City chairman, chief executive, would-be manager and luckless Player of the Season Lee Croft all faced the full wrath of the Barclay this evening in a heated and, initally, ugly fans forum at the end of the club's annual Open Day.
Chief executive Neil Doncaster bore the brunt of the supporters fury and the frustration following yesterday's exit from the Championship – and, in particular, the manner in which the players 'rewarded' the 3,300 travelling Canary supporters for their unswerving loyalty at The Valley with a no-show right down there with the 6-0 defeat at Fulham in the spring of 2005.
It all prompted a poisonous atmosphere among certain sections of the audience this evening – the Canary chief executive having to endure a long round of slow hand-clapping before he was eventually allowed to speak.
City boss Bryan Gunn – his own managerial fate to be decided, potentially, at a board meeting on Wednesday – also came under-fire after his 19 game mission to spare his beloved Canaries from a trip to Yeovil next season having ended in that first-half heap at Charlton.
That he bled yellow and green was not in question; his suitability for the job on a longer-term basis was. In fairness to the City goalkeeping legend, he found at least as many supporters in the room as he did “snidy” detractors.
It was, by some way, the most uncomfortable and uneasy forum the club has ever held; as everyone probably expected given events of the last 48 hours and beyond.
How many answers anyone actually walked away with is another matter; promises there were a-plenty not least from Gunn himself; still clearly hurting from events in SE7. His responses were as raw as they were honest.
“I was given a mission to save this football club from relegation – and I failed in that mission,” he said. “And I apologise for that.”
That he wants to be given the chance to make amends by leading the club to a swift return to the Championship was not in doubt; it was clear that he already had a battle plan for League One in mind – one that involved a new crop of players that were as strong in mind as they were in body.
If granted an extended bite at the cherry, his summer would be spent scouring the land for “bosses”; players that had all the character that was so obviously lacking in that 4-2 defeat against a long-doomed Charlton.
“If I was given the job, yes, I'd get shot of a few…' he vowed, after listing the 19 players still under contract at the club next season.
In their stead would come leaders of men; stronger, hungrier characters that wouldn't be led like so many lambs to the slaughter. He had two already in the building whose enthusiasm and fighting spirit shamed half a dozen of their senior peers.
“If we can get a team of Korey Smiths and Cody McDonalds, then we will get out of that division – whether I'm manager or not.”
And if he was manager? “We need more bosses,” he said simply, as he readied a speech he will deliver to the board on Wednesday. Tomorrow he is due to look each and every player in the eye and work out just who wants to be travelling to Hartlepool on a Tuesday night; facing Lee Clark's Huddersfield on a Saturday.
“We need the goalkeeper to be a boss, we need a centre-half boss, a boss in centre midfield,” he said. “To get out of that division, it'll take League One players; players with characters; with strength; bosses.”
As for the board and their role in presiding over City's exit to League One and, above all, sanctioning the two managerial appointments that did more than most to lead the club there, there were no easy answers.
Plenty of questions as to why they were still there. And, as ever, why they hadn't sold the club to Towergate billionaire Peter Cullum when they had the chance…
'What offer?' was Doncaster's repsonse, denying newspaper claims that there had been an offer for the majority shareholding of Delia Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn Jones – principally in the autumn of 2007 when Cullum first came a-courting with his apparent willingness to inject “?20 million” into team strengthening in return for overall control of the club.
“In the 12 years that Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones have owned the majority shareholding in this football club, there has never, never been an offer,” said Doncaster.
“Whatever you may read in the papers; whatever people tell you – no-one has ever made an offer for Delia and Michael's shares. At any price.”
Doncaster also dismissed claims that relegation to League One would cost the Canaries a figure of ?7 million plus.
“Our TV income is likely to fall from ?1.5 million to ?500,000 next season; overall, you're probably looking at [a loss in income of] ?3 million – not the huge numbers mentioned elsewhere.”
How many of the club's 19,000 season ticket holders will choose to forgo their right to a rebate on their 2009-2010 season ticket will be one acid test of the underlying strength of support as the Norfolk club heads for wholly unchartered waters; they will have extra games to play – first round FA Cup games; a ticket to the Johnstone's Paints Trophy.
Plus players will see their wages fall in line with their new surroundings. “A lot of the players have ratchets in their contracts so their wages will go down in League One,” said Gunn, as someone applies the axe to that bloated ?8.5 million player budget.
The strong suspicion remains that Gunn will, indeed, be charged with that task; he had enough friends on the floor to ensure his full-tme appointment would be welcomed in many quarters, if not clearly all. He will, inevitably, have to take some of the flak for the Charlton debacle; it is, they claimed, the manages job to ensure that the players take to the field in the right frame of mind.
The counter claim would be that he was never left with enough players with enough of the right stuff to do the job when it mattered; he'd been dealt a dud hand from the start. He had no “bosses”; no characters.
One thing was equally clear; if Gunn did get the gig, he would not be following the loan policy instituted under Glenn Roeder.
“The next manager of this football club – whoever it is – has got a massive task on his hands,” said City's managerial hopeful.
“And there have been mistakes in the players that have come here; so whoever the next manager is, he is going to be under a lot of pressure to get it right; because this club has to come back up at the first time of asking.
“But he will have to get together a squad of contracted players. And while I don't want to play my hand before I go in to see the board on Wednesday, youth and the likes of your Cody McDonalds could be the way forward.”
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