Canary boss Peter Grant was in little mood to spare Martin Hunter's blushes as City's first team coach disappeared off to Championship rivals Watford.
The former England Youth coach was notable by his absence at yesterday's opening, 2-0 tour success at AVVOG Apeldoorn and afterwards, for the third time this summer, Grant revealed that a cursory phone call, out of the blue, had set his exit wheels in motion.
“I got a phone call from Aidy Boothroyd on Thursday evening asking for permission from me to speak to Martin,” revealed Grant, just as he had done from Derby for Robert Earnshaw; from Sunderland for Dickson Etuhu.
“But I think that was after the horse had bolted, really. Because I think that talk had been going on,” said Grant.
“And as I said to you before, if I see an inkling of people not wanting to be here any longer, I don't give them very much time here. And I think it is the right thing for Martin to move on. And he's going to Watford – probably.”
Hunter arrived last summer following the departure of Nigel Worthington's former first team coach, Steve Foley. A long-standing member of the England Youth set-up, Hunter arrived with a working knowledge of the likes of Ryan Jarvis, Ian Henderson and Lee Croft. He had also been a long-time advocate of 4-3-3 with which the Canaries opened last season's campaign before the wheels finally fell off the Worthington bus away at Coventry City.
Manager gone within four months of Hunter's move south, he threw his hat into the managerial ring – only for Grant to be appointed. Having survived the traditional, initial cull, Grant appeared to be happy to work alongside Hunter even after installing Jim Duffy as his new No2.
It wasn't, however, the first time this summer that Hunter's name had been linked to a switch elsewhere. The Manchester Evening News had insisted that the Canary coach was Chris Hutchings' No1 choice for the coaching role at Wigan Athletic only for Hunter to stay firmly put amid claims that he was perfectly content in Norfolk.
“I think it's been a wee bit more difficult for Martin since Jim's come in,” admitted Grant, with all three men enjoying a hands-on role coaching-wise as the club's new 'liason officer' Bryan Gunn manned the phones in the office.
“But that's life – and life goes on. And we'll have somebody else in.”
Presumeably, Hunter had his bags packed for Holland given that City were due to fly on their pre-season tour the next morning. Unless, of course, he knew all-too well that Boothroyd was about to make the call on Thursday night. That's where Grant's anger lies; all the whispered conversations in the shadows.
“I am definitely disappointed by the timing – but more so about the fact that I don't believe the talks have taken place in four hours,” said Grant, presumeably referring to the small window of opportunity between Boothroyd's initial call and Hunter's 'I'm off…' decision.
“That's more disappointing. I remember when I got the job here and there'd been an enquiry and I said: 'Ask West Ham first before I speak to you…' And that's the way I've done my business. Always.
“And then I go and I speak to Alan Pardew before. And I said: 'Alan, if you tell me that if I go to speak to Norwich City and I come back and there's no job for me here, I'll not go and speak to Norwich City…' And I think you've got to be honest and fair with people – and I don't think that's what happened.
“I think I showed an honesty to keep Martin on in the first place when I could have easily changed it. And I don't think that's been repaid.”
Even the Wigan link earlier this summer didn't find Grant thinking that his man wanted away. “No – not at all. As I say, I always look for honesty in people and players.
“Maybe I'm doing it wrong… Maybe that's the problem. Maybe I'm too honest at times. And sometimes that comes back to bite you on the backside. But I think if Martin had come to me first and said: 'Look, I've had a phone call, I've got to have your permission to speak to them…' I'd have been more than happy to do that. But to act surprised that the phone call has taken place, that disappoints me.”
The point also wasn't lost on Grant that he has been through a similar mill with both Earnshaw and Etuhu – and, one suspects, something similar may still be going on with Youssef Safri given the Birmingham Evening Mail's on-going claims that it is only a dispute over his wages that is stalling his move to West Bromwich Albion. Coincidence or not, Safri was the only unused outfield substitute against Apeldoorn yesterday.
“I was slagging players last week about letting other people know; about talking behind your back. I want honesty.
“Staff-wise if they come to me and say: 'Gaffer, somebody has phoned…' I'll give them permission to speak. And Martin knows how disappointed I was that there were things going on with players and agents supposedly behind my back and then something like this happens. So that's why we deal with it quickly.”
Very quickly if his answer to what job Hunter's got is any guide. “I don't know. I never gave him that much time to explain it…”
In the meantime, Grant is looking to press on with his own appointment. He will be replacing. “Definitely – that's a guarantee. I've got a few people I've always been looking at. When I came here first, I said I'd always assess the staff first and I know there's a lot of people who definitely want this job, but I've got to make sure its the right balance with me and Jim,” said the City chief, paying triubute to the two fellow Scots who have done much of the transfer leg-work this clse season.
“Jim's been absolutely fantastic for me – him and Bryan Gunn throughout the summer time. They've been excellent; all over the place when I was away. And I'm lucky I've got those two, but I will be looking to add to the coaching staff that's for sure.”
myfootballwriter's pre-season tour is sponsored by aggbag.co.uk