Chris Sutton: Norwich City still have hope in Premier League survival quest

Chris Sutton

Chris Sutton | 12 Jan 2022, 18:40

There’s no denying it, this season so far has been embarrassing for Norwich City. But it is retrievable and survival isn’t out of their reach.

As long as that is the case, Norwich’s current squad must keep believing that they have enough to keep their heads above water in the Premier League.

 

 

They are a team who have just lost confidence but when do you hit rock bottom?

They got slammed after the hammering at Chelsea but I actually thought the Leeds performance was more damning because they lacked a real identity. I didn’t understand how Daniel Farke had set the team up and it felt like the beginning of the end.

It’s arguable now that the Arsenal game was so pathetic that it was that game where they reached rock bottom.

Eventually, you have to think, ‘it can’t get any worse, can it?’. They have nothing to lose now. When the whole country has written you off and is laughing at you, the motivation should be that we will have the last laugh.

He who laughs last laughs longest. That is what I would be thinking if I was a member of this current Norwich City team. I would take great pleasure in ramming it down the throats of everyone who had written us off.

As things stand, Norwich are three points off Watford in 17th position. It is still a retrievable situation.

It only needs one performance to turn things around. It’s up to the players to roll their sleeves up and prove that they are Premier League players. After what happened last time at this level, these players will be remembered only as good Championship players. It is up to them to put it right.

A portion of the fans have lost faith in the team and they are looking at a group of players who aren’t playing like they believe they can get out it. That lack of confidence feels like it is running through the whole club.

Dean Smith wants unity throughout the club but it is up to the players to actually show that they are capable of playing at this level. There has been evidence this season that they are, the Manchester United game, against Wolves, Brentford for a half, even against Spurs.

They now need to show the fans that level on a more consistent basis and show some courage in how they approach matches. That’s how they will get the fans back on side. It isn’t up to the fans to win the players over.

They have been good players in the past but have lost confidence. They are looking round at each other and not taking responsibility themselves.

I can’t remember too many times if any when the Norwich City away support has turned on their own team even if it was with a touch of Norfolk humour.

Players get used to being slaughtered from opposition support not their own. If I was a current player that would have made me angry and maybe a few players need to start playing with a bit of anger rather than ambling around feeling sorry for themselves and hiding.

It doesn’t get any worse than that as a player. Norwich fans are also loyal and are among the most patient in English football. There is only one way to get them back on side and that is by going out and producing performances.

So far this season, they have lacked consistency but there have been flashes of quality throughout this season.

Smith has been proactive with his substitutions in matches and it was his changes that prompted an uplift against Charlton on Sunday. He has managed to steer Aston Villa out of danger when they seemed dead and buried. All is not lost, but it needs to happen and soon.

Any uplift will start by getting back to the level of performance witnessed in the five games under Smith.

Despite all the doom and gloom, this is still a position that they can improve and resolve. They still have a chance to put it right. While that is the case, this group of players have to believe that they can do it.

I might be laughed out of town and I’m willing for that to be the case, but I still think Norwich can get out of it. I have repeated that sentiment several times on the radio.

That’s not a statement based on anything I’ve seen on the pitch this season just that there are three other poor teams and there is still lots of time to turn things round.

It only takes a spark but it’s up to the players to create that, starting at West Ham. This group need to earn the right. They are only one big result away from kickstarting the season that’s what this group should be thinking.

But I’m yet to see a ferocious Norwich performance. That will need to change if there is any hope of them turning their fortunes around.

EXTRA SUTTON 

 

Chris Sutton scored from the penalty spot for Blackburn Rovers in 1996 in a 3-0 win over Liverpool, a performance that sparked an uplift in results.

I know how some of the Norwich City squad are feeling at the moment.

During my time at Blackburn Rovers, just two years after we won the Premier League title, we endured a difficult start to the season.

Similarly to Norwich, we had sold our best player Alan Shearer to Newcastle United for £15m and everything around the club was feeling a bit sorry for themselves. Some could say Norwich are experiencing a similar thing after losing Emi Buendia.

From title-winners 18-months before, we became relegation strugglers. We failed to win any of our first 11 matches and manager Ray Harford stepped down after an embarrassing cup exit to then Division Two side Stockport County.

We had hit rock bottom. And the only way was up.

Luckily, we had a very good group of players. Colin Hendry and ex-Norwich midfielder Tim Sherwood were big personalities in the dressing room. We needed a spark and a performance to lift the group.

I would say we had a better group than our performances suggested. Confidence was so low. After 11 matches, we were rooted to the bottom of the Premier League with no victories and just four points from 11 matches.

Tony Parkes came in and our next game was at Ewood Park against a star-studded Liverpool side that contained Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and John Barnes.

It would turn out to be the game that provided a spark for the rest of the season. I scored twice and we managed to win the game 3-0. Our squad was better than Norwich’s, but the malaise and feelings of pity and doubt were the same.

That game was the catalyst for a much-improved run of form and we lost once in our next 11 matches. Everybody had written us off but we let our football do the talking and ended up finishing 13th.

My Blackburn team is proof that you can retrieve situations that seem lost and fight back to survive in the league. The circumstances were different but the feelings when you’re at the bottom are the same.

Maybe Norwich City’s game against West Ham United can prove to be that spark. It only needs one performance – ours was against Liverpool, why can’t Norwich’s be against West Ham tonight?