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May 1, 2014

Vultures circling around Norwich City

The churn you associate with relegation is already starting to envelop Norwich City. Neil Adams' squad can still extricate themselves from the Premier League battle below, but to do so will require a remarkable finish to a forgettable campaign that finally claimed Chris Hughton and his backroom staff during the run-in.

- Report: Nash to be Norwich Player of the Year?

City head to Chelsea this weekend hoping the Blues' midweek Champions League exit will cast a pall over Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho's collective, given the Portuguese has wasted little opportunity playing down his own club's Premier League title challenge. Yet Chelsea will go top with a win over a Norwich side bidding to avoid a ninth consecutive away league defeat of a wretched 2014.

Clear that hurdle and Arsenal visit Carrow Road on the final day. Many in Norfolk cling to the belief the FA Cup finalists will be suitably distracted if they have already seen off Everton's Champions League challenge. For there to be anything meaningful on that encounter, Norwich must produce in west London and rely on stumbles, chiefly from Sunderland, who moved above them on goal difference after hammering Cardiff last time out as Norwich toiled at Manchester United.

Perhaps the fatalistic cloud that settled in the immediate aftermath of what felt like a defining weekend has lifted a touch in the intervening days, but such a gruelling passage to safety remains; which is why those who have already consigned Norwich to the Championship fear the inevitable fallout.

Robert Snodgrass had to address renewed questions about Celtic's reported interest when he attended the Scottish PFA player-of-the-year awards earlier this week. Snodgrass hails from a fanatical family of Bhoys. The Glaswegian has made no attempt to disguise the depth of his devotion but the whole-hearted midfielder again pledged to give his all for the cause.

Newcastle United have also been touted as a potential summer destination should City succumb in the closing days. Everton and West Ham are linked with Dutch international Leroy Fer. There will plenty more stories of interest and speculation as the vultures inevitably circle to pick off those whose reputations have not been adversely affected. John Ruddy has proven himself a consistent Premier League performer who still harbours genuine ambitions of making England's World Cup cut. Jonny Howson is an accomplished midfielder with that creative edge and goalscoring threat which sets the best operators apart.

You could go on right through Adams' squad and make a case for the majority to depart. That is the bitter reality. But City's top brass have a key human resources decision of their own to make first. Adams was installed for the final four matches after Hughton's time had expired, but whether Norwich slip or survive, now they need to address who drives the Canaries forward in the long haul. There needs to be a certainty and sense of momentum inside the club and projected right across the wider football constituency. Drift and inertia characterised the Canaries' actions when they dropped out of the Premier League in 2005. The same must not happen again should history repeat itself.

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