Changes required to mount a Championship challenge; the biggest one being the mentalityTue 13 May 14 by Nick Sellers
To say I’m glad to see the back of this season would be an understatement.
The reaction on the terraces and on social media was understandably mixed as the final whistle blew on our Premier League tenure at home to Arsenal. As philosophical as we tried to remain, it was hard not to contain a sense of anger, frustration, deflation and disappointment.
Relegation is something we are not unfamiliar with but what I think makes this particular demotion hurt more than most is that we have reached the end of a truly unforgettable era in the club’s history. An era the likes of which we may never witness again for a generation depending on how things pan out in the coming months.
In five years we’ve enjoyed two promotions, the 9-2 aggregate derby demolition of Ipswich and three years of consecutive top-flight football, which involved wins over Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton to name but a few.
It’s been an incredibly fruitful and satisfying time to be a Canary and to see it all culminate in a whimper and with such an embarrassing goals tally is nothing short of gut-wrenching.
But as tough as it’s been to digest the situation we’ve found ourselves in, we desperately need to try and arrest the negative mentality which has plagued the club recently. But that’s not intended as a dig at any fan who has voiced their displeasure in a forthright manner or even a pop at a previous manager. It’s purely the combination of exhaustion and anguish that has naturally intensified as the season progressed (or regressed might be more a more fitting description).
Changing the mentality is the first thing we need to do in order to turn things round at the football club and give ourselves the absolute best possible chance of an immediate top flight return. That applies from top to bottom; from the groundsman to the first-team. And no matter how strong the squad may look on paper before the big kick-off in August, it wont matter if we can’t arrest what is currently an unproductive and unworkable state of mind.
That task will be made harder by the news that there will be significant job losses as a result of the club’s annual turnover being halved from losing their Premier League membership and the vast riches that come with it.
As David McNally pointed out in his Radio Norfolk interview yesterday morning, around 80 new jobs were created around the business during their three-year growth period and he now has the unenviable task of making some brutal cuts.
So, with all of the above in mind, what steps should the club take to lift the doom and gloom around Carrow Road and Colney?
Going back to McNally, he’s made a very important first step in that regard with some brutal honesty about the board’s failings, and accepting accountability and the scorn of the fans for the club’s demotion. They got it wrong and to their credit they are determined to put it right.
It was also pleasing to hear that a new manager will be appointed imminently. It’s goes without saying that it’s vitally important to get this situation sorted out quickly in order to hit the ground running ready for 2014/15.
In addition, the actual structure of the managerial duties and how they are delegated will also get an overhaul, with a director of football likely to be appointed in addition to a change in the micro-management of other departments, such as sports science.
Such changes are becoming an increasing necessity in the modern game. Getting the balance right in that regard is extremely important in terms of the manager/first team coach not feeling undermined by the change in emphasis but it’s a move that I think will prove to be a major long-term benefit for the club.
The first thing the new manager will need to do is rigorously assess all aspects of the performances last season and where it all went wrong in terms of the playing staff. The obvious answer is a lack of goals, but it’s important for the new man to dissect exactly why that problem occurred.
Was it the lack of quality service? Was it a lack of competent decision making in the final third? Or, is it simply the case that the service and the positioning wasn’t so much the problem, but the quality of the strikes/finishes themselves were clearly not good enough? What could be improved on the training ground to aid that improvement, and how does the manager and coaching staff implement it?
All of these questions and more will need addressing the moment the position has been filled. The sooner they are addressed, the quicker we can identify what needs to be rectified so we can actually mount a serious promotion challenge.
As I’ve stated numerous times on Twitter, it’s important we put last season behind us quickly and concentrate all of our energies and focus on getting off to the best possible start in the Championship. That goes for the board, players, fans… everybody. And this goes back to trying to improve the overriding mental attitude into something vibrant, proactive and positive.
The season is over, and I for one rejoice in that that particular narrative has closed and we can now, hopefully, look forward to a more enjoyable equilibrium in twelve months time.
Nick is the author of The Last Word: Norwich City Season Review 2013/14, coming this week to Kindle. Follow him on twitter @nick_sellers for more information.