Norwich City's hopes of ex-boss Nigel Worthington providing a short-term fix for their urgent managerial needs looked to be unravelling tonight with sources in Belfast strongly suggesting that the Irish Football Association had refused to play ball.
As in 'No way… not happening…'
If true, then City's hopes of having an experienced caretaker manager in charge in time for this weekend's home clash with Barnsley might rest with Ludham's finest – and a phone call to Bruce Rioch.
If not then, if only for this weekend, the club's 'player recruitment' chief Bryan Gunn could be the man to host tomorrow morning's usual 8.45am, pre-match Press conference at Colney; ably assisted by Messrs Wright and Martin – leaving the board with a good, ten days clear to plot their next move ahead of the home clash with Southampton.
As for that thinking in Belfast, Northern Ireland currently have four points from their four, Group Three qualifying games and next month travel to minnows San Marino.
Victory on February 11 could see them join the pack of clubs jostling for second spot; the fact that they held the Czech Republic to a very creditable 0-0 draw in Belfast has boosted hopes that maybe, just maybe, they could sneak something here.
Hence their determination not to allow anyone to rock their managerial apple cart.
They have also already got their fingers badly burned before when they allowed Lawrie Sanchez out of their sight to go and help out in a similar fashion at Fulham – only to then walk out on them altogether.
Of course, Worthington could always walk – but word was that if the Carrow Road gig was merely a short-term, caretaker number with a view to further discussions at a later date he wouldn't walk away from his ?450,000 full-time position on a whim and a vague promise.
“We don't want another situation where a manager leaves mid-campaign which happened last time and had a detrimental impact on our chances,” the Irish Football Association President Raymond Kennedy told the Belfast Telegraph this morning, a position that might have hardened during the day if anyone had taken it as read that they would happily fall into line with Norfolk's best-laid plans.
Rioch, 61, has long made it known that he has another challenge in him. And having spared Middlesbrough from the drop – both league-wise and financially – he has enough on his cv both there and, of course, at Bolton to suggest that he could be the local man for a crisis.
He certainly left with the sense that it was only a job half-done as internal politics did for one of football's more honourable and strait-laced characters. He also enjoyed widespread affection among the Carrow Road staff. He ticks all the 'family man' boxes.
Whether the boardroom will is there is one of the many questions left unanswered tonight; Aidy Boothroyd has long made his intentions plain. The former Watford chief won't be far away from the board's thoughts; his immediate availability clearly helping his cause.
Sky Sports' Championship 'expert' Peter Beagrie offered few clues this evening – other than to suggest that on current form the Canaries looked nailed-on certainties for the drop.
“Norwich would expect to be mid-table, but on current form they are real relegation candidates,” wrote Beagrie cheeringly tonight, on the official Sky Sports website.
“They are far too easy to beat away from home. Before we saw them live against Nottingham Forest earlier this season they'd only picked up six points from a possible 45 either side of the break. There's no doubt that's relegation material.”
Hence, he said, it was no surprise when this week Glenn Roeder went to meet his maker.
“Glenn Roeder's sacking was hardly unexpected,” said the former Everton winger and team-mate of Radio Norfolk's Neil Adams.
“When I wrote my half-term report before Christmas I noted that there hasn't been any progression at Norwich and in a results-based industry they haven't been doing well enough. Since Glenn arrived last October they haven't moved forward.
“It has only been a short tenure, but it's a chicken-or-egg situation. You could give him another eight games to sort it out, but if they lose those games they could be cast adrift at the bottom of the league. Nobody wants to sack a manager, but if the performances on the pitch are poor then such decisions are inevitable.”
As for where next, don't ask Beagrie was tonight's message from Sky. Their Championship expert hadn't much of a clue. He won't be the only one as the games continue.
“It's difficult to say where they'll look now. I think they will go for an experienced manager, but there are no candidates that really float my boat, never mind the Norwich people who tend to go for somebody who has an association with the club,” Beagrie mused.
“There are a few managers out of work, but put it this way, whoever gets it will be a surprise to me.”
Tonight and it looks as if at least one surprise return won't now happen.
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