“I’ll be very surprised if we’re scratching around for players on the 31st of August or the 31st of January, as we’ve done in the past.”
That is obviously a quote ‘borrowed’ from Stewart Lewis’ interview with City’s managing director Steve Stone, published on MFW yesterday.
And I cannot say how refreshing it was to read it. Among a lot of things Stone told Stewart, I find this little snippet by far the most significant – and also the most revealing. It amounts to an honest admission of past failure, for starters….
Paul Lambert always managed to have almost his entire squad in place by the time they reassembled for training in June. He also bought sparingly in January: “I brought a couple in to give the group a hand”, being his stock phrase.
While Grant Holt proved to be Gunny’s legacy to us, Lambert’s targets were probably easier to achieve than those of Chris Hughton or Alex Neil. His signings looked like he was building a Championship Select XI bulked out by the cream of League One plus the occasional loan addition from the top level.
So we had Zak Whitbread, Elliott’s Ward and Bennett, Matty Gill, Marc Tierney, David Fox, Leon Barnett, Simeon Jackson, Anthony Pilkington and Wilbrahamovic. Each and every one of them seemed to have been moved on at the right time too, whether by Lambert or later by Hughton,
Kyle Naughton proved a masterstroke; Stephen Hughes also played a part – anyone remember that cross for Chris Martin to score very late against Leeds at Carrow Road? It would probably be easier to ask if any of our readers forget it!
We also had the ‘gambles’ of Oli Johnson and Anthony MacNamee. Limited success is being kind, but at least their goals brought us wins over Southend and Stockport respectively. And believe me, those games could have otherwise combined to yield one point rather than six.
Hughton’s recruitment was patchy. Rumour to be believed, he wanted Toby Alderwerield and Virgil van Dijk; neither happened, and if only. Hughton himself admitted he was unable to get a striker across the line so at the very last minute we ended up with Johan Elmander. The same thing had happened the season before and we ended up with Harry Kane on loan at the last minute. I know, I know.
I haven’t mentioned RvW and I’m not going to (whoops, I just did).
Without wishing to sound like the MFW equivalent of a carrion crow, Alex Neil shared the same fortunes as Hughton, compounding this by frankly wasting a colossal amount of money.
Steven Naismith, Timm Klose and the rarely seen Yanic Wildschut. That’s £25million gone up in smoke – unforgiveable for a club with our resources. A further reputed £8m on Alex Pritchard; rarely played. Although fairest of fair do’s to Alan Irvine, under whom Pritchard has blossomed.
Tony Andreu, the unfortunate Conor McGrandles and Michael McGovern… oh boy.
So to hear that Stuart Webber, backed by Steve Stone, is going to try to get things – what or whoever they might be – done and dusted ‘early doors’ is fantastic news.
Add to that the fact that the Board is shaping up professionally and that Messrs Webber and Stone seem to have the freedom to do what they feel is appropriate gives me genuine optimism for summer recruitment. We are in for some surprises in terms of ins and outs, of that I am certain.
It will not all happen in the summer. It will not be easy to move on a few of the current crop this time around – agents and over-generous contracts will contribute to that situation I am sure.
To those who berate the lack of an early appointment of a new head coach I would say this: what could he do until the players return from their three-week holidays at Hemsby (ha!) anyway?
You don’t have to be Mystic Meg to predict one of the most interesting summers in many a long moon for NCFC – the ship at least (or at last) has a rudder, let’s hope she sails well.
Steve Stone ended by saying to Stewart:
“We’ve got to tell our stakeholders – primarily our fans – what we’re doing. If not, suspicions grow. I don’t blame the fans for being frustrated. If we can’t come out as a club and say what we’re doing, it’s a pretty poor show.”
Wise words, and sweet music to the ears indeed.
A brace of interviews from two very switched-on gentlemen who have backed up their expressed desire to communicate with the supporters by… actually doing so.
I don’t expect promotion next season to be delivered on a plate, but I do know that our future appears a lot brighter than it did just a few short weeks ago.