What a hurtful, humbling, humiliating result 6-2 is.

It’s the sort of score that belongs more on Wimbledon’s Centre Court than in the Championship. At least Canaries fan Alfie Hewett would still be able to fight back from that position to win in three sets. Will his favourite football team be able to harness the same powers of recovery?

So comprehensive was this Devon demolition that it has almost destroyed all of the bridges that Norwich City had been carefully rebuilding towards fans over the summer.

A squad with character and resilience was promised. A new-look Norwich that would not crumble to dust at the first sign of trouble. The first month of the campaign suggested that David Wagner had planned to perfection.

A single defeat in the first eight matches meant that City supporters were fully on board. The belief in their team had recovered to such an extent that just a week ago the Carrow Road crowd turned up genuinely believing their side could cause problems for promotion favourites Leicester City. Losing that game was disappointing, but not dispiriting.

A journey of more than 350 miles to Plymouth gives one plenty of time to think. None of the 1,600 Norwich fans who made that mammoth trip at any point could have considered the possibility of such an embarrassment.

Now David Wagner and Norwich City have to prove themselves all over again.

There are some alarming parallels with what happened at the end of last season when the Canaries won just one of their last 11 matches. Wagner arrived in January and immediately inspired an apparent revival. They scored four times in each of his first two away games at Preston and Coventry. This season the first two away league games saw City score four times at both Southampton and Huddersfield.

Those building blocks were undermined by some sub-standard performances and a series of injuries to experienced first team players. Sounds familiar.

Reality caught up with them pretty quickly in Wagner’s early days. A home defeat against the best club in the division (Burnley) offered a glimpse of how far Norwich City were now short of being Championship title contenders. Leicester’s display last week suggests the gap remains.

Last season the head coach was justifiably cut some slack. He’d inherited a squad that wasn’t built to play the way he wanted. The 6-2 crushing at the hands of Plymouth came after a full pre-season drilling his message into a re-imagined squad.

Perhaps this is the reality of Wagner ball. High energy, fast-paced football looks great when it works. The lack of a traditional Alex Tettey style defensive midfielder has concerned some Canaries fans but the pay-off has been their status as joint top scorers in the division.

It’s a style that requires every single player to be on his game. When they are not, you get what happened at Home Park. When Wagner took Huddersfield up to the Premier League in 2017 they finished fifth in the Championship with a goal difference of -2.

Anyone who remembers Norwich City finishing third in the first Premier League season of 1992/93 with a goal difference of -4 will know that heavy defeats on the road don’t necessarily need to derail a whole season.

What happens next depends on the character in the Canaries dressing room. There's none bigger than Ashley Barnes, who is likely to miss the next nine games. Saturday’s display raises the prospect that Norwich City might be a bit like New Order’s song ‘World in Motion’ from the 1990 World Cup. Nowhere near as enjoyable when you remove Barnes’s influence.

Have we really got a new-look Norwich City or is it just a yellow and green version of the Emperor’s New Clothes? Time well tell. Supporters who were served up a 6-2 hammering after a journey that was longer than an Andy Murray five-setter will want answers sooner rather than later.


Ref-erence points

Being a football referee has never appealed to me. I can only admire those who are prepared to give up their time and develop a thick enough skin to make it from the grassroots game to the professional leagues.

A couple of incidents this week have underlined why it’s such a thankless task. Referees can find themselves getting hammered from the touchlines and the stands even when they are actually correct.

When Ashley Barnes was injured in the defeat by Leicester at Carrow Road he wasn’t substituted immediately. There was an attempt to get him back out on the pitch to ‘run off’ what turned out to be knee ligament damage.

It led to howls of derision and fury from supporters as Barnes stood by the side of the pitch, desperate to return to the action. Eventually referee Graham Scott waved him back on.

It seemed farcical, but Scott was absolutely right. A new rule this season means that players who have treatment must wait at least 30 seconds after play has restarted before they can rejoin the game. The idea is to discourage time wasting. It clearly has its flaws but that’s the rule so referees have to enforce it.

What doesn’t help refs is that these changes are often not effectively communicated. You have to dig fairly deep online to be able to find out about these subtle alterations. Perhaps more publicity would also encourage some vital feedback before introducing things that end up causing more aggro than they solve.

That’s assuming that people want to listen. The Burnley manager, Vincent Kompany, said after their 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest, “when it comes to laws and legality I switch off” after his team had a goal controversially ruled out for handball.

What chance do refs have if leading football figures are going to be as dismissive as that?

It’s an interesting approach. Probably best not to try that one with any law enforcement forces away from football though.