While it wasn’t exactly death by a thousand cuts, in the end it did feel like a good three or four hundred.
As painful as it was to endure yesterday afternoon’s slow walk to relegation, there was an overriding feeling of relief. Relief that what had slowly and cruelly turned into a footballing nightmare was over.
That the board appear to be acting quickly with regard to appointing a new manager indicates they are as keen to draw a line under this season and move on as the fans. And that has to be the right way to go.
David McNally, in conversation with BBC Radio Norfolk earlier today, has clearly already taken a long hard look at his own, and the board’s, failings this season and spoke bullishly of his desire to right the wrongs of 2013/14.
Appointing the right manager is obviously vital in rehabilitating Norwich City Football Club but to do so without learning the harsh lessons learned over the last ten months would be a disaster. But McNally is a shrewd operator and I expect him to.
In the same interview he declared his love for the football club and, quite rightly, indicated that he didn’t think it would be in anyone’s best interests if he were to walk away now. And I agree.
Having unwisely compared the prospect of relegation to being ‘worse than death’, and now with a relegation on his CV, the chief executive will be hurting as much as the rest of us right now. He won’t want to suffer this pain again any time soon and he certainly won’t wish to see all the good work of his five-year tenure unravel in less than one.
And his next move in the chess game that is running this football club will be one that ultimately defines whether or not that happens.
Whoever comes in will have a tricky job on their hands. Neil Adams’ no-nonsense approach to one or two senior individuals in the squad suggests that all was not rosy behind the scenes. Or, adversely, perhaps a little too cosy. Either way the names omitted from squad over the last few games tell a story all of their own and indicates that some big names will be heading out of the door over the next few weeks.
The squad needs rebuilding; there little doubt about that. While I’m not expecting a mass exodus there will clearly be those who, for all the right reasons, will want to stay in the Premier League and have earned that right.
Others who are less deserving will also be wanting away hoping to keep their noses in the Premier league trough.
No need to name names. The next few weeks will reveal all.
But, on the assumption the new manager and probably a director of football will be in situ before next weekend, the sooner they can address the deficiencies in the squad and re-shape it the better. I hesitate to use the L word but we all loved the way he went about getting his transfer business ‘done early’.
It would be good if Mr X and Mr Y had the same approach.
But let’s not forget there will still be a decent nucleus with which to have a decent crack at the Championship, even before we see some new faces. Once said clear-out has occurred the new manager will be left with those who still have the fight and desire, and a group of youngsters who, one year on from winning youth football’s biggest prize, will be chomping at the bit for a crack at first-team football.
That, to me, sounds like a decent start.
The challenge will be then to bolt on some players who will enhance that group and make it one equipped for the rigours of the Championship – which, when compared to the Premier League, is almost a different sport.
The differences between the top and second tier have been well documented – and are all too obvious – and it’s crystal clear that what’s needed to get promotion and to survive in the Premier League are two very different things.
For that reason I don’t envy the position McNally and the board now find themselves. Our friends down the road have kissed several frogs before they finally found a prince to take them to the edge of the play-offs – but still it’s thirteen seasons and counting.
With a balance sheet that shows zero level of external debt and their best crop of youngsters for thirty years the scene should be set for giving it a go – and if we’re still having this conversation in thirteen years time I’ll be mortified – but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking it’s going to be anything other than a slog.
Season 2010/11 was a one-off. The planets were in perfect alignment and we spent ten months in Utopia. If we expect more of the same I fear it’s only going to end in disappointment.
But, in the words of Steven Gerrard, ‘we go again’. We have a summer of upheaval ahead but out of that one hopes will rise a Norwich City to make us proud again.
We’re a resilient bunch – we’ll bounce back – but there are a few players who clearly ‘didn’t fancy it’ this season. If we’re to move forward and embrace a new improved iteration of our club it’s best for all concerned that they don’t hang around.
I’ve never joined in with the proverbial, ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’, but there have been several occasions this season when that sentiment has flicked through the mind. I really hope that the class of 2014/15 will wear it with pride. That’s the least we should expect.
Tick that particular box, brace ourselves for a slog, and who knows…