The last Norwich City manager to see his side concede seven did not last the week. David McNally, the club’s chief executive, dispensed with Bryan Gunn six days after the 7-1 defeat by Colchester United. Since it was the opening afternoon of the League One campaign, it was quite a sacrifice.
Gunn was a Norwich hero, the goalkeeper who had kept Bayern Munich at bay on one of the most fondly remembered nights in the club’s history. Chris Hughton enjoys nothing like that reputation at Carrow Road and even before Saturday’s 7-0 disembowelling at Manchester City his captain, Russell Martin, was issuing appeals for fans to rally behind the manager.
He might have saved his breath. Perhaps the most damning comment came from the Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho. “When I came here I heard every match in the Premier League was difficult,” he said. “But we scored a lot of goals.” They might have scored more than seven.
“It hurts, it is humiliating,” said Martin. “I don’t know where that performance has come from. We have been playing OK. It is all about next week now. It is one of the lowest days of my career and I think the rest of the lads will feel the same.”
Hughton fulfils most of the criteria for a managerial sacking. Norwich spent a lot of money in the summer, £21m, including £8m on the highly rated striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel, who has scored one goal, and they have started the season uncertainly.
The man who will decide Hughton’s future is the man who fired Gunn. McNally’s decision to bring in Paul Lambert led to the rebirth of football in Norfolk and whether he stands by his man or casts him adrift will be equally important. Norwich are not a basket case like Sunderland. They are, unlike Crystal Palace, probably good enough to survive. Hughton pointed out that recent fixtures have pitched them against Arsenal, Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs.
“We were in a similar situation last year,” he said. “We need to look for that one moment, that one spark that can start a decent run. It now makes the West Ham game a big event, there is no doubt about that.”
After that Colchester thrashing, goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos never played for Norwich again. John Ruddy will keep goal against West Ham on Saturday and, unlike City’s Joe Hart, he still has his first-team place to cling to. However, unless he is given better defensive protection, neither he nor his manager has much of a future.