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Grant Holt: The Wrestler

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 By Paddy Davitt

Norwich on the brink of relegation as off-field troubles surface

Amid the furore surrounding the resignation of Norwich City's chief executive, a Premier League football match that could decide the Canaries' future is set to take place against Watford on Wednesday.

You could be forgiven for thinking what happens on the pitch at Carrow Road is a sideshow to the social media meltdown triggered by David McNally's exit in the wake of a damaging 1-0 home defeat to Manchester United.

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McNally verbally resigned to the club's board shortly after the final whistle on Saturday and then followed that up by email, but it was his decision to reveal his intentions in a tweet posted on his official account to a supporter later that same evening that unleashed a storm which only abated with official confirmation of his departure on Monday. 

McNally's exit, with City on the brink of a second relegation in three seasons, has totally overshadowed Watford's visit. Norwich trail fourth-from-bottom Sunderland by four points and clearly need a favour from Everton, who travel to the Stadium of Light on Wednesday.

Few, least of all McNally it appears, feel Norwich have it in them to fulfil their part of the contract and beat Watford before hoping for a slice of fortune in the northeast. City have lost their last four games without scoring a goal and appear incapable of cutting out the basic defensive errors pushing them to the brink of a swift Championship return.

Seb Bassong was deemed culpable against Man United when he failed to deal with Antonio Valencia's raking pass, which allowed Wayne Rooney to burst free and roll in Juan Mata to score.

It was the latest forgettable moment in what has been a wretched end to the campaign for Bassong. He was also at fault for a goal in Sunderland's 3-0 win last month, since when the respective clubs have spun in different directions.

Sam Allardyce's squad look in the mood to pull off another great escape, after effectively consigning Norwich to the drop back in 2014. On that occasion there was a sense the Canaries had almost been caught by surprise after a smooth passage under the guidance of Chris Hughton until the final stretch, when Sunderland produced a winning surge out of kilter with their form for the majority of that campaign.

This time around, certainly since the turn of the year, there has been a crushing inevitability to Norwich's demise. Alex Neil admits he has made mistakes, his players certainly have and that, combined with a growing injury list to a small squad that has now claimed Jonny Howson with knee ligament damage, one is unable to shake the inescapable feeling of the fates conspiring against Neil's club.

City have almost reached the stage where it is now about sending a signal beyond this season, regarding the future direction of the club. McNally's poorly-timed departure, allied to a downturn in results, projects an outward sense of instability and a lack of direction.

If they beat Watford, who eased to a routine 2-0 win at Vicarage Road in the corresponding fixture, and finish on a positive note this coming weekend at Everton then, irrespective of whether or not Norwich survive, at least there would be some grounds for optimism.

That could be vital in coping with another summer of player turnover to prepare for the new challenges ahead. Neil and his players owe that to themselves as much as the supporters.

Paddy is the chief Norwich City correspondent for media group Archant. He has covered the Canaries for more than 10 years. Twitter: @paddyjdavitt.


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