North Stander: ‘I’m genuinely worried about how we’ll do in League One’
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I’ll be honest - I’ve had better Saturday evenings. In fact, it’s hard to remember one which was quite so ruddy miserable, writes North Stander Terry Hunt.
In a few painful hours, I watched Town being thoroughly outclassed by Sheffield United, followed by the yellow and green promotion party at Carrow Road.
Two thoughts dominated. Firstly, the massive gulf in class between us and the Blades. We were so poor. A few weeks I ago, I thought all we really needed was a new striker. Now I’m seeing problems all over the pitch.
The second thought was about Norwich. How have they done so well? The question isn’t driven by bitterness – I genuinely want to know.
Cast your minds back to the Autumn, and the derby at Portman Road. A 1-1 draw in which we were marginally the better of two poor sides. I left that game convinced both teams would struggle. Well, I was half right!
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The word on the street was that Norwich manager Daniel Farke would have lost his job if they had lost that game. If that had happened, I wonder how their season would have turned out?
Instead, as we all know, they’ve hardly lost a game since, are surging with confidence, and have looked nailed on for promotion for months. Without spending huge amounts.
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The temptation is to speculate about how our season might have turned out differently if we’d managed to beat our local rivals back then. But, in truth, I don’t think anything could have saved us. Pep Guardiola would have struggled with our squad. We have been so, so poor.
I watched the game at Sheffield United with friends who live in the midlands. They haven’t had the joy of watching Town this season. They couldn’t believe how bad we were.
As I mentioned earlier, my confidence for next season has really been rocked in the last few weeks. Yes, I know we’re down, there’s nothing to play for except pride, and the players’ confidence is shot to pieces. But, honestly, the way we’re playing at the moment, I’m genuinely worried about how we’ll do in League One.
I bet Paul Lambert is looking forward to his summer holiday. He knows that every other minute of the close season will have to be taken up with rebuilding this tattered, torn and woefully weak playing squad.
There are so many questions. Who will score the goals for our promotion push? I had hoped it would be Will Keane but, really, are we going to take a chance on striker with such a terrible injury record?
Who will be our central midfield playmaker, alongside Alan Judge? I don’t see one at the moment. Andre Dozzell seems to have gone from bright hope to simply disappearing In games. Maybe he would flourish in a winning, dominating team - but he currently doesn’t look capable of making that happen.
What about the full-backs? Are Josh Emmanuel and Myles Kenlock up to the task? The jury is still out on both.
Then there’s centre-back. Luke Chambers, of all our players, looks like this most tortuous of seasons has taken an enormous toll on him. For all his admirable qualities, his form at the moment is woeful.
It was interesting to see Cole Skuse put in a man of the match performance at centre-half against the Blades. Calm and reassured amid the usual carnage. Maybe that’s a pointer for the future.
As I said earlier, our manager has an incredibly busy summer ahead of him. We can cheerfully ignore the hot-heads calling for his head.
Lambert knows better than anyone that the pressure will be on him from the very start of next season. If we get off to a poor start, that’s when questions can sensibly asked about him.
So, the worst season in our history will end, rather fittingly, with a meaningless damp squib against Leeds.
I had rather hoped they would still be in the promotion battle, and we would be able to have a say. But, in this cruellest of campaigns, even that tiny consolation has been taken away from us.
Roll on the final whistle to 2018-19, the season which was more horrific than even our worst nightmares.