It would be very easy on this bleak morning to bleat on about yet another spectacular failure from Daniel Farke and his yellow and green army. I could bemoan the fact that we have 24 points from 20 games and that if we repeated that ratio until the end of the season we wouldn’t finish much above the trapdoor to the unthinkable.
I could highlight that two points from 21 isn’t just relegation form, it’s the stuff of implosion. I could easily launch into a tirade about yet another apparent no-show from Nelson Oliveira.
But it’s pitch black on a miserable Mundesley morning, so to cheer myself up I’ve decided to leave the on-field stuff to Gary this weekend in order to address an interesting post on Connor’s article of Friday.
One of our commentators, Segura (surely a relation of Victor’s?) posted thus:
‘I’m sure we can all agree that our subsequent recruitment on the whole, post Lambert, has been poor and just maybe the seeds of our current demise can be traced back to those halcyon days. It’s just a thought and I would be interested to hear people’s opinions.’
Okay Segura, for what it’s worth here’s my two cents on the very interesting topic you’ve instigated. You posed the question:
‘Did our meteoric rise actually cause us severe issues behind the scenes, in that our successes on the pitch far eclipsed our infrastructure and we’ve been desperately playing catch-up ever since?’
To my mind the answer to that is the original: “yes and no”. That’s not a cop-out, as I’ll try to explain.
Relegation to League One was what we deserved for the ineptitude of both Board and management. Nothing more, nothing less. Leaving dear old Gunny in the hot seat was shown up for what it was – verging on cheap-option lunacy. The nadir of the 1-7 reverse to Colchester stirred one David McNally into immediate action and thereby began the”meteoric rise”. At the of the 2009-2010 season we were back in the Championship, where the infrastructure could cope just fine and dandy. What nobody expected was what came next…
Paul (“I like to get my business done early”) Lambert added to his squad modestly for the transition from Championship to Premier League, but came through that season with flying colours, as did the infrastructure.
The final game of that season turned out like the worst kind of prophecy from a Greek tragedy. Both us and the Villa mob chanting “one Paul Lambert”. Hmmm, we all had our suspicions. They proved correct.
This was the pivot, the hinge, the fulcrum, whatever you like. The crunch allegedly came when Lambert presented a short but expensive wish-list of players (almost exclusively strikers) as he felt that not only could we afford them, without them we’d struggle to a terminal conclusion in a second PL season. He was given short shrift by senior members of the infrastructure and walked. Yes there were apparently personal issues as well, but that happens with every business in the land.
Fast forward: Chris Hughton seemed a safe if dull pair of hands. He kept us up, two results against teams on the beach hauling us to a very comfortable mid-table finish. But the warning signs were there. Dithering Delia kept him on for far too long and while more adept than Gunny, poor old Neil Adams was never truly going to cut it. When a senior pro asks ‘are we supposed to know who you are?’ that’s a hole in the infrastructure the size of an elephant. Our loss, Watford’s temporary gain.
Alex Neil is recent history. New manager bounce and a couple of (c’mon, be fair) great tactical decisions got us back to the PL (Promised Land). The milk and honey lasted exactly one season.
There were two common denominators running throughout these years: a rudderless Board who never knew when to stick or twist and the lack of a competent recruitment team. Lambert rose above the situation and when he felt he was banging his head against a brick wall one time too many he left, drawing the infamous “the most impatient man I’ve ever met” quote from Alan Bowkett along the way.
Rather than the infrastructure itself, I would suggest the misuse of funds when we had them accounts for our descent into the mire.
All clubs make mistakes and sign the wrong players on occasion, but we turned it into an art form.
The cash drains that were Mulumbu, Lafferty, Turner, Hooper, Grabban, (and still are Naismith and Jarvis)… I could go on and on.
The length of some of the contracts handed out makes the mind boggle. Then there was Alex Neil signing James Maddison and Sergi Canos while flatly refusing to play either of them. Signing Paul Jones when we already had Remi Matthews waiting in the wings?
I don’t believe you can truly compare this to a business that grows so quickly it fails to supply its customers, loses reputation and struggles thereafter. In my Police days there used to be a charge that went something like: “reckless as to whether an accident might be caused” and I think that’s quite appropriate here to describe the behaviour of the Board.
I have no time for the sometimes-peddled theory that Delia salts money away for her personal gain. Arrant nonsense and quite insulting to her on a personal level but I do acknowledge the view that she appears to treat NCFC as some kind of social club for herself and her friends at the top table.
And that in itself is enough to strangle the life out of a football club. Modern football is for tough guys on and off the pitch and we just don’t cut it on either front.
I think our infrastructure in itself was always capable of sustaining consistent PL football, but many of the people within it were (and a few still are) unwilling to commit to it. Shamefully, it seems certain worthy folks might not even want to dine at the top table.
Stuart Webber is at least an experienced football man but he has one mother of a job on his plate. Supporters are naturally impatient and want results. We are not getting them.
As for those already mentioning the “R” word, it’s unlikely. But you can never say never.