Upon relegation from the Premier League at the end of the 2015/16 season, it was widely expected that the relegated sides would be among the favourites this season to make the return to the top flight. It appears that this is going to be the result for Newcastle United but not for Norwich City.
On paper, the Canaries have one of the most capable sides in the division and their 7-1 demolition of Reading shows that, on their day, they are one of the most talented and destructive outfits in the second tier. So, why is it that Norwich find themselves adrift of the play-offs, having struggled for form all season, and under the watch of interim manager Alan Irvine?
When a team is relegated from the Premier League into the Championship, it is customary that their better players are plucked away and the team has to rebuild over the summer. However, with the introduction of parachute payments and the fact that, even one season in the top flight can provide massive dividends for a club, means that it is easier for clubs to keep hold of the core of their squad. Perhaps the most notable departures were Robbie Brady, Nathan Redmond and Martin Olsson – all of whom left for Premier League sides.
These players would obviously be a big loss to any side but the Canaries made good money for them and were able to bring in strong additions in the shape of Alex Pritchard, Yanic Wildschut and Nelson Oliveira. The core of the Norfolk outfit’s squad remained strong and it was undoubtedly one of the most talented sides in the division, but performances on the pitch did not match expectations.
The side were taken into the new campaign by Alex Neil who had previously taken the club into the Premier League via the playoffs in 2014/15 having arrived at the club in January 2015. Form under the former Hamilton Academicals manager was patchy this season and a run of just seven wins in 24 games saw the Scot sacked last month. Interim manager Alan Irvine has struggled to turn the form around, but a thumping of Reading will be a cause for optimism after what has been a largely frustrating season for the Norwich faithful.
Norwich are currently sitting nine points away from the playoffs with a very tough run-in, so it would be reasonable to assume that the board are already casting an eye to making a more solid play-off run next season. The role of sporting director was created at Carrow Road during a restructuring of staff and it was filled by Stuart Webber who will play a key role in selecting the new manager once the summer arrives. The decision will be a massive one there is clear intent from the board to take steps to make sure that the club will be in a better position at this time next season.
Despite having endured a season where the club hasn’t quite met the expectations that they had at the start of the campaign, the fact that Norwich are still in with half a chance of scraping into a playoff spot shows that the club really should have performed better and that promotion should have been on the cards for them at this point of the campaign. However, the parachute payments arriving and a new staff structure shows that, should Norwich keep hold of their key players and make the right decision regarding a new manager, they will certainly be one of the favourites for promotion next season.
The upcoming summer will provide an opportunity for Norwich City to tweak and refine the squad in order to make next season more successful. The Championship side are close to finding the formula for promotion and with funds available for a new manager to put his own twist on the team. If the new manager can get the playing staff performing as well as they are capable of then there is no doubt that the Canaries will be in for what could be a very successful promotion bid.
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