Championship Analysis – Norwich go top after Nottingham Forest stall

Nottingham Forest were held to their second successive goalless draw on Saturday, allowing Norwich to go top of the Championship after the Canaries came from behind to beat struggling Blackpool. It is the third time Norwich have recovered from losing positions to gain wins and Neil Adams’ side have also earned draws from behind in two other encounters.

It is always a dilemma for relegated clubs in terms of how to prepare for the following season a division lower. In the simplest terms relegation means a club isn’t good enough to play at that particular level, so the most enticing temptation is to make changes, whether in personnel or philosophy or both. Fulham’s horrific start to the season is damning evidence of the latter being a massive risk, with a loose focus on youth at the expense of experienced heads proving too much of a challenge for the club’s raw talent as it stands.

In fairness, sometimes a squad breaks up naturally and there is little a manager can do to choose the opposite path – a situation the now departed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer largely faced in the summer with Cardiff City.

Norwich’s excellent start to the season perhaps demonstrates that the ideal model is familiarity; someone within the club who has a thorough knowledge of the way it works, how to deal with its players and is capable of stepping up to managerial level. The Canaries chose one of their own, the hugely popular ‘Hall of Fame’ figure Neil Adams, at the back end of last season, initially as a caretaker manager, but he was appointed full-time in the summer.

“You look at the nucleus, the core group as we call it, and there’s a lot of talented players with fire in their belly who want to play for Norwich City. Those are the types of players that we want to have here,” Adams told the club’s official website during pre-season. “You mention Norwich City to anyone and they’ll talk about a team that plays good football, a team that plays an attacking-based possession game.

“That will never change, I don’t think it can. I think it’s engrained into the DNA of the club,” he added when asked about his philosophy for this season.

Not every club has that luxury, of course, but Adams has so far proved that you can ‘stick’ to a certain extent after relegation. Fulham have the opportunity to go down the same road at the time of writing. The Cottagers finally got off the mark with a win at Birmingham under caretaker manager Kit Symons, who afterwards made it clear he wanted the job permanently.

“I love the club and I’ve got a lot of history with Fulham and I want the right person to be in charge of Fulham. I want that right person to be me,” he said. Birmingham boss and ex-Fulham midfielder Lee Clark very generously added: “Give him the job. He knows the club inside and out. He has the fans behind and he has people around the club smiling again.”

Fulham’s win and Blackpool’s loss means the Tangerines are now bottom and the only club in the division to remain winless.

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