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 By Paddy Davitt

Norwich strive to wave goodbye to the Premier League on a happy note

Joy will be in short supply when relegated Norwich City visit managerless Everton in Sunday's Premier League finale. One suspects that, for both clubs, there will be a sense of relief that a season which contained so much promise but ended in misery, is over.

Norwich's return to the Championship was confirmed in midweek despite a stirring 4-2 win against Watford after Sunderland brushed aside a disinterested Everton 3-0 at the Stadium of Light in Roberto Martinez's final game before he was sacked.

Few, if any, Norwich fans seriously expected a favour from the blue half of Merseyside, with the Toffees needing to avoid defeat on Wearside to take the survival battle into the final day.

Norwich have no-one but themselves to blame and Alex Neil's brutally honest post-mortem has only enhanced his standing amongst the vast majority of City fans.

Neil admitted, after an uncomfortable lap of appreciation around the Carrow Road pitch following the final whistle against the Hornets, that he had made mistakes this season and his team were simply not good enough at either end of the pitch.

There was also another nod to the fitful recruitment strategy immediately after promotion at Wembley last summer that left City at a major disadvantage in trying to bridge the huge divide.

Yet for all those negative forces, Norwich had still put themselves in a position to secure survival before a tame surrender to Sunderland in a 3-0 home defeat last month signalled the start of the depressing final act.

Norwich went four games without scoring a goal (never mind earning a point) prior to hammering Watford in a bizarre atmosphere at Carrow Road, and battling defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United in that spell were defeats nevertheless as City's squad looked increasingly weary and lifeless.

Martinez's position may now have been decided following Everton's equally wretched second-half to the season, but Neil's future is very much a live topic.

Norwich players applaud the fans after their relegation.

The Scot has made it clear he is up for the fight and the challenge of spearheading Norwich's bid to emulate the likes of Burnley this season, and themselves last season, by limiting their stay in the Football League to just one campaign. But understandably, given the shock resignation of the club's chief executive David McNally last week, Neil must sit down with the club's owners after Sunday to seek assurances on the direction of the Canaries.

This is another massive summer in the timeline of Norwich City. It requires a swift resolution to the search for McNally's successor to begin the process of an inevitable churn to the playing squad. Neil reiterated on Thursday, when he spoke to the media, that Norwich do not need to sell their top talent due to their healthy financial situation but that is only one part of the equation.

City profited 12 months ago when they picked up Robbie Brady from relegated Hull City after the Republic of Ireland international had made it clear to the Tigers that he did not intend to stay in the Championship. It would be naive to expect all of Norwich's current squad to think differently.

More to the point, assuming Neil remains at the helm, he must refresh a group of players who in certain cases have now suffered two relegations in three seasons. For some, Norwich's trip to Everton will be their last in the green and yellow.

Neil expects nothing less than a positive flourish, not only to bid farewell to the Premier League on an upbeat note, but to signal the desire and the determination to bounce back at the first attempt.

Paddy is the chief Norwich City correspondent for media group Archant. He has covered the Canaries for more than 10 years. Twitter: @paddyjdavitt.


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