City boss Glenn Roeder today gave an insight into just how fraught working for an over-bearing club owner can be – wittingly or not, his interview on Radio Five Live would also have marked the card of any potential Carrow Road takeover party as to the rules of the managerial game.
Or at least as far as Roeder was concerned. Others may be less concerned if the chairman buys and sells the players. Or if not the chairman, then his 'executive director' – or whatever title Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley chose to bestow on his London side-kick Dennis Wise. And Tony Jimenez, the vice president (player recruitment).
It is there that the fingers are pointing as Roeder's beloved Newcastle United are engulfed in another crisis of all their own making; in the East End of London and Alan Curbishley clearly had enough of playing someone else's tune sales-wise as various Icelandic banks try to mop up the mess the island's biscuit magnate left in his wake at Upton Park.
Both clubs are dear to Roeder's heart – albeit if both came close to breaking it.
No doubt, he has every respect for both the embattled Kevin Keegan and the departed Curbishley.
But, equally, events rather closer to home are starting to prompt questions as to what kind of relationship any big-money buyer would either expect or enjoy with the Canary chief. A hands off one, would be the immediate conclusion from Roeder's remarks today.
Something for Peter Cullum and Co to bear in mind as they continue to circle the Turner-less Canaries. Today and the Towergate billionaire was, or wasn't, already in talks with City's principal shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones – rather depended on which Archant newspaper you picked up on the way home from work.
“I'm very lucky at Norwich,” Roeder told Radio Five Live listeners.
“Every player that I released and every player that I brought in this year has been totally down to me – it's my responsibility. No-one else's.”
Ironically, there were times in the none-too-distant past where a more quizzical air around the boardroom table might have saved the Norfolk club a few blushes and many more thousands of pounds. Marc Libbra was always a player that tickled then-chairman Bob Cooper's fancy, while the question: 'This Raymond de Waard, anyone ever seen him play..?' was clearly never muttered too loudly as then-boss Bryan Hamilton went on a continental shopping spree.
Should a Cullum-esque figure emerge from the City of London shadows to buy Delia and her husband, Michael Wynn Jones, out of the Championship club, then Roeder knows the kind of characters that invariably follow. People who in their every-day business lives don't take 'No, not him..!' for an answer.
Back on Tyneside today, that's the ultimatum that Keegan has laid at the club owner's door. My way or no way… after watching two Spanish Under-21 internationals arrive on transfer deadline day neither of whom he had, reportedly, even seen play. James Milner he knew all about – and had no intention of selling him to Aston Villa. But Newcastle is Ashley's big toy; just as Ipswich is Marcus Evans'; just as Norwich could be Cullum's.
“They are – generally speaking from my experience – people who have earned so much money from their lifetime that they are used to being in control themselves,” said Roeder.
“Regardless of them not knowing the football business, if you want. But they're the type of character that likes to be in total control and have a big say in things.
“And I think English managers, generally speaking, aren't used to that. They're used to being allowed to manage and decide on recruitment as to which players are allowed to come and go.”
In fairness to Roeder, he has always been one of those managers with more of a continental mind-set than most, but it would still be a very brave owner who planted a 'director of football' in the midst of Colney. It is not, exactly, a proven model in English football. Nine times out of ten it is merely a recipe for division and disaster – as Roeder himself has witnessed.
“Tottenham were one of the front-runners of trying this, but when they tried to have David Pleat as the football director with Glenn Hoddle it caused many, many problems,” said Roeder.
“Tottenham continued to try that; it's a European thing. But then they did well with European coaches – it started with Frank Arnesen ad Martin Jol and it worked well.”
Because continental managers are used to that set-up. In England it has been a nightmare. But with the big, big money starting to role into the game, so the big, big owners want far more control and influence over where – and on whom – their millions go.
Given that Roeder has well-established links with the Arnesens and Arsene Wengers of this world – and, indeed, there was even talk of Roeder being offered a kind of 'director of football' role at The Emirates last summer – he might be more attuned than most to the ways of the big owner. But it would require a very hands-off approach from any Cullum-like character – that having given the club ?20 million of his Towergate cash to splash, he'd want to know exactly where it was going.
The famed 'King Of Deals' might fancy his chances to do a deal with the Willie Mackays of this world. I mean, how hard can it be…
In a sense, all Ashley did was to employ little Dennis as his 'go-between'; his own personal advisor and confidante – all of which went down like a lead balloon with King Kev.
“There's so many foreign owners now at Premiership clubs and they're used to having 'a wedge', if you want,” said Roeder. “A person between them and the manager.
“And foreign coaches are used to it; comfortable with it. English coaches are very, very suspicious of it and don't like it.”
He had, he said, only once had a player forced upon him. Fortunately, it was a playe he quite fancies anyway – Chelsea's Damien Duff.
“I've never had a player forced on me,” he told Radio Five Live. “The closest that came to happening to me was at Newcastle. The then chairman, Freddy Shepherd, was quite well known with previous managers for having a say in the players that came into the club.
“On day he rang me up and said Peter Kenyon [Chelsea's chief executive] had agreed to sell Damien Duff to us for ?5 million. Now it just so happened that at that time I was very happy; that was someone that I didn't need to challenge him on. But it was very much the chairman's idea rather than mine.”
Some two years on and little has changed on Tyneside as Ashley and Co try to dictate terms to Keegan – and all with the long-suffering Toon Army caught in the middle of yet another bloody civil war.
“The club's a tragedy,” said the former Magpies skipper.
“It goes from one disaster to another disaster; there's no stability at the club – and there's been no stability for a long time. They go from one manager to another and the people that suffer the most are the most important people – the supporters.
“For when they talk about Newcastle being a 'great' club, it's only great for one reason – because they've got great supporters. It's an incredible place – but a tragedy.”
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