last weekend’s dismissal by insisting it had been an honour to manage the club.
Such concerns expressed beyond the borders of Norfolk may even be justifiable after the club’s short-term future was placed in the hands of a coach with no managerial experience in the professional ranks. But Adams is no untried novice. His first pre-match press call on Thursday afternoon ahead of the crucial trip to Fulham was handled with the air of a man many years in the job. He knows like we all do it is his work on the training pitch that will be judged.
This is an astute individual who guided a talented crop of youngsters to Norwich’s first FA Youth Cup success in 30 years last season when they dethroned the holders Chelsea over two legs. City went into those ties as massive underdogs against a Blues squad assembled for considerably more than the homegrown collective at Adams’ disposal. Such financial disparities pervade outside the Premier League bubble between the biggest and the rest as they do within it. Chelsea had brushed aside Liverpool’s starlets in the semifinals and they were expected to repeat that dominance against the unheralded Canaries.
Yet Adams’ tactical master plan plotted home and away wins in the final, sealing the aggregate success on a memorable night at Stamford Bridge watched by 3,000 travelling fans and the club’s top brass. Only the delusional would suggest that experience fully equips Adams for the survival struggle, but it should underline a pragmatic approach to his craft.
Adams was an underrated player in his own days for Everton, Norwich and Stoke. He understands the psyche of a dressing room and how to motivate a disparate group to perform against the odds. Norwich’s board know victory this weekend at relegation rivals Fulham would almost see the club over the finishing line given they head to Craven Cottage five points clear of the third-from-bottom hosts.
Adams’ internal promotion has triggered a scramble for away tickets. The travelling allocation has already sold out but many more will be present by the Thames. Adams is one of their own and that is a powerful antidote to the weary, fractious atmosphere that engulfed the later stages of Hughton's era.
Norwich have gambled on the uplifting effect of a managerial change which inevitably given the stakes and the timing contains an element of calculated risk. But it would be folly to dismiss Adams before he has even started.