Ahead of his first assignment as Norwich City manager against Southampton at home, Smith – who replaced Daniel Farke on November 15 – expressed confidence in the existing contingent of players. Having had a record of never getting relegated in his career, former Aston Villa boss has quite a mountain to climb this time and Norwich’s recent track record in the Premier League doesn’t help his cause.
“We believe the quality is there but the mentality also needs to be there.
“I looked at the squad, I spoke to Neil (Adams, assistant sporting director) and Stuart (Webber, sporting director) and I liked what I saw. Some people will say it’s a risk but I see it as an opportunity.
The first season after promotion is the hardest, survival has to be the aim. If you survive then you can build,”Smith told a news conference ahead of his first game in charge against Southampton on Saturday.
The 50-year-old also gave an update on Todd Cantwell, who has been nursing an injury lately. Despite making some positive progress since Smith’s arrival, the midfielder will require another assessment before getting a green signal to feature in the game against the Saints.
Smith also stressed the importance of the home crowd rallying behind the side to ensure they stay up. He has requested the fans to hold together to ensure they can pull through. He stressed on the importance of finding a way to survive in the first season after promotion, an area where Norwich haven’t done well in a long time.
He believes that in the first season after promotion, the key should always be survival, post which there can be plenty of plans made to plan a great future. Leicester City have been a sensational example of this. The Foxes were promoted in 2014, and escaped relegation by the barest of margins in their first reason.
After that, Leicester managed to establish themselves as one of the top most clubs in England, and have two major trophies in their bag – the Premier League and FA Cup. The story was quite similar for Smith during his tenure with Villa.
Having received a promotion in 2019, they remained in the relegation zone for a long period of time, before the pandemic break mustered them some much-needed confidence. They had a stellar finish to the season, and managed to remain in the top division. Not until the final whistle on the final day had they confirmed their status, and by the barest of margins, they remained in the first division.
The follow up season was quite impressive for Villa, and finished 11th. They were off to a decent start in the current season as well, but five defeats on the trot didn’t work in Smith’s favour. He was eventually sacked, and inside a couple of weeks, he took over at Norwich.
That won’t be so easy for Norwich to replicate, as the side have been playing pretty poor football until now. They are bottom of the table as it stands, having mustered just 5 points, which includes a solitary victory against Brentford in London. They are also the only team in the top two divisions of England to have scored less than 10 goals in the league.
Norwich City have a tough run of fixtures to welcome the new man in charge. Southampton will be a tricky contest, as Ralph Hassenhuttl’s men themselves are fighting a relegation battle and have done pretty well in that regard. They will play Wolves, Newcastle, Spurs, and Manchester United in their next four games, which could be quite a challenge.