The Norwich board hope and expect to have a new manager in place before Saturday’s trip to Championship leaders Bournemouth.
But Mike Phelan is not a shoo-in for the job. He was not appointed with a view to his replacing Neil Adams and, now that Adams has resigned, Phelan will be just one of the candidates considered.
There is no deadline, but the importance of Saturday’s fixture is understood by those making the decision.
They also understand that they stand accused of getting it wrong with Adams – but throughout the game most managerial reigns end in failure. According to research, of all managers in the top four divisions since 1972, 64 per cent lost more games than they won.
So chief executive David McNally must seek to buck the national, long-term trend by appointing a winner this time.
The discussion with McNally which led to the resignation of Adams began with anxiety on both sides about the “no-show” at League One Preston in the FA Cup on Saturday.
But it ended with a handshake and there is a genuine hope that Adams will return to the club next season – although nobody has given serious consideration yet to what role he could take.
One can sense the hand of Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones in the offer to Adams of a possible return. And we can be certain they were moved by the sight of a thousand weary and forlorn supporters at Preston.
Of all the accusations which have been flung around in recent weeks, the suggestion that those in senior positions “don’t care” is the most preposterous.
Delia and Michael shared the depression provoked by yet another flaccid Cup performance, not least because Adams had assured the board that he would “go for it” at Deepdale. Although he made four changes, Preston made five. The Norwich team was strong enough on paper. But on grass, it proved paper-thin.
Delia and Michael have stepped back from the day-to-day business of the club since the current board and CEO were appointed in the summer of 2009.
And so it must have been McNally who led the inquest into the dismal Preston disappointment and assessed whether it was one more symptom of a deeper and disturbing malaise.
McNally’s normal modus operandi is to consult senior players. He ignores extreme opinions – from those who are just angry about not being in the team, and from those who always make loyal noises – but seeks to gauge the consensus of the sensible. Then he asks the manager what plans there are to address flaws or failings.
Did Neeyul jump, or was he pushed? It doesn’t really matter. If Adams chose to walk the plank, McNally certainly didn’t try to stop him.
Last season’s events counted against Adams. The perception that Chris Hughton should have gone sooner, and the belief among a sizeable number of fans that Adams was the wrong replacement, have made some supporters quick to boo this term.
That’s not a criticism. It’s a fact. And nobody on the board wants this season undermined by a volatile mood among supporters.
It’s definitely true, too, that Adams made tactical mistakes. If Hughton was too cautious, then Adams was far too gung-ho. I still wince at the memory of us chasing a win at Nottingham Forest and leaving ourselves open to the late defeat.
There haven’t been many bad performances. Three poor away displays – at Wolves, Middlesbrough and Reading – is not too many in a division in which, as the cliché declaims, “anyone can beat anyone”.
But at times it looked as if we couldn’t beat anyone at Carrow Road, where, until the arrival of Phelan, our men stormed forward with a cavalier disregard of how vulnerable it made us to breakaways. “Never mind the danger” is a line in a song, not a creed.
The unexpected upsurge at the Town who failed to become a City has helped underline the decline and not helped Adams. Let’s hope that upturn is unsustainable.
And there is still time to ensure that, when Adams returns in the summer, he is rejoining a Premier League club.