Last Friday and the fate of Glenn Roeder's back room staff “had yet to be decided” – today and four decisions had been made as the club officially announced
the next stage of the great Colney clear-out.
Local media pundit and Academy Under-14 coach Neil Adams, two of Neal Reynolds' physio staff – Rod Dyer and Peter Shaw – and the Academy education officer, Darren Bloodworth, are leaving the club. Bloodworth had already resigned to pursue interests nearer his King's Lynn home.
And as Roeder sees Bloodworth's replacement as also taking on the Under-14 coaching position in a joint role, so Adams would not be offered a new coaching role next season.
Rumours of the demise of both long-time sports scientist Dave Carolan and chief scout Alan Wood were “inaccurate”, according to this morning's official statement.
As for who might be featuring rather larger in the emergence of 'Team Glenn' this summer, one name looks likely to figure prominently – the guiding force in Jonny Wilkinson's professional sporting life, ex-Newcastle Falcons conditioning coach Steve Black. As in mental conditioning appears to be the growing impression – he could yet emerge this summer as 'Mr Motivator'.
“That has yet to be decided,” was the City manager's line at Colney at the end of last week, when asked whether the sweeping changes that saw nine City players leave last week would extend to his backroom team.
“But again, I'm looking at all areas of the club,” he added. “Everything – and now is the opportunity. The players are off for eight weeks; it's a lot quieter around the place when they're not here and I can now sit in my office without someone knocking on my door every two seconds saying: 'Why aren't I playing…?'
The Newcastle Evening Chronicle were busily speculating last week that Paul Baker – ex-boss of Newcastle Blue Star – was one of those likely to benefit from the shake-up as he was installed as the head of the Canaries northern scouting network. A move that might tally with the rumoured departure of Wood from the chief scout's role.
At the time, Roeder dismissed the claim. “News to me,” he said. “Perhaps that pigeon is still on its way down…”
Given this is the season for ripe and rich speculation, claim, counter-claim and denial will be thick in the air between now and when the summer transfer window finally shuts on August 31. One or two changes have clearly long been in the air – as has the whole Roeder-Adams thing.
More recently and the evidence of something being afoot was there in front of everyone's eyes as the bearded Black – formerly the fitness and conditioning coach at the Falcons – joined the players and staff for the final lap of honour around Carrow Road after the Queen's Park Rangers game.
Wilkinson's long-time guru made a shock exit from the Falcons last December; left by 'mutual consent' was the agreed phrase at the time – with all parties denying that the former British Lions' conditioning coach had been sacked as results started to slip away. Come the spring and he was in Norfolk.
“I was not fired,” Black told Newcastle's Evening Chronicle at the start of December. “It was simply the case that there are times when you have to take your career in a different direction. Life evolves and it was not a matter of anything coming to a head. I left Newcastle by mutual consent.”
His exit prompted an immediate tribute from Wilkinson himself as the England World Cup legend used his regular column in The Times newspaper to emphasise Black's role in his development – be it as a person or a player.
“There is simply no-one I am closer to in the world of professional sport,” wrote Wilkinson, who credited Black with restoring both his self-confidence and belief after a succession of injuries left him close to quitting the game. But for Black, Wilkinson may never have had a further World Cup final appearance to his name after that unforgettable night in Sydney in 2003.
“Of course, I will stay close to him,” added Wilkinson. “He is a part of my life which simply can't be removed like a piece of a jigsaw. It is way beyond that.
“He is the piece that is glued in place. We have a future invested in each other and loads of different directions to go together in the rest of our lives. For me, at my age, it is exciting to think that.”
The respect and the affection were clearly mutual. “Jonny is my pal and I will always be there for him,” said Black, at the time of his Falcons exit. “My leaving Newcastle will not change that. Nothing I will do in the future will affect our relationship in any way.
“I will certainly stay in sport having been involved in it all my life, but it is too early to say yet what I will be doing,” he added. What he has been doing since is working at Colney where another of his big, sporting pals now resides. His first love is, it seems, football – not rugby.
For dig around in Black's cv a little deeper and the former Falcons coach also had a spell at Fulham following his work on the British Lions tour in 2001 where, of course, he would have teamed up with City's assistant boss Lee Clark.
Not for the first time, either. Clark, according to an interview Black gave with the Sunday Sun on Tyneside, was “family” – part of a group of players that he started to mentor after being invited to work with United by then manager, Kevin Keegan.
“I also took a load of players on a personal level,” he revealed. “Kids like Steve Watson, Lee Clark and Alan Thompson. I became fiercely protective of them. They were part of my family.”
He is, clearly, a man of many talents. And Wilkinson and Clark are not the only fans of Black – a one-time pub bouncer with a fearsome reputation on the streets of Newcastle.
Cue the thoughts of ex-All Blacks coach Graham Henry: “He's the most positive person I've ever met in my life,” said Henry, the former British Lions coach. “One of the best human beings I've known… he'll put himself on a limb for other people…”
And while the Canaries have yet to confirm how 'Team Glenn' will start to shape up ahead of the start of the 2008-2009 season, the smart money is on 'Blackie' figuring somewhere in the new-look Colney mix.
He could, for example, start by 'mentoring' Chrissy Martin. Black is not a man to meddle with – not if his interview with the Sunday Sun is any guide. In particular, his memories of his early life running the doors make for eye-watering reading.
“It was a tough world – but I was never a villain,” he said. “That was the big difference. I met a lot of faces and I admit some became good friends because they never did me any harm but I never crossed that thin dividing line. I never got myself a police record.
“I gained respect without being sucked into a bad world.” Marriage and kids found him taking a new path in life. He did, however, agree to do one last job.
“I got a hundred quid for the night – but inevitably it all kicked off and when a bloke pulled a knife on me I slung him through a glass door which ripped open his neck. I thought he was going to die,” said Black. “That was it for me. It was a defining moment in my life…”
Jonny Wilkinson awaited. And now, for the third time in their mutual sporting careers, might Lee Clark.