We’ve all had our say on the appointment of Neil Adams.
These views have ranged from positive to fairly indifferent to near outrage; the latter being aided and abetted by accusations that, with his appointment, the club have gone for the cheap and easy option. And yes, whilst it is true that, in the words of one Norwich City suit, it was refreshing to be able to give the job to someone who actually “wanted” it.
Did Adams want it so much that he was willing to submit to the concept of ‘management by committee’ – the one that the club have introduced and are now championing – whereas other candidates may not have been quite so eager?
I believe David McNally when he says that Neil was the first person to have been offered the job.
But maybe that was because the other candidates, as they learnt of the terms and conditions linked with the role, decided to withdraw their interest, leaving Neil as the only credible candidate. The only person, in other words, who was still sat in the room willing to do the job?
We’ll never know and we can all cogitate, ruminate and deliberate the matter throughout the summer. The fact remains the job is Neil’s and all of our hopes and dreams for the 2014/15 season now rest on just how successfully he will be able to apply what he learnt and achieved with the youth team to the first team.
Much like we entrusted the responsibility to another former youth team manager at Carrow Road when he took the step up from that to being in charge of the first team in 1987.
There are historical parallels. Stringer, like Adams, won the FA Youth Cup during his time in charge of the youngsters. We beat Everton over three games to lift that trophy in 1983 just as, three decades later, we beat another blue shirted team, Chelsea, to win it for the second time.
Stringer was an ex-Norwich player. So was Adams.
And Stringer had walked into the top job at Carrow Road not long after the club had been widely criticised for sacking one of the most liked and respected men in the game. Yes, for Chris “lovely man” Hughton, read Ken “lovely man” Brown, Stringers predecessor and as popular and revered a footballing man as you could get in the game at the time – much as Hughton is now.
The 1986/87 season had seen Norwich, under Brown, end that top flight campaign in fifth place; a laudable achievement that was, at that time, the club’s best ever league finish.
Unsurprisingly it had been an impressive season all round for the likeable Brown and his team. The club had earnt it through an uncanny but, none the less, welcome policy of winning games and scoring goals; the Canaries away record being particularly worthy of mention with just six defeats from 21 games on the road being the best in the league that season.
It had also seen a first ever league win at Old Trafford as well as one at Liverpool. The former, earned via a solitary Kevin Drinkell goal, elevated Norwich to fourth on a record of just five defeats on their opening 22 league games.
Yet there’s more.
This remarkable season – one of the best in the club’s history – had come after Brown had masterminded a convincing Division Two title success at the end of the previous campaign, one that saw his exciting side escape the second-tier seven points clear of second placed Charlton. It had seen, to the delight of the Carrow Road support, a run of ten successive league wins at one point, as well as – between October 1985 and February 1986 – another run of 18 games without defeat.
Fifty one goals had been scored at Carrow Road – an average of nearly 2.5 a game and – in Kevin Drinkell, Norwich had a striker who was the envy of not only Division Two but, in time, the top tier as well.
Impressive stuff. Yet there is still more.
In March 1985, Brown had led Norwich to Wembley for their third League Cup final in thirteen years – third time lucky as it stands – with the 1-0 win over Sunderland being the first major success in the club’s history.
But, despite all of that, despite a Wembley win, a runaway title success, goals and wins aplenty, and a highest-ever league placing – one that would have, under Brown, seen Norwich qualify for European football for the second time in three seasons – he was, summarily and unexpectedly, dismissed after a 2-0 defeat at Charlton on 7 November 1987.
A decision which saw the Norwich board roundly and very strongly criticised in both the local and national press.
And which left Brown heartbroken.
Once the dust had settled, there seemed no shortage of possibilities as to who might be the next manager of Norwich City. The club were, after all, in the top flight and had, at the time, a very strong and able first-team squad. Players like Bryan Gunn, Steve Bruce, Mike Phelan, Ian Butterworth and Kevin Drinkell were the backbone of the team that had done so well the previous season.
Rumours linked the likes of Millwall’s George Graham to the job whilst there was also support for former manager John Bond to return to the club; his candidature given extra gloss by the fact that he was, at the time, out of work, having been sacked by Birmingham City.
Yet it was the quiet and respected Stringer who got the nod, his reputation as a fine coach and as a man liked and respected by the players proving to be the deciding factors. It was an appointment which, although questioned at the time, turned out be one of the best/luckiest (delete as applicable) the club has ever made.
Parallels aplenty then.
Club sacks popular and well respected manager despite his having led them to some success including unbeaten league runs and unexpected victories over the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal.
Club is roundly criticised for said decision, both locally and nationally.
Club makes in-house appointment to replace sacked manager; an ex-player whose only claim to coaching fame is a win in the FA Youth Cup.
For Ken Brown read Chris Hughton?
For Dave Stringer read Neil Adams?
You would, of course, hope that the appointment of Adams has been done on rather more than the fact a similar appointment worked before and that it might again.
And there will, of course, have been far, far more behind the board’s decision to appoint Adams as manager than the fact that our suits are hoping that in making their choice, lightning is going to strike twice.
But it would be great if it did!
neil mills says
I cannot agree with this article. Ken Brown was one of the club`s best managers ever. Chris Houghton was one of the worst. You cannot compare the two. Neil Adams will only succeed if the players produce their best form for him.
One further similarity, the assertion from some that no one will sign for him as he was not a known name. Also senior pros wouldn’t respect him & demand to leave.
In the end there were very few defections & Robert Fleck, Andy Townsend, Andy Linighan etc were not bad signings
Colin Brinded says
Great article, and looking back over the years a lot of true facts.
In my opinion the club is going the same way as most of clubs nowadays, in that too many people behind the scenes want to get involved with the running of the team ,I cant see the likes of other so called candidates, such as Mackay, lennon,Zola, putting up with a so called committee
telling them how to run the team.
I just hope that Neil Adams will do things his way
and not be a Yes man to the people who think they know how a team should be run,
I often wonder what could of happened had the Board been able to reach an agreement with Tony Fernandez ,perhaps they felt to threatened.We will never know.
Michael Chipmunk says
Zzzz. Someone wake me up next summer. Just so fed up with Norwich at the moment.
The fact is the club have taken a gamble. Clearly they feel for all the right reasons, they have interviewed all the candidates who applied (and were sensible), they have introduced a new structure they believe will help the new manager. We are not unique in this, especially on the continent this sort of structure is much more common even if it’s rare in England.
What I like – despite being underwhelmed by the appointment- is that the club have looked at what went wrong and tried to do something to fix it. Actually they’ve tried something quite radical. We’ll all see soon enough if it works or not, but I can’t fault them for rolling the dice and not simply going down the same road with a new man, hoping everything just clicks. We’ve all seen that so often it doesn’t always work and we’ll see soon enough if this works. I for one have everything crossed it does.
Ps does anyone else think that Adams actually looks a little bit like Ken Brown? Definitely not Dave Stringer though!
Neil, (1), I’m not comparing their managerial records or abilities, just how there are similarities in Adams and Stringers appointments!
And agree that Ken was one of our best ever Managers.
The similarities are there…except one huge, and overriding, omission. Brown left Stringer with a fine ‘backbone’ of a team as you put it. Adams will need to strengthen immensely to gain that, as Hughton’s purchases were beyond pathetic.
Morris C. says
I wonder if Southampton will put their youth team coach in charge of the 1st team now? If anyone should be following that model, it has to be them…but wait – just checked and they sacked their youth team coach about a week ago!
The ‘Drinks’ picture that goes with this piece – can anyone identify which game it came from and for a bonus point, the player loitering behind our then star striker? clue: 86-87 season.
patrick higgins says
Chase out…Brown in was the cry.
Also recall that Brown and Machin were a management team and that Mel Machin left for another job in the close season before Ken Brown was sacked a dozen games into the season with City in the bottom three.
Popular opinion at the time was that Machin was the brains behind the success and Brown was the brilliant father figure and ambassador for the club.
Whatever, 85 to 95 was a wonderful time to be a City fan, thanks for the memories !
Morris C (8), great question!
Guess-is the opposition Nottingham Forest? Steve Hodge?
Frank Watson says
Hmmm…the major problem with this ‘look at previously successful internal promotion’ argument is that the game has changed so much.
The above mentioned were operating in a different century when the stakes were nowhere near as high. They did not have to deal with multi-million pound contracts, agents, foreign players, massive egos etc.
The club’s somewhat desperate and prolific attempts to disguise the fact that Neil Adams is desperately under-qualified for this position are testament to the Board’s embarrassment.
The fact that quite a few fans, local pundits and messageboard posters are defending the appointment and saying ‘let’s unite behind Neil’ suggests to me that the NCFC PR machine is being successful.
The truth is the Board have messed up for the 3rd time in six months; first time was not sacking CH in November, second was failing to act in January, this latest aberration is an insult to fans and evidence that we are run by people who, whatever they may say, are happy to be involved with ‘little old Norwich’.
What has most upset me, as a fan of 45 years’ support, is the disingenuous nature of recent publicity. To suggest that the club scoured Europe for prospective managers but couldn’t find one better qualified to lead a team which a year ago was 11th in the world’s richest league than their own youth team coach is, frankly, utterly ridiculous. To expect fans to swallow such nonsense is insulting. That fans are swallowing it is frightening.
Gary Gowers says
Frank (11) – Other than to ‘unite behind Neil’, what option do we, the supporters, have? The decision has been made – all the whining in the World is not going to change that fact. He certainly would not have been my first choice – but I was not privy to the interviews and the ensuing discussions. I fear there are folk out there already wishing ill on Adams’ tenure, ready to unleash another round of ‘I told you so’…
Let’s at least give the bloke a chance to prove folk wrong before unleashing the venom. I admire your ability to look into the future given the certainty with which you speak of next season.
And I’m not sure that ‘being a supporter of xx number of years’ makes anyone’s comments more worthy than a supporter in his or her first season of following City.
That’s what I think anyway…
Frank Watson says
Totally agree we must unite behind Neil Adams. Of course.
My major gripe is with the Board telling us they really looked hard elsewhere.I just can’t accept that such a process would’ve resulted in this appointment. I’d rather they said something along the lines of ‘we decided to go with our own man and somebody we believe knows the club’. At least that would be honest.
As for length of supporting etc I just mention that because I think it does qualify some of us to look at things in the light of past experience which is where Ed was coming from. Incidentally, though I feel very let down on this issue I still think Ed is a great writer and share many of his views
Dave B says
I actually agree with both Gary and Frank, if that’s possible.
I’m certain everyone will unite behind Neil and on the whole I’ve not read a bad word said against him. Just the situation.
But, Frank is right, you can’t scour Europe in under two weeks. We’re making our club unattractive to many a ‘leader’. Type A personalities who want to control everything and are successful due to it. Bringing in their own proven teams. Those people don’t want Technical Directors, committees, or assistant managers forced upon them.
Right now we’re Norwich, recently relegated and relatively wealthy for a Championship side looking to bounce right back to the Premier. We’re an attractive prospect.
If in two years time we’re still in the Championship, back on ‘regular’ income, and have been performing good, but not great, then we may rue the day that our club was even in the hat for managers that have been linked with us.
I had hoped the board had learned some lessons about communicating with the fans in an open and honest way. Sadly, it seems they haven’t and the past two weeks have had the whiff of amateur management about it.
Morris C. says
Ed(10) – fine effort sir but (1) Forest didn’t have the striped shorts that season and (2) Steve Hodge was at Spurs in 86-87.
I’m pretty sure it was the game against Charlton (3/1/1987) and Drinkell’s shadow is Mark Aizlewood who later went on to be Captain at Leeds but was sold after he inadvisedly gave the Elland Road faithful the v-signs after he had scored a winning goal and got booed for his trouble!
Some good debate here.
One thing puzzles me.
Why don’t/didn’t we advertise for a new Manager, that is, invite applications? We haven’t this time and haven’t for the last few appointments either.
Does the club feel such an approach is a backward one else not ‘worthy’ of a club deemed to be able to identify and target prospective managers itself without the need to advertise the fact?
I only say that because the calibre of person who might apply could surprise them and demand further enquiries. Maybe it isn’t so much the appointment that could be considered insular as the way we perceive ourselves- limiting choice to a pre-chosen list of named candidates rather than selling the club and its vision to the wider footballing world.
If you are limited by your own choices then is your own vision clouded by your pre-determined views and opinions of same? Would opening up the field open up minds to other possibilities?
Michael D says
That’s an interesting question Ed (16). I agree the not advertising certainly limits one’s prospective pool, and as you say, gives you a sense of your status vis-a-vis others. Which leads onto the question, so how are we going about filling the Technical Director and Director of Recruitment positions, since these are part of this new 4 person management committee – are we advertising these?
With respect o Ewan Chester, I assume it was agreed internally that he would not be considered for the Director of Recruitment position, so he resigned. Since in the announcement of his going he has already been thanked for his services, I also assume the club is trying to move on quickly from his failures last summer – or at least, his and Hughton’s failures in communication.
There was no strategy last year – that was Hughton’s biggest overall weakness, he was not a strategy person. Thus we ended up with no sense of what style we wished to play, recruited players for a style we didn’t play, and lost any sense of team spirit. Since the Board seems to have identified these as issues to be addressed, I wonder how long it will take till we start to see them being addressed? I hope at least Neil has been given the green light to start to make plans – including on recruitment – and doesn’t have to wait until all members of the committee are in place!!
Bobby Dazzler says
An ‘open to all’ job advert does smack of a sense of desperation – the club not knowing what it’s doing or which direction to take..that’s why I’m amazed they didn’t use such a method as they are pretty much the vibes I’m getting from Carrow Road at present!
Maybe they should have commissioned Prof. Hawking to do a feasibility study into which candidate had the best ‘profile’ for the job? I’m just off to check his World Cup predicting equations for any mistakes.
Dick van Dogsdick says
Born in 1975 I really appreciate these snapshots of City’s history. I remember the Milk Cup of course, but not much else from that era. Too busy playing, jumpers for goalposts and all that.
The main thing I take from this article is the comparison between Adams and Stringer, rather than Adams and Gunn. As someone who firmly backs the board’s decision, I welcome this new angle.
As to whether and when the Board “scoured Europe” surely they would have begun that process when, as they say, they had doubts about Hughton around Christmas time. McNally even hinted they were looking at other options shortly after that, so suggestions they did it in “less than two weeks” are wide of the mark. Honestly, can the Board make ANY statements these days without fans accusing them of lying?!
I really don’t understand the point about advertising the vacancy. Surely it becomes common knowledge almost instantly, and anyone who fancies the job is free to apply. If they decide to wait for an approach, they don’t want it badly enough.
Dave B says
Are the board lying? I don’t think in a conspiratorial fashion. No.But are they being completely honest? Let’s look at the timeline.
Christmas – Delia has admitted Hughton wasn’t good enough at this point. She says they looked but no one was available. Now, I’m not sure what they mean by available. Because neither Lambert or Hughton were available. So I guess they looked at just people without clubs. I don’t know why. Adams is not considered good enough to take over.
Feb – David McNally gives an interview. Says they have contingency plans, but didn’t believe any change would be certain of improving results.”If we need to make a change… it wouldn’t be a case of who are the contenders”. Adams is not considered good enough to take over, nor anyone else within their shortlist.
April – Only when Carrow Road erupts at Hughton is he removed. Adams is considered good enough to be caretaker.
May – The board do not automatically appoint Adams based on his results. They set themselves one week to find a manager. Clearly they have no plans to scour anywhere within one week. So they already have, or didn’t look. After two weeks, some egg on the face after a missed deadline and mounting pressure, we appoint Adams.
It’s not confidence inspiring on the public face of events to think that we really looked long and hard at all possibilities, in both England and abroad, both with and without club, since Jan, and the best person we could come up with was a man with five game’s first team experience and a 0% win record (yes, I know he had hard games but that’s the Prem.)
We’re all partly to blame. We’ve thrown around one or two names as if that’s the only possibility. I’ve tried to not be drawn into the arguments of “who out there is better”. Because I don’t know. But it’s more than just NL and MM. There could be a phenomenal up-and-coming League One manager and most of us wouldn’t know it. As a PL club, McNally and co however should. I think they looked at a very limited number of people, either couldn’t get them or didn’t want them, and went with what they had, because he was there and was ‘good enough’.