Norwich City chief executive David McNally claims the club had “no choice” but to fire manager Chris Hughton with five games left in the Premier League season.
Norwich terminated Hughton late Sunday night and hired U-18 manager Neil Adams in his place.
McNally said of the firing, “[w]e felt we were left with no choice. Recent results and performances have been disappointing.”
The Canaries dropped their third loss in four matches on Saturday, a 0-1 home decision to West Bromwich Albion. The loss, which dropped Norwich to 17th in the table, five points clear of 18th place Fulham, appeared to be the last straw for fans who launched yellow clappers onto the pitch and chanted for Hughton’s dismissal (“We want Hughton out!“) before the final whistle.
Whether the club had “no choice” but to fire Hughton, however, is debatable.
On one hand, the writing seemed to be on the wall. According to The Guardian‘s Richard Rae, the indication from the dressing room was that the players would not be against Hughton’s sacking. One veteran went so far as to say privately that the constant criticism dealt by Hughton had left the players hesitant to make mistakes in matches rather than hungry to create opportunities.
More blame can be heaped on Hughton when considering the $23 million he convinced the club to spend last summer on a strike force that included Ricky van Wolfsfinkel, Gary Hooper and Johan Elhmander. Together the trio has scored only seven of the club’s paltry 26 league goals.
On the other hand, there are a number of factors to suggest this was not the right time to fire Hughton. The former Newcastle and Birmingham boss came to Carrow Road in the summer of 2012 after Paul Lambert, beloved by the club, bounced for Aston Villa. Questioned by many upon his arrival in East Anglia, Hughton guided Norwich to an impressive 11th place finish last season.
Further clouding McNally’s remark is the current position of the club with five matches to play. Just five points above the drop, the Canaries have the biggest match of their season this weekend against Fulham. Win and they are nearly assured a place in next year’s Premier League. Lose and it could be curtains as their last four matches are against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
The decision to remove an established manager in favor of a U-18 coach raises even more question marks around McNally’s statement. Only time will tell if firing Hughton was the correct move. Until then, the club must follow the words of captain Russell Martin, who summed up his feelings on Monday by noting: “Unfortunately, it is the nature of the game we are in, the club have made the decision and we have to move on.”