For just how much longer Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa would remain as part of ‘Team Hughton’ was open to question this afternoon as ex-Canary chief Paul Lambert started clearing the coaching decks at Villa Park with a view to appointing his own ‘boot room’ team.
Villa’s official website confirmed that Alex McLeish’s first team coach – 51-year-old Kevin MacDonald – had left the club and thus ending a 17-year association with the club that included a brief spell as caretaker manager when Martin O’Neill walked.
MacDonald would, in fairness, have known that his card was pretty much marked from the moment that McLeish was sacked.
It is the nature of the Premiership manager beast these days that they come complete with a ‘crew’; an inner circle of trusted lieutenants who follow their leader wherever his career takes them.
Which is why most City observers would expect both Culverhouse and Karsa to follow Lambert up the A14 given that the trio first worked together at Wycombe before heading to Carrow Road in the summer of 2009 following a spell together at Colchester United.
First came MacDonald’s farewell speech as Norwich, Villa and Birmingham began to tie up a few loose ends following the frantic managerial merry-go-round of the last fortnight.
“I’ve had an incredible 17 years at Aston Villa, one of the biggest clubs in the country, and wish to thank all the staff and players I have worked with during my time at the club,” said MacDonald. “I wish Aston Villa every success in the future.”
Speaking to the club’s official website, chief executive Paul Faulkner added: “As a club, we are immensely grateful for the contribution Kevin has made in more than 17 years at Villa.
“He has been an integral part of the success we have enjoyed at the academy and reserve team level and, in assuming his caretaker responsibilities at the beginning of the 2010-11 season, he cemented his position as a man who will always command respect at this club.
“The whole of Aston Villa Football Club will wish Kevin well.”
All of which leaves a very large ‘Situation Vacant’ at Lambert’s right-hand side.
At Thursday’s official unveiling of Hughton, both new boss and City chief executive David McNally were happy to talk of an expanded coaching team which would find room for Culverhouse and Karsa to work alongside the in-coming Colin Calderwood and Paul Trollope.
The $64 million question is the reaction Faulkner will face from his opposite number at Carrow Road if he is despatched by Lambert to secure the services of Culverhouse and Karsa. The suspicion would remain that if – as claimed by The Independent newspaper – Villa have yet to pay a penny in compensation for Lambert’s signature, they may find the Canaries less than accommodating on a potential return raid.
In the meantime, across the city and Norwich’s impeccable sense of timing with regard to Hughton’s capture was confirmed by the belated publication of the club’s annual accounts, for the year ending June 30, 2010.
The lines to note came towards the end of the piece where the directors recognised that cash flow at St Andrew’s might become an issue towards the end of this month – particularly with Carson Yeung’s assets still frozen in the Far East.
‘The directors insisted that Blues should be considered a ‘going concern’ but required additional funding to made available to continue through to June 30, 2012,’ the Birmingham Mail reported today, as Hughton began to settle into his new role at Carrow Road.
The next line was the telling one:
‘The directors “consider that the cashflow forecasts can be achieved and that the additional funding required in the period can be obtained by forward funding of player transfers and/or additional player transfers.”’
And for ‘players’ read manager and his backroom staff of Calderwood, Trollope and top scout Ewen Chester – all of whom, one presumes, would have come with their own ‘compensation’ clauses attached. Financially, Blues were in little or no position to deny City’s approach.
Explaining Hughton’s exit to the Birmingham City Trust, the club’s acting chairman Peter Pannu confirmed that the Canaries had paid up the remaining time on Hughton’s contract – and that he was effectively powerless to stop the switch once McNally and Co came a-calling.
“Chris Hughton’s wish must be respected or else you will have a stranded manager who is not happy and whose wish it is to take up a Premier League challenge and quite deservedly so,” Pannu wrote in an email.
“The balancing exercise is not rocket science and any right-thinking person can work out the rationale.”