Norwich City tonight bowed to the nigh-on inevitable and parted company with manager Peter Grant.
In a short statement issued this evening, City Chairman Roger Munby said: “We had a long discussion with Peter after the QPR game in which Peter said that he felt that he had been supported by the Club in everything that he had tried to do at Carrow Road and therefore owed it to the Board to be honest with himself and with us about whether he could turn things round.
“We would like to express our heartfelt best wishes to Peter and his family and wish him and them every success for the future.”
Grant himself added: “It was a very, very difficult decision for us to make but it was right for myself and the Football Club going forward.
“The most important things for me have always been the supporters and the Club itself. They are the two constants while managers and players come and go.
“Unfortunately for me I feel that the balls haven't bounced the right way for me over the last 12 months. I have had fantastic support from the Board from minute one right up until the time of leaving, but we are in a results-driven business and I don't like being second-best at anything.
“I would like to thank everyone for the support they have given me through a turbulent 12 months and it goes without saying that I wish nothing but success for Norwich City Football Club now and forever.”
It was, in all too many ways, an announcement just waiting to happen after Monday night's 1-0 defeat to bottom of the table Queen's Park Rangers – a result that left the Canaries not only stuck firmly in the relegation zone just two points off the bottom, but also completed nine hours of competitive football without a goal.
One 30-year veteran of watching City described this week as the lowest point of his Canary-supporting life; that while previous regimes had flirted dangerously close to dropping into the third tier of English football, the club had never before been that capable of swapping places with Leyton Orient come this time next year.
If the results were banging nail after nail into the manager's coffin, the nature of the performances were simply screwing the lid down ever tighter as the Scotsman failed to fire his troops into any sort of life.
Darel Russell's 75th minute shot was City's first effort at goal on Monday night; a woeful return for the travelling City faithful as they witnessed a performance that plumbed pretty much the same desperate depths as that they had to endure away at Wolves two and a bit weeks ago.
Nor did Grant's post-match comments strengthen his hand – 'It's either them or me…' speeches with the 'them' being his under-achieving players invariably ends only one way.
The trouble being, of course, that all of those players on duty last night were 'his' players; by handing new, one-year deals to both Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin, they became 'your' players with all the management and selection headaches that the former's signature brings. In the brutal world of football management, if in your heart of hearts you were never wholly sure how you were going to get the best out of the two-time City 'Player of the Year' don't hand him another tour of duty. Manage him.
Again Grant himself looked besieged by self-doubt come those final hours as he touched on the yawning divide that seperates good coaches from great managers; as he went away suggesting that he was going to “assess” his position overnight, that would be the area to which his gaze would turn – why won't they give me that extra yard? Why do half of them no-show, be it at either Molineux or again at Loftus Road?
It will, equally, have been a painful and sobering 12 months for the Canary board after appointing – in all good faith – what they deemed to be one of the brightest No2s in the game after his season ticket to finals at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, be it with either Bournemouth or West Ham United.
He therefore knew both the Football League and Norwich's own squad inside out. As he amply demonstrated at his interview. But therein lay the crux of the matter – that while your knowledge of players can be encyclopedic, it's having a similarly deep knowledge of people that marks out the great No1s.
The board, in fairness, backed their man. To the end there was still a ?500,000 loan fee and ?15,000-a-week deal sat there with his name on it; he just had to name the player – a process that became harder and harder as the attractions of joining a club in the bottom three of the Championship waned and waned with result after result.
A ?1 million keeper plugged one huge gap; ?800,000-odd for the top scorer in the Czech top flight and another ?800,000 for the Championship's leading goal-scorer last season provided further evidence of a board willing to give their man the tools for the job. Hence the comments made by Baggies boss Tony Mowbray over the summer that Norwich looked as if they “were going for it…” this year as the Turner's initial ?2 million 'loan' began to flush through the system.
Where the board goes now, is the biggest question. Ask any of them and they would insist that both their selection and interview techniques was all anyone could have expected of them this time last year; it just didn't work. Grant gave great interview – as do a thousand and one other people in life only for the reality to slowly emerge out there on the frontline.
It will be with serious dread that they embark on the next appointment process, though they have one advantage up their sleeve. This time Andrew and Sharon Turner will be on point; up there, up front. And if nothing else, they should energise that process with their own, growing commitment to the Canary cause.
Which way that energy takes them, how that boundless enthusiasm is channelled into the selection good is just one of the many challenges that now face the powers-that-be.
For them, it has been another bruising learning curve – a lesson in just what an unforgiving beast sport can be. Whatever your best intentions.
For the departing Grant, too, his first full year in the managerial hot-seat will have proved a huge education in what works, what doesn't; in who to trust and who not.
And as hard as it may seem right now, he should emerge from Norfolk a wiser person; better armed for the next challenge life throws him. Rome wasn't built in a day. Nor were successful managerial careers. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
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