Former Canary boss Mike Walker has backed Glenn Roeder's decision to wipe the slate clean at Colney this summer – big changes, said Walker, have been long over-due.
Darren Huckerby's exit has, of course, grabbed the lion's share of the headlines. But eight other players have been shown the door already this summer, with another four of the Colney backroom staff following a week later. And while the Canaries have yet to officially confirm that there will be further casualties in the corridors of Norwich's training HQ, the strong suspicion remains that further, sweeping changes are a-foot.
Huckerby's name was the one on everyone's lips of late. The 32-year-old made his final farewell appearance at Carrow Road on Sunday in the midst of the club's 'Greatest Ever' celebrations and the supporters' reaction to their departing hero was not lost on the man voted Norwich's 'Greatest Ever' manager – the man who scaled the heights of the Olympic Stadium with that unforgettable victory over Bayern Munich.
“I haven't seen a lot of him [Huckerby] in the last few years,” said Walker, now residing in Cyprus for much of the year.
“But you could tell from the crowd's reaction that he's very popular – and he's a lively player. He's got pace which is always a threat. So, yes, somewhat surprised [that he's been released].
“But a new manager comes in, he has different opinions I guess and, as Hucks [Huckerby] said himself, he's been here a while; he's enjoyed it; he's just accepted that he's going to move on. And it's up to them now to build another side.”
On that front, the air has been thick with speculation – an imminent return for last season's loan star Martin Taylor; Pools winger James Brown; Southampton's Grzegorz Rasiak… the list of names grows ever longer. But, says Walker, something needs to change. The table hasn't lied for the better part of a dozen years.
“No disrespect to any of the players that have gone, but if you look at the record – and, OK, Peter Grant was here – but early on they were having a terrible time. They weren't doing well,” said Walker, clearly well-versed in the ups and downs of another under-achieving City season.
“So then it's a case of bring in a new guy and maybe it changes – which it does. Or it does for a little while which is fortunately enough to save them from getting relegated. But then they fell away to old habits.
“So, yes, I think it needs a clear-out. It needs re-building. So he's got the right idea, but it's a question of whether he can get the right players in and whether they have got the money.”
Right now the question is far more about who, exactly, is coming in through that dressing room door after such a raft of exits be they big names or small. Whatever else they brought to the party, Dion Dublin and Huckerby added character. As does the likes of Gary Doherty – still to finalise his future in Norfolk.
“You've got to get players back in and it's not easy when you're a team that's struggled the last season. But I don't see why not – Glenn's got bit of a record; he's an experienced manager. Maybe he can wheel and deal, get a few youngsters in and put a good team together.”
Not that Walker was under-estimating the task now facing his successor. The world has certainly moved on since Walker left the Canaries in the midst of that glorious 1993-94 season – the gulf between the Championship and the Premiership grows ever wider as Derby's fate this season merely proved.
Walker's faith in the power of a passing game remains undimmed – that you can both play your way out of the Championship and play your way to staying in the Premiership.
No surprise there, really, given that this was a man who built his whole UEFA Cup team around the vision and passing ability of an Ian Crook.
“Anybody that plays gets a vote from me and I still believe a team that – if it's right – can do it,” he said. “But it is so difficult. You see the West Broms. They go up; they go down again. Every team that seems to go up, comes down.
“But I believe it's partly because of the way that they play. They more-or-less muscle their way out of this league, the Championship, and then they find that they've got to have more than muscle in the top league and they can't cope. And they come down again. You've got to be able to change. And then, maybe, you need money to bolster the team.”
Certainly Walker will be looking at Stoke City's progress in the top flight with interest – can Potters boss Tony Pulis change his spots to suit the ways of the Premiership?
“Tony Pulis is a great guy at Stoke, but I wonder for him – that unless he changes their style, I don't think huff and puff is going to be enough in the top league. Because the big teams can match you – and then they can out-play you as well.
“So, hopefully, he'll see the light and maybe change it a little bit. Or maybe his style will survive.”
Neil Warnock was another of the breed, said Walker. “He's a classic. I don't know how many promotions he's got now – six, seven or eight. But every team that he's taken up has come down within two years – if not the next year. Because he can't change his style of play.”
Given that the Canaries 'Greatest Ever XI' featured a certain I Crook at its very heart, the next question was obvious – in such a muscular division, could the long-time City playmaker still strut his stuff? Still ping the ball around the park for fun? To get a side to play the Walker way?
“People didn't think that he could do it then,” said Walker. “Obviously it's tougher, but I think you can. But I think the principles are the same – if you've got the players that can play, and you want to play, then if you pass, pass and move nobody can tackle you.
“I built my team around somebody like Chippy [Crook] and people said: 'Well, he'll cost you games…' He didn't – he won us more by giving confidence to the players. By saying to them: 'Look, you go out and attack and don't worry about defence… Six or seven other players can do that, you just go out and play…'
It is the kind of philosophy that – even now – supporters passionately cling to as 'Playing the Norwich way…' No real surprise to find Walker walking away with that 'Greatest Ever' trophy for his Mediterranean mantelpiece.
“I didn't expect it, to be honest with you,” he said. “Ken Brown had been here a-while and done well – he got to the Milk Cup final and won it. John Bond – and Dave Stringer, as well.
“Obviously I thought I might have a chance because we had a very successful time, but I'm delighted – it was great.”
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