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May 11, 2014

Stoic acceptance of Norwich City’s Premier League fate

To their eternal credit, a large proportion of Norwich City’s loyal support waited until the bitter end of a sour Premier League farewell against Arsenal.

Aaron Ramsey’s magnificent volley and Carl Jenkinson’s close range finish secured the points for the FA Cup finalists but the result was almost incidental. The Gunners arrived in Norfolk already secure in a Champions League pre-qualifying spot this summer and with the distraction of a Wembley date and the prospect of ending that nine-year trophy wait.

City’s relegation was effectively sealed when Sunderland completed their own great escape recently. Yet when Russell Martin gathered his troops in front of the Main Stand at the final whistle before cajoling them on a lap of appreciation there was no rancour or recriminations from the terraces. Just a stoic acceptance of their fate.

The patience of City’s followers had been routinely tested for the majority of a desperate campaign. The final cruel blows administered in recent days were almost a blessed relief. Norwich had toiled for so long in 2014 this almost felt like closure. Martin himself spoke candidly on the eve of Arsenal’s visit about the loss of identity and the mistakes made in a concerted search for growth and prosperity.

Few who follow their fortunes would take issue. Now they want to see a response that acknowledges the errors of the recent past. To that end City’s board issued a statement two hours after the final whistle echoing much of Martin’s damning verdict.

They now have to deal with the consequences; the financial hit and the loss of global status which comes from membership of such an exclusive clique. Resolving the managerial situation at Carrow Road is the top priority. Neil Adams picked up one point from his five games in charge after a late season switch following Chris Hughton's exit. Adams reiterated after his swansong he wants to stay at the helm. The club statement confirmed he is one of a ‘number of candidates’ the board are in talks with -- a formal announcement is expected by the end of this week. It can not come soon enough to herald a new start, a fresh beginning and to embark on the onerous task of sifting through the wreckage of a playing squad that will now be broken up and dismantled.

John Ruddy was superbly defiant against the Gunners in the opening period; one reflex stop to deny Olivier Giroud a certain goal brought prolonged ripples of applause from the home fans, who feted the big keeper again on the final whistle. They know how difficult it will be to retain Ruddy’s services over the summer. Newly-crowned player-of-the-year Robert Snodgrass is another highly-coveted commodity. The likes of Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer may in all probability be collateral damage. The Dutch international duo were purchased to propel City forward, not for the close quarter combat of a gruelling Championship.

Decisive action is vital for all those Norwich fans who mourn the passing of the Premier League adventure. They deserve no less.