If anyone was looking for the head of John The Baptist to be brought to them on a platter in the wake of Norwich City's relegation from the Championship, tonight the Norfolk club provided two – that of club chairman Roger Munby and the club's chief executive Neil Doncaster.
Rumours had been rife all day that the club were preparing to wield the axe after a board statement last Wednesday vowed that there “would be changes” in the wake of the club's exit into the third tier of English football.
This evening and the club stood firm to that promise as the two men charged with the executive leadership of the Canaries paid the ultimate price for City's fall from grace as they both parted company with the Carrow Road club.
It left just three members of the board at the helm – the club's two, principal shareholders Delia Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn Jones, and Banham Poultry boss Michael Foulger.
Together they issued a joint statement this evening in which they paid warm tribute to the contributions of both men as the Canaries began an urgent search for their replacements.
Someone, somewhere, after all has to be dealing with the small matter of Cardiff City's chase of Canary keeper David Marshall. For with no full-time manager in place as Bryan Gunn and his coaching staff wait to hear their own fate, presumeably all such questions fall into the lap of Delia and the two Michaels.
“We want to sincerely thank both Roger and Neil for their hard work and commitment to the club over their years working with us,” read the carefully-worded statement, as all parties endeavoured to part on the best of public terms.
Whether, in private, such public 'sackings' were taken so firmly in the chin is another matter.
The reality was, of course, that heads were expected to roll; that someone, somewhere would inevitably end up carrying the can for at least two managerial appointments that have gone so badly wrong for the Norfolk club; whether the charge sheet will be extended to cover various other presumed 'crimes' is another matter.
Running a Championship football club is a high-wire act at the best of times; two duff appointments in the space of three wretched seasons and you are deep in trouble.
But given the Smiths' ?11 million commitment to the cause over their 12 years around the boardroom table and the on-going lack of a new owner, they were something of an immovable object; ditto Foulger, whose own financial commitment to the club has likewise been crucial in keeping the bankers and the lenders happy.
All of which inevitably left chairman and chief executive with their heads way above the parapet. And with an emergency public meeting scheduled for Thursday night in the city, so thise evening's news might have taken a little bit of the steam out of that gathering – particularly if the club can find sme fresh faces and new blood to put before the supporters over the next 48 hours.
“There will be further changes to the board,” tonight's statement promised.
“Meanwhile an announcement about the executive management structure at the club will be made in the near future – once staff at Carrow Road and Clney have been fully consulted. The club will not be adding to this statement until then.”
The two men at the centre of this evening's dramatic turn of events added their own thoughts as the club brought the curtain crashing down on 12 years of 'Prudence with Ambition'.
Like it or not, that one phrase will be enscribed on their respective tombs. With good – and, potentially, bitter – reason, they might suggest that a playing budget of ?8.5 million this season erred more on the side of ambition than prudence, only for it to be frittered away on dire signings and a deeply-flawed policy of Premiership loan arrivals.
It is an argument that will sway back and forth this evening – for someone needed to manage the manager; to question whether or not Arturo Lupoli's arrival was, indeed, the centre-piece of City's 2008-2009 strike policy; that, perhaps, the hugely-expensive arrival of the on-loan Italian from Fiorentina was fundamentally flawed.
The 21-year-old simply didn't have the physical frame required for this division…
It is that kind of robust questioning which may yet see the club turn to a more football-minded board member going forward; to nip certain flights of a manager's fantasy in the bud before he wastes what little is left of the Smiths' transfer kitty.
In the meantime both Munby and Doncaster offered some dignified farewells on the Night of the Long Knives.
“It is clear that for Norwich City Football Club to move forward, there needs to be a fresh start,” their joint statement said.
“A new Board of Directors is an essential part of that process. We therefore believe it is in the best interests of the club for us to step down from our positions.
“We would like to place on record our sincere thanks to all the staff at Carrow Road who work long and often anti-social hours to serve Norwich City's wonderful supporters.
“Delia, Michael and the Foulger family have worked tirelessly for supporters and put huge amounts of their own money into the club over the last 13 years.
“They, and City supporters everywhere, deserve much more success than has been possible in recent years. We would like to wish them, and everyone associated with Norwich City Football Club, the very best for the future.”
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