Neil Adams may not be a household name to many followers of Premier League football, hence the scepticisms surrounding his appointment at Norwich City as Chris Hughton’s successor. The general view from the national media is that the Norfolk club’s decision was not only knee-jerk but awfully timed. Whilst it’s true that the timing could have been better, much better in fact, Norwich fans (myself included) firmly believe it was the right decision not only to part company with Hughton but also to appoint Adams for the crucial five remaining games.
For many reasons I talked about earlier in the week, Hughton’s reign at Carrow Road couldn’t continue. In terms of the threat of relegation, the writing was firmly on the wall. Norwich under Hughton were a sinking ship so the club really had nothing to lose by rolling the dice and trying to save themselves from a fate which was fast becoming inevitable. Defeat at home to West Brom saw a golden opportunity for three vital points slip away. The five remaining fixtures see the Canaries travel to Fulham this weekend in a clash which seems even bigger than a “six-pointer”, they then face Liverpool (at home), Manchester United and Chelsea (away) and Arsenal (at home). That’s not exactly the ideal run-in for a team battling relegation. Under Hughton, Norwich’s chances of securing the points required to beat the drop would’ve been minimal. Since Neil Adams has taken over, the whole mood around the club has most definitely been lifted. Fans are now believing, rather than just desperately hoping, that the team will survive.
However what nobody outside the club knows, or seems to know, is that Neil Adams is a very capable coach. This isn’t just a case of the club putting anyone they could find in charge just to fill the position until the end of the season. Adams has been touted by many Canaries fans as a future permanent manager of the club, especially since his triumph with the youth team last season. Norwich City’s youngsters were huge underdogs going into the FA Youth Cup final against Chelsea, who had dominated the competition in recent years. However, over the course of two legs, Norwich deservedly came out on top by winning home and away (a 4-2 aggregate victory overall). The young Canaries outthought and outfought their heavily fancied opponents and how Adams masterminded it epitomised the Norwich way. Organised and disciplined without the ball with plenty of creativity with the ball as well as being quick to counter-attack. Adams got every ounce of potential out of every player and played to their strengths whilst also nullifying the strengths of the opposition. This is exactly the sort of performance which is required now of the first team.
The so-called “experts” of the game have been very quick to point out the fact that Adams has never managed at senior level, let alone at Premier League level. However, surely it’s far too late into the season for experience to be a massive factor. All the teams threatened with relegation have all got to do one thing: secure as many points as possible by any means possible. The season is no longer a marathon, this is the sprint finish and all the remaining games are effectively cup ties. It’s a good thing for Norwich then that Adams’ major success with the youth team came in a knockout cup competition. Even so, Neil Adams has a hugely impressive knowledge of both the game itself and the club (which is vitally important) and this became obvious from his time as a co-commentator and pundit on BBC Radio Norfolk and Canary Call so it’d be very wrong to dismiss him as “inexperienced”.
Neil Adams has been a Norwich man through and through ever since he joined the club as a player from Oldham 20 years ago. He knows the club far better than the vast majority of managers who are hastily drafted into new posts at the top level. How much Felix Magath or Pepe Mel (as two examples) knew about Fulham and West Brom respectively prior to their appointments is debatable. Surely in a situation as dire as this you need someone in charge who knows the club inside out and who can therefore make an impact and put their own stamp on the team quickly. Neil Adams will certainly do that but only time will tell if he can keep Norwich up. What’s for certain is that he is more likely to do it than his predecessor.