Norwich City Gambling Premier League Survival on 1 Result After Sacking Hughton

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistApril 7, 2014

Norwich City's manager Chris Hughton watches his team play against West Ham United during their English Premier League soccer match at Upton Park, London, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Sang Tan

Norwich City opted to sack manager Chris Hughton on Sunday evening, appointing youth-team coach and former Canaries player Neil Adams in his place.

As per BBC Sport, Norwich have taken the decision to relieve Hughton from his position after a poor run of form and to give the team the maximum chance of Premier League survival.

With just five matches to go until the end of the current season and Norwich having plummeted to perch precariously just one place outside of the relegation zone, questions are being asked over whether this is really giving the team that "maximum chance"—or whether they've left it far too late and have now panicked as they see the end of the season approaching.

Hughton was the last manager in place who started the season with one of the teams currently in the bottom seven.

Chris Hughton has been sacked by Norwich. Now? With 5 games to go? Utterly bonkers!

— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) April 6, 2014

Chris Hughton is the 9th Premier League manager to be sacked this season #NCFC

— RealFantasyFootball (@rffuk) April 7, 2014

For some time, Norwich have known they need to take points as early as possible this term, given that they finish the campaign with a run of four fixtures comprising Liverpool (home), Manchester United (away), Chelsea (away) and Arsenal (home).

That means their next game, their only other remaining match aside from those four, becomes of paramount importance.

There is nothing coincidental about the timing of Hughton's departure; the Norwich board are banking everything—Premier League survival itself—on a positive result next weekend.

Fulham picked up a vital weekend win at Aston Villa
Fulham picked up a vital weekend win at Aston VillaBen Hoskins/Getty Images

Norwich travel to Fulham on Saturday, with five points currently between the sides.

It is a game Norwich dare not lose, given there is no certainty of picking up many more points before the end of the campaign. Allow Fulham to close that gap to two, and the Canaries could potentially see themselves in the drop zone by the end of this month, having looked close to being out of danger after taking seven points from five games in a month between late February and late March.

Their away record under Hughton, though, has been abysmal—they've lost six in a row on the road, scoring just four in that time and conceding 17. Over the course of the season, they've won only twice away from home, the same tally as they won on the road over the entire 2012-13 campaign under Hughton.

Four wins in 35 gives the former boss a paltry 11 percent win ratio for away Premier League games.

Norwich's defeat at Swansea was their sixth on the road in a row
Norwich's defeat at Swansea was their sixth on the road in a rowMichael Steele/Getty Images

That's too much of a risk for Norwich to let him lead them in their final "winnable" game—even more of a risk than letting an inexperienced coach have the reins.

Norwich have opted to try a form of shock therapy: Hope the sacking and the new face at training jolts the underperforming squad into a reaction, taking what would be an enormous three points at Craven Cottage.

It's something which has worked for Crystal Palace, worked in part for West Brom and which has failed miserably—twice so far—for Fulham, while Sunderland haven't gotten enough points either since their managerial change.

The players will of course have to shoulder plenty of blame for their poor season, but Hughton was a negative, defensive influence on the side who waited too long to make changes in-game, rarely looked to press home territorial advantage and failed to get the best out of some big summer signings, including one-goal striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel and talented central midfielder Leroy Fer.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - MARCH 22:  Ricky Van Wolfswinkel of Norwich City in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Sunderland at Carrow Road on March 22, 2014 in Norwich, England. (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images)
Alex Broadway/Getty Images

Adams is an unknown quantity and reports of him having five games to save Norwich's season are true, but really, what Norwich have done is gamble everything on one game, one result, one opportunity to win.

If the former midfielder pulls it off, Norwich have a chance of staying up. Thirty-seven or 38 points is likely to be enough to see them over the line; they have 32 at present. It's all or nothing for Norwich at Fulham, but it was Hughton who saw them into this position, not the board.

Sacking the manager is the right decision for Norwich on a footballing basis—but it's a decision which has been made about two months too late. Victory at Fulham is now the only scenario for the club to contemplate.