Suspicions that it would take more than one afternoon and one board meeting to untangle the League One mess that Norwich City now find themselves in were duly confirmed this evening as an official statement by the club's under-fire directors revealed that their discussions were “set to continue”.
There was no sign of a pillar of white smoke billowing out of Carrow Road Vatican-style as the question of Bryan Gunn's longer-term appointment was put on hold whilst the club pondered a clutch of more pressing issues – in particular, the financial ramifications of the club's descent into the third tier of English football.
It was, said the statement, “a frank and productive” meeting as the club's two majority shareholders, TV cook Delia Smith and her husband Michael Wynn Jones, were joined round the table by club chairman Roger Munby, chief executive Neil Doncaster and director Michael Foulger for what now looks set to prove the first of a clutch of meetings in which the Norfolk club will look to plot their way back into the Championship at the first time of asking.
There were, said tonight's statement, a number of “crucial issues” that they needed to resolve including:
'The possibility of new external investment into the club;
'The possibility of changes to the composition of the board of directors;
'The appointment of management team to lead us next season;
'The financial situation facing the club;
'The ramifications of this financial situation for the business as a whole;
'The ramifications of this financial situation in relation to the size of next season's playing budget;
'The type of players who will represent Norwich City in the future'.
There would be changes, the board vowed; that today's discussions were just the start of a journey towards a new-look Norwich City – one that, ideally, came without repeats of either Fulham (a) in 2005 or Charlton Athletic (a) in 2009.
“We have made a good and solid start to tackling these issues and there will be changes at this football club,” the statement read.
Whether Gunn will be allowed a second and longer bite at the cherry is, tonight, still up in the air after City's short-term boss went away without an answer following a presentation to the board by the City goalkeeping legend, alongside his No2 Ian Butterworth and first team coach Ian Crook.
“They set out their desire to help lead the club forward and their vision for the future – if they are appointed,” said the statement.
“We were impressed, as always, by their passion and commitment – but no decision will be made today on the managerial situation as some of the issues [listed above] need to be resolved first.”
Speaking to that emotionally-charged supporters forum after the club's Open Day on Monday, Gunn sketched out his vision for the future – a return to “contracted” players as opposed to an over-reliance on the Premiership loan market and youngsters whose interest and commitment can be questioned; a quest to unearth more Cody McDonalds out of the non-league scene; a greater emphasis on bringing through the very best the club's FA Youth Academy has to offer, personified in the appearance of FA Youth Cup skipper Korey Smith in Gunn's starting line-up at The Valley.
All of which should have chimed with the board's vision for the future of the football club – particularly when, in their straitened financial circumstances, bringing their own, home-grown youngsters to the fore could be one way to raise the kind of funds the club will be need going forward.
That minus any new and substantial investment coming into the club, 'new' money may well have to prove of the transfer variety; that you follow the Ipswich and Southampton model; showcase the best of your youngsters for a season or so and then wait for the Premiership cheques to follow.
Big decisions lie round every corner – not least if the club decide not to take up the Gunn option and opt instead to look for yet another managerial line-up ahead of what will, undoubtedly, be a frantic summer on the transfer merry-go-round.
For, as ever, the modern day manager comes with a backroom staff attached and having made much of the over-riding need for stability and continuity at Colney when they first gave Gunn the reins in January, it would be a big, big decision if the board now decided to go in another direction with the prospect of Messrs Butterworth, Crook and chief scout John Deehan all being bundled out of the door as the new man brought his own 'team' in.
It would prompt yet another summer of major upheaval; yet another close season full of uncertainty. At least the likes of Chrissy Martin and Michael Spillane will know who and what awaits them on their return; the 'Luton Two' could, after all, have a pivotal role to play in City's League One campaign after earning their Wembley spurs with the Hatters.
Again, judging the mood on the floor at Monday's fractious fans' forum, the suspicion would be that Gunn still carries enough respect and affection to keep the majority of supporters 'on-side' going into a new season; his problems will come October and November-time if the Canaries look all set to over-stay their welcome in League One and are not holding their own in and around the play-off places.
At which point, his initial appointment in succession to Glenn Roder and then his subsequent re-appointment this week or next will be merely see as yet another example of a board getting the big, footballing decisions wrong.
Damned if they do, damned if they don't… it comes as little real surprise this evening to find a Norwich City board picking their way very carefully through the minefield that surrounds them.
Leave a Reply