Debates surrounding Dean Smith’s future have become increasingly vociferous in recent weeks. 

Understandably, frustration from many fans has reached boiling point and, given Norwich City’s below-par run of results and inability to produce consistent performances, there does now appear a near-universal desire for Stuart Webber to pull the trigger during the current World Cup break.  

But equally, City still lie firmly within the Championship play-off places in a fiercely competitive league where no team looks capable of emulating Daniel Farke’s heroes and soaring to the title in splendid isolation.  

It’s now been just over a year since Smith replaced Farke in the Carrow Road hotseat.  

Last season was a virtual write off since the very beginning, a campaign where expectations were high after a series of high-profile summer signings but where in reality, City’s squad was in no way good enough to compete at Premier League level. 

I struggle to believe even Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp would have been able to keep that side up, such was the lack of quality at the top end of the pitch and the staggering paucity of steel in the middle of the park. 

So that element of Smith’s tenure – over half of his league games in charge in total – is no fair barometer to judge him on, a notion furthered by the complete lack of investment in his only top-flight transfer window. 

This season has been far from an unmitigated disaster - we are still fifth - but there is equally no denying the fact City look a far cry from the sort of side we have come to expect at Championship level.  

The absence of creativity, coherence and a sustained, well-executed plan have been criticisms justifiably fired at Smith after 21 games where the football has made for tough viewing at times.  

The Pink Un: Andrew Omobamidele has impressed so far this seasonAndrew Omobamidele has impressed so far this season (Image: Focus Images)

But while Smith deserves to be held to account on all of those things, it’s hardly catastrophic and it does feel like many fans’ assertions that the club is in complete crisis are slightly wide of the mark.  

For all the lack of flamboyance this season and inability to launch a fully-firing assault on promotion - yet - I genuinely have seen signs of progress that Smith gets next to no credit for when certain other managers, particularly his predecessor, undeniably would. 

If we’re to shower praise on Farke for unleashing the youthful potential of Max Aarons, Ben Godfrey and Jamal Lewis, it’s only fair we do the same for Smith after a first half of the season where several of our best players are those who have been catapulted into the spotlight by the former Villa boss and thrived under his guidance. 

I’m talking about the World Cup-bound Josh Sargent – the Championship’s joint top-scorer – irresistible Andrew Omobamidele, precocious Liam Gibbs and - to slightly lesser extents - Sam McCallum and Gabriel Sara. 

Of course, these players are far from perfect and still have major improvements to make if they are to help City become the side we all want them to be. 

But the notion that it’s been all doom and gloom under Smith and the club have made no advances whatsoever doesn’t quite feel fair from my perspective.  

The situation, for all this season has been lacking in terms of aesthetics, still remains firmly salvageable.  

City are fifth in a tightly-congested league, either beaten - or definitely deserved to beat - the teams in second, sixth and seventh and have two crucial games coming up against their play-off rivals after the one-month World Cup hiatus.  

Like Gareth Southgate out in Qatar, Smith is a pragmatist and will be as acutely aware as anyone that he has considerable work to do when City jet out to Tampa Bay for their warm weather training camp. 

The mood in the group remains positive and, let’s not forget, Smith does have history when it comes to using unprecedented mid-season lay-offs to reenergise, reinvigorate and remould misfiring teams. 

He did it at Aston Villa during the Covid-hit season of 2019/20 and, despite a poor run of results that saw him harshly sacked last year - and replaced by a totally inept successor - has not become a bad manager in the space of a couple of years. 

This is in no way a denial that there are not several issues to be resolved - there obviously are - but, given the club’s stance and likely propensity to stick with Smith, he still has my support that he can turn this inconsistent, yet far from irreparable, season into a significant success.  

The next few weeks represent a major window of opportunity for City to regroup, recover and re-inject new life into their season. 

It’s now up to Smith and Craig Shakespeare to mastermind those tactical tweaks, prove their doubters wrong and - I hope - propel City towards an end of season surge towards the summit of the Championship table.