City boss Glenn Roeder found himself firmly in the firing line at last night's Annual General Meeting as the name of Daren Huckerby came to dominate proceedings.
The fact that the club's principal shareholder Delia Smith had revealed in her opening speech that Towergate billionaire Peter Cullum had formally severed any contact with the cash-strapped Norfolk club barely registered as a blip on the shareholders' radar for the first hour of last night's packed proceedings as one 'disillusioned supporter' after the next attempted to take Roeder to task for the way that the whole Huckerby affair had been handled.
“We all know that the best player by a country mile at the game on Saturday was sat behind me in the Jarrold Stand,” was typical of the angry barbs thrown Roeder's way, after Huckerby – his MLS career on hold for the next two months – was back in Norfolk watching his beloved Canaries throw away another two points in the 2-2 draw with the Lilywhites.
Whether the 32-year-old will be there again this Saturday for the all-important Swans clash is another matter; in a move to part-placate some still-raw feelings the City chief offered a chance for the Canary hero to have a proper wave-off from Carrow Road – one that events transpired to deny him at the end of last season.
“One of the biggest PR disasters in the club's history,” was another opinion voiced from the floor.
Roeder, after a tetchy opening, stuck firmly to his guns – insisting that he would make the same decision again today; that football was all about opinions and right now, his was the only one that counted.
“The majority of supporters revere him – and rightly so,” said the Canary boss, making his first AGM appearance.
“And the easy decision – the one that would keep everyone happy – was to re-sign him,” said Roeder.
“But I wanted to move on – and I'd already targetted a couple of players, younger players, who play in Darren's position.”
The two were, of course, Wes Hoolahan and Saturday's star of the show David Bell. “One swallow doesn't make a summer…” was one response from the floor, as the shareholder concerned remained unconvinced by the Bell for Huckerby switch.
Roeder was forced to admit that Hoolahan had yet to live up to his summer billing – with a heavy emphasis on the 'yet'.
Bell, however, was a different matter. “I've already had two conversations with two managers in the Championship who want to buy him – and I've told them to go away. He's our player.”
Moving the debate on from Huckerby's exit proved tricky; it remains an emotive subject – one clearly not helped by the fact that the Canaries remain stuck in 19th spot.
“Let's stop living in the past – let's move on,” said Roeder, as he likwise tried to move the debate on. “I would make the same decision today – football is all about opinions. And the bottom line is that the football opinion that counts at this football club at this moment in time is mine.”
The City chief was also swift to rally to the board's flag after being angered by morning headlines suggesting that Delia “was in for a grilling”.
“I have to say this is the most transparent club I have ever worked for,” said the City chief, not hard when his last employer was Freddy Shepherd, the ex-chairman of Newcastle United.
“In fact I find it almost unbelievable the honesty and the transparency the board give you – and I've been in the game a long, long while.”
Quizzed over his loan policy, Roeder admitted that mistakes had been made; in an ideal world, he would only look to bring in one or two loan players. However, the situation he inherited this time last year was far from ideal.
“We've apologised about that last year,” said club chairman and MC for the night, Roger Munby. “Great coach, lovely man… but the Year of Peter Grant set us back [as a club] more than the year that he spent here.”
Couple that with the barren wastelands of Norfolk and the North Sea Academy-recruitment wise – Tom Adeyemi apart – and the manager felt he had no alternative but to hit the phones and beg, borrow and steal from his Premiership pals.
“It's impossible to be right about every player you sign – not when there are so many of them,” admitted the City chief, one in particular commanding attention last night – Spurs Reserve skipper Troy Archibald-Henville who is now back at White Hart Lane despite being, in theory, on loan at Carrow Road till January. City are, it appears, still paying his wages till then.
The fact that Dejan Stefanovic is now injured and Jonathan Grounds has been recalled by Middlesbrough leaves Roeder walking a tight line centre-half wise. Whether he picks up the phone to Spurs again is another matter having been led up the garden path once before.
“Troy's a good lad; a honest lad; a pleasure to work with,” Roeder said, with a swift and big 'but' to follow.
“But he's not ready to step up to Championship level – not yet. Maybe in 12 months time; maybe in 18 months. But not now.
“And the people at Tottenham that told me he was ready to step up to the Championship now made a mistake. But I hold my hand up – that's my responsibility. We took a chance and it didn't work out.”