June 2009 was our majority shareholders’ finest hour.
With the club in crisis, a divided squad lacking in hunger and motivation, and a manager whose serial incompetence would be so conspicuously exposed by Paul Lambert’s well-drilled Colchester United two months later, Delia and Michael acted.
In the appointment of David McNally, they recruited an astute pragmatist – a prudent individual with a long-term vision for success. A shrewd operator, it was McNally who pioneered the success of the Lambert years, ruthlessly removing the Scot from Colchester’s clutches and forcing him north into Nelson’s county. The Great Train Robbers of 1963 would have been proud of such a heist.
Success ensued. One promotion brought another, and the McNally-inspired-institution remained in the top flight under his diligent leadership for a further two seasons before inept recruitment proved our downfall.
We shall never forget the glory and jubilation of the Lambert years.
Almost a decade on from his appointment, our loyal owners must delineate such similar principles of sagacity and wisdom. They must appoint a successor for the divisive Jez Moxey with the shrewdness of McNally, a character who possesses the requisite hunger and motivation to instigate a prolonged period of City success.
Visibility is key. Moxey represented the fundamental antithesis of his predecessor, appearing inaccessible and unapproachable compared to the more open and interactive McNally. Such a lack of exposure was so palpably revealed in his startlingly sanitised in-house interview following December’s defeat to Huddersfield.
McNally had his flaws. The bizarrely announced resignation via social media aside, his decision to publicly undermine the reign of Chris Hughton through the announcement that he was searching for potential replacements was far from his finest hour. Such impetuousness is not what this club needs.
It was McNally’s efficacy as an operator that we shall remember, however. His ability to secure the services of Lambert, to sign the talismanic Grant Holt, to oversee the construction of a squad who were capable of achieving such memorable and remarkable things.
I don’t want him back. Alternatively, the presence of a fresh chief executive who does not possess the ego of Moxey and is instead open, visible and benevolent with our loyal supporters is sacrosanct.
Our new CEO must also be bolder than Moxey, determining his actions and decisions based on circumstances rather than steadfastly sticking to his undesirable principles. City’s season may be slowly turning a considerable corner, but the fact remains that Alex Neil should, in my opinion, have lost his job weeks ago. Moxey failed to act.
While his successor may not have a vital role to play in the subsequent developments of this current season – that is up to Alex Neil and his players – his influence in terms of the long-term future of the club will be critical.
Rather than the unspecific and unnecessarily vague plans for ‘promotion, promotion, promotion’, he needs to have a more direct and step-by-step vision for success.
City need to get back to the top flight. The well-documented and lucrative television deal that manifests itself the season after next is ominously looming, and we are all aware of how financially detrimental a prolonged Championship spell will be for our club. We need a plan and fast.
It will be up to the new CEO to derive and execute this. He must quickly draw up an efficient and viable formula for success, providing a sustainable model for City to launch an assault on this increasingly draining and turbulent division.
Although such a progression may be impossible in this campaign – but, you never know – his role in prudently planning for a crucial season next year will be – to appropriate the words of Lambert – colossal.
City need a visible, accessible pragmatist with a long-term ambition for success. We need a man who cares, not a figure such as Moxey whose apathy and unwavering sense of contempt towards fans and their views became conspicuous on so many occasions.
On the field, defensive frailties are still yet to be fully eroded, and new recruit Yanic Wildschut has struggled so far. The arrival of Mitchell Dijks however appears a canny piece of management and hopes of snatching a fifth or sixth place finish off the likes of Sheffield Wednesday or Leeds remain tenuously intact, particularly following Saturday’s demolition of Nottingham Forest.
What our new CEO will inherit once he arrives is unclear. Similarly unclear is the timing of the announcement, with interim position-holder Steve Stone inevitably awaiting such a decision with anticipation. The prospect of a more external candidate remains a possibility.
When the time comes, however, Delia and Michael must act wisely. Our beloved club cannot dither in The Championship, embracing mediocrity and lacking the sufficient enterprise and hunger to make a return to the top flight.
We must fight. The presence of an adept chief executive will facilitate this, a character who is willing to be decisive and make the big and sometimes contentious decisions.
And so we wait. Fans crave benignity, visibility and interaction. A bold figure who makes efficient and effective decisions. McNally had it.
Eight years on from his appointment, it’s now time for our loyal owners to deliver such a figure again.