Sack Alex Neil? Start Kyle Lafferty? It seems some Norwich fans have gone completely bonkers after a poor run of results. Dan Brigham has a right good rant about the moaning, booing supporters and calls for a bit of sanity
Alex Neil is a good manager.
It shouldn’t really need saying, should it. We all know this, right? This is the man who pulled Norwich to the Premier League after inheriting a side that had bungee-jumped into the middle of the Championship table under Neil Adams.
As we hung there upside, below us was a decade of trips to Rotherham and the wrong parts of south London, a succession of Glenn Roeders, Bruce Riochs and Bryan Gunns taking us around in ever decreasing circles. But Neil grabbed the rope and yanked us back up. It was an extraordinary feat – 18 wins in 25 games, with two victories over Ipswich.
But we shouldn’t need reminding of that, right?
Well, maybe some Norwich fans do. Remember when everything was hunky-dory after the draw at Upton Park? We were playing good football, picking up good points. Everyone was happy in our big group-hug of Norwich warmth. Lovely.
Now, though. Well. Snarling, feral punks have taken over the hippy commune. There is shouting. There is really furious typing. There have even been calls – quite a lot of them, in fact – for Alex Neil to be sacked. Alex Neil! To be sacked!
Even after the Everton defeat – a game in which Norwich passed the ball incisively, defended astutely against a good attack and dominated for the most part – there was hysteria. Social media turned into 11pm on a hot, summer’s Saturday where everyone's been drinking and simmering relentlessly in a pub garden since mid-day. The aggression reaches a point of no return, wild punches are thrown; people are staggering about with their shirts torn, stepping into puddles of vomit and tripping over bodies just to pick a fight and bellow their point across like in some totalitarian opera.
Now, most of us love a debate. But, to some people, it seems the actual football is just a sideshow to another opportunity to crack their knuckles or open their gobs and scream the latest opinion they’ve convinced themselves they believe in. And when they find they can’t articulate what they’re trying to say, they turn to booing instead. They bloody love a good boo; grown adults opening their mouths to let out a boo because their side has narrowly lost a football match might be one of society’s most pathetic sights.
The problem is that a lot of fans think they're full of piss and vinegar – strutting into your face to tell you why Alex Neil is fucking shit, mate – when in actual fact they're full of piss and wind.
And right now too many people are full of piss and wind about Kyle Lafferty’s exclusion from the starting XI. So a manager isn’t bowing to pressure to play a striker – one who scored a solitary Championship goal last season – just because he scored against Faroe Islands, Greece, Hungary and Finland. If that is making you angry, then that is an affront to anger. It’s like being absolutely livid with Steven Spielberg for not casting Danny Dyer as Oskar Schindler.
Lafferty's Twitter defence – that he was played out of position on the left last season – deserves some sympathy, but Bradley Johnson managed to grab a few goals playing on the left, didn't he. The truth is, Lafferty's just not good enough for the Premier League.
I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. The cheeriest, most rational football fan you know has done it. We’ve all had a good irrational moan. But sometimes people puke out an opinion so absurd that you have little choice but to call bullshit in order to retain a modicum of sanity. Which brings us back to Alex Neil.
Those who think he should be sacked: what do you actually like about football? Was that day at Wembley not good enough for you? Is being 16th in a league full of far better squads than Norwich’s not good enough for you? Is playing attacking football not good enough for you? Is having a young, dynamic manager rather than, say, Neil Warnock, not good enough for you? Is seeing Wes Hoolahan having the purplest purple patch of his career not good enough for you? Is watching Nathan Redmond blossom into a genuine attacking force not good enough for you?
Yes, we might get relegated but – and this is pretty crucial – going down wouldn’t mean Norwich have underperformed. Staying up would mean we’ve over-performed; getting relegated would mean we’ve done about as well as expected by most neutrals
This isn’t to say that under no circumstances should Neil not be sacked. If we lose our next five games, who knows how things will look. But as long as the players are performing for him – and they clearly are – and the team keeps playing good football – which they did against Everton – is there anyone who can do better with this squad?
He’s already shown he is an intelligent, adaptable and canny manager. If he can’t keep Norwich up, probably no one can. So can we all shut up for a bit, stop the moaning, stop the booing, take a step back and remember just one simple thing: Alex Neil is a good manager.
But we all knew that, right?
You can follow Dan Brigham on Twitter at: @dan_brigham
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