Some things that we should pay attention to: our club’s structure, its values, ethos – and Mick DennisThu 16 Mar 17 by Stewart Lewis
My golf partner and I just went to our usual course, to find it closed. Permanently.
Perhaps the local residents finally rebelled over the impact on their property of my drives. More likely, it just went out of business. We’d noticed – and of course enjoyed – that we often had the course pretty much to ourselves.
It wasn’t sustainable, illustrating the fact that (unless you’re a Bournemouth fan at the moment) you can’t have it both ways; can’t have your cake and eat it.
But what kind of cake should we be looking for, and how can we savour it?
Mick Dennis’s articles on this site always attract a deluge of comment, last Sunday’s being no exception. Rightly, only a few related to his contretemps with the Canaries Trust. Most addressed the view of the club, and in particular of the Board, that he presented.
Mick’s pieces will naturally come across as defensive of the Board and owners. The simple reason is that he’s generally moved to write in response to ill-informed and unfair commentary from other quarters. It’s important to have someone to redress the balance, and it’s good that we have someone as articulate and informed as Mick to do it.
By definition, that means his pieces will tend to be unbalanced. If I were judging his writing in isolation, I’d say he understates our Board’s shortcomings (including their over-reluctance to part ways with Alex Neil before Christmas) and the underachievement we’ve witnessed on the field this season. In isolation, Ed Balls’ summary was more balanced.
On the other hand, Mick’s absolutely right to challenge the knee-jerk negativity towards the Board and their actions. He reminds us of important positives about our club that we either take for granted or fail to notice at all (we’d certainly notice some of them if they weren’t there any more).
It’s little consolation when things aren’t right on the field, of course, but our club is for instance a leader in working with the local community. Of course the priority is topline success, and the Board will expect to be judged on it. Below the ups-and-downs of the first team’s fortunes, though, community commitment is a kind of fundamental which matters (at least to me).
And he’s right to highlight the Board’s capability – not shared by all clubs – to recognise shortcomings and address them. Past examples include the appointments of David McNally and Alan Bowkett; the current example is the review of the club’s structure.
While easy to see as a dry issue, getting the right structure is vital to achieving the success we all yearn for. It has to evolve and change over time. Giving David McNally free rein to supervise and intervene in every aspect of the club’s operation was crucial (as was Bowkett’s re-negotiation of our debt) in steering the club away from disaster in 2009. But it’s not the right way for Norwich City in 2017.
I’m no insider, and can’t predict the outcome of the Board’s strategic review. I know, however, that it’s the right thing to be doing. I’d guess it will reshape some of the key roles in the club, including that of the Chief Exec. I’ve heard nothing but good about Steve Stone, and hope the revised structure will provide a role that plays to his strengths.
As previously discussed, I believe Tom Smith can bring a sober and professional view to Board issues that Delia and Michael, in their passion for the club, have sometimes lacked.
An area of failing in the club has been the link between the football operation and the Board, reflected for instance in our mixed transfer record since 2014. A Director of Football can potentially help, provided (at least) three things are right: the definition of the role, the individual, and the chemistry between him and the manager.
We have recruited some exceptional people in the past decade, and some duds. Perhaps Jez Moxey should have been avoided in the first place, but at least prompt action was taken when it became apparent he wasn’t helping the club.
Whatever the detail, the changes presently under way will herald a new era for the club. Hopefully fans will keep an open mind to see how they work. That applies to the next manager as well. I assume Huddersfield fans were less than impressed when their Board appointed David Wagner last summer (“He can’t be any good – I’ve never heard of him”), just as we were about Paul Lambert.
If the Board has lessons to learn, so do we.
That open mind would assist another process too: communications and engagement, so damaged during Jez’s reign, can be significantly improved. But it’s a two-way street. We need to play our part, as well as what we ask from the Board.