Neil Adams will remain as manager for the immediate future. We can all be sure of that much, because of the silence which followed the latest crushing disappointment in this desolate sequence of results.
I mean the silence from the board. They must have been as broken as the rest of us after watching Reading breach “Fortress Carrow Road” with two basic set-piece manoeuvres, and I don’t doubt they considered, that night and the following day, whether to give Neil his P45.
That’s what boards do. All of them. When our board decides to stick rather than twist, it is after a lot of considered and frequently passionate debate. Don’t ever mistake silence for inertia.
Three things will have counted in favour of Adams. The first is that, although this blasted “blip” is now a full-blown decline, there were so many good things on show in the first nine league matches, including an almost unprecedented run of consecutive away victories, that we know Adams can coax results out of this well-stocked squad.
The second factor bringing support for Adams is that, I understand, he continues to impress with his personal courage and determination. Last season, in his brief tenure at the end of the campaign, he dealt well and quickly with disciplinary issues. This time, apparently, he has done the same. And, despite all the increasing pressure brought about by the dismal results, he has shown no signs of taking a backward step or of letting that pressure make him cower.
The third factor is the appointment of Mike Phelan. I don’t go along with the conspiracy theory that he was hired to step into Adams’ shoes asap. It was always the intention to get an experienced head in the coaching team, and that is what Phelan provides.
Significantly, though, he is not experienced as a manager, and he has no track record of turning around a failing team. His only coaching in the second tier was with us, almost 20 years ago, and it didn’t bring much success.
But since then he has racked up all those years at Manchester United, at the right hand of the Master, and it makes no sense to appoint him as City’s first team coach and then change the set up after the first game. We have to wait a little longer, at least, to see if his arrival can have an impact.
There was no silence of the fans, though, after the Reading debacle. Others have had their say, on this site and elsewhere, about the booing, the baiting of David McNally and the social media attacks on John Ruddy. But in the debate about behaviour after the match, it needs to be remembered that the Barclay and Snake Pit were magnificent during the game. The support was loud and stirring. From my season ticket seat in the Community Upper, it provided goose bump moments.
As for McNally, the chant of “What a waste of money” obviously referred to his bonus – and I understand the apparent contradiction in his receiving it after relegation. But, come on, surely we understand by now the leading role he took in lifting us from the brink of administration to rude financial health. We wouldn’t have a club to get upset about without him. And, incidentally, his salary was substantially lower than many Premier League CEOs.
But he knows we have to try to get out of this division this season – in the right direction.
In the grimly awful long drive home after the Reading shocker, two siren suggestions crept into my mind. “It’s no fun in the Premier League anyway. And we’ll have just as good a chance next season.”
The first, a reflection particularly on last season’s two painful trips to Manchester in five days, was easily dismissed. This campaign’s long haul to Middlesbrough wasn’t much of a jolly either and, surely, unless we want promotion it makes no sense to invest so much emotional capital during Championship campaigns.
The second sop to my angst – the idea that it might be better next season – was simply wrong.
If Norwich are still in the second tier come August 2015, then their parachute payment will actually go up. The payments are scheduled as follows: £15 million in the first season after relegation, £17m in the second, £8m in the third and £8m in the fourth.
But that £2m fillip won’t be enough to keep the current squad together or improve it substantially. Some of those who stayed after relegation hoping for a quick bounce back, and took a 40 per cent salary cut, would be urged by their agents to take better remuneration elsewhere.
And, besides, our own history teaches us that it is easy to get marooned in this difficult division.
When we were relegated in 1995, we had t-shirts ready for the first game of the next season, at Luton: “On loan to the Endsleigh League.” The competition had changed its sponsors twice before we left it.
At the first game after we were relegated again in 2005, I spoke with Ray Wilkins, who was on England scouting duty. “You’ll have enough goals to get out of this division,” he said, and I nodded sagely.
In the event, we began with three home games, drew all three of them 1-1 and never recovered from the missed opportunity to begin with momentum.
The difference this time is that we started with splendid momentum – well, after that miserable opening at Molineux. But now those wonderful away days in Suffolk, Cardiff, Brentford and Blackpool just taunt us.
Yet I think we’ve “only” had three bad performances. We’ve had plenty of poor results, but that’s not the same thing.
City’s only relentlessly awful performances were away at Wolves and Middlesbrough, and at home to Reading. In every other game, we had good possession, created good chances and looked, for long periods, like a decent team.
So why are we mid-table? Well, I had a relevant conversation with Chris Hughton after he’d been sacked last season.
He said to me that the critical point in the campaign had been that spell in February which brought defeats at Cardiff and West Ham in matches in which we had ample opportunities to score. But I replied that, if a team keeps losing matches – narrowly or not – then there must be a strategic flaw.
Of course confidence plays a major part. A lack of it can be utterly corrosive. But there’s usually something else going wrong too.
Last season, it was our inability to score. This season it has been the frailty of our defence – but I think that is because, on too many occasions, we have been far too gung-ho. Whatever formation we play, we pile forward. The fullbacks join in. The holding midfielders gallop up to the edge of the opposition penalty area. And teams undo us with counter attacks.
I’d expect Phelan to concentrate on the basics of defending as a team. And a few wins would change the entire landscape for us all. They need to come quickly, though.
there u go mick dennis is close top the board so we will have to put with adams longer
Did anybody expect anything other than Smith and co sticking their heads as far in the sand as they can get them .
Time for new owners as well as a proper manager, club is run by amateurs who treat it as their old age hobby .
delia has done alot for this club everyone is grateful, but never should be involed in picking managers bad track record,
So we have to wait for a few more weeks to give Phelan a chance. Then the board must act according to those next results. We need to support our club, our board, CEO, manager and players until then.
A good piece Mick that helps balance some of the lunatic fringe that are amongst us.
General Dangerous Dog says
Think it’s bad now, just wait for the January sales to start up. Let down by the board repeatedly, so called managers and now the fans. As a half decent player, of which we have many – why would you stick around?
Last one out, turn out the light.
Stewart Lewis says
Reading between the lines, I suspect Mick was as shaken as I was by the ineptitude of Saturday’s performance. Another person shaken by it was David McNally; his tweet left no room for doubt on that score. We won’t see change in the coming days, for the reasons Mick outlines. But the prospect of change is in the air, and if things don’t improve clearly and quickly then I don’t think we’ll need to wait long for it.
Frances Lewis says
Well done Mick, a fair and balanced view as always. Lets see what the next four weeks brings then it will be decision time!
I found it very hard to hear too much criticism of Delia, I for one am extremely grateful for the support she has given our club- we would have been liquidated more than once without her money. My understanding is that she is increasingly hands off anyhow, MacNally very much runs the show.
Nevertheless, whoever is genuinely in practical charge, it is clear something needs to be done. My personal view is a change of manager. It can be argued that the board have already acted by hiring Phelan and are now waiting to see what does happen from this.
To my mind the problem for the fans is one of helpless frustration, we can scream and shout for something to be done, some action, something that is visibly constructive. But we see nothing. For some time my own view is we’re far too static, the player receiving the ball is always stationary, never on the move. I can’t possibly communicate this to the team, nor would my view as a fan carry more weight than anyone else’s. But if there is not to be a change at the top, we really need to see something. I will support the club until either they or I am no longer on this earth, but something positive is sorely needed.
OTBC please put the smile back on our faces for Christmas.
And if they do that absolutely make damn sure Ipswich get beaten at Carrow Road.
I don’t think Neil Adams is the right man (I’d love it for him to prove me wrong). Although he has to be giveb until christmas surely?
No sorry, despite all the pontificating Adams is a good guy but inept as a manager. The longer this draws on to it’s inevitable conclusion the more deep rooted will be the decline. If Neil really loves the club as I believe he does, he should do the right thing. Problem for him would be where on earth would he go from here. Meanwhile he’s is unintentionally bringing everything terminally crashing down around him.
Bob Robinson says
Paul – I think the complete opposite, in that McNally/Bowkett were brought in by outside demands in the wake of continual disaster decisions by the owners. From then until the second year in the Prem, the owners most certainly were in the background and Bowkett/McNally totally ran he show. Indeed media contact by the owners was non existent and what a fantastic period that was. The club dramatically changed its image. No one but no one pulled the wool over McNally’s eyes, particularly in the transfer market.
The last two years has seen the owners taking over once again. The Chairman and CEO can now only recommend, if the owners say ‘jump’ they do. To the public they must show ‘cabinet loyalty’.
I simply do not think McNally believes the stuff he’s come out with this last 12 months.
Mick’s article is excellent but not sure he thinks Hughton should have been sacked which tampers my enthusiasm a bit!!
Where do you get your idea Bob.So when things are going well its Bowkett/McNally in charge. Things go wrong so the owners must be in charge again.Talk about fitting supposition to an agenda. As far as I recollect it wasn’t the owners who fell out with Lambert
John Y says
Really good article. I’m not alone in thinking that Neil was a very poor appointment but we are in a difficult position now having signed players and got Phelan in as number 2. If we can get an experienced guy in with the track record to get us out of this league (in the right direction as our current form is relegation material) then we should do it. The only person that ticks those boxes that I can think of is Pulis. Would we be able to get him? Would we be hypocrites for bemoaning Hughton’s style of play but readily accepting Pulis? Does that matter?
Dave H says
The irony for me is that if Chris Hughton was still in charge, I believe we would be doing far better . I am not suggesting we should have kept him on as his position was untenable, but I think he would have won games in this division.
divergent confusion says
You are either being naive or patronising to suggest that what our own history teaches us, it teaches us nothing, it suggests a possible outcome that is all. Why the unbending support for McNally as well? He has had his time here and needs to move along, both parties need fresh ideas and he has clearly lost sight of how to achieve success. To defend his bonus by saying he was paid substantially lower than “most” Premier league CEO’s is both laughable and glib seeing as you don’t actually quantify it by stating his and other CEO’s salaries/bonuses.
Adams is not the problem with Norwich City FC he is merely a symptom. McNally has had his time in the sun and along with Bowkett he is leading our club into the hinterland. Look up Mr Dennis look up, yes, that is Ipswich Town FC right up there looking down at us from the automatic promotion slots. How much worse will it get before you extract your head?
“And, incidentally, his salary was substantially lower than many Premier League CEOs.”
Please Mick, show us the evidence for this statement; at the very least, name the clubs that paid more (and clarify which season you are using as a benchmark; the successful season of 12/13, or the failure of 13/14)
Whoever put McNally’s package together needs to understand that a 300k performance bonus for a relegation season will anger many fans.
Dave B says
“But, come on, surely we understand by now the leading role he took in lifting us from the brink of administration to rude financial health.”
I’m sorry, but I don’t see laying off staff, players cutting wages nearly in half, and selling off top players to be replaced by less skilled ones and a devastating drop in revenues to be ‘rude financial health’.
I could not in good conscience take a bonus worth more than many people make in a decade while simultaneously sacking staff and cutting wages. It’s morally wrong, shows poor leadership and a complete disconnect from reality.
General Dangerous Dog says
David McNally is one if the best things about this football club. The mind numblingly moronic fans that want shot of him, I can barely take seriously. On the whole, just not very bright people, I would assume. Probably the same people who will be voting ukip…
Dave B says
@18 General Dangerous Dog
Eighteen months ago I’d have agreed with you. But anyone who has witnessed what’s happened on the pitch will have seen nothing but a decline at our club. Yes we have more in the bank, but we have nothing to show for it where it matters.
Stewart Lewis says
Paradoxically, both Dangerous Dog (18) and Dave B (17/19) may be right.
Dave B is right in saying that where it matters, 2014 was a blot on an otherwise immaculate record since 2009. David McNally agrees: rather than making excuses or talking about ‘the football department’, he describes our relegation as the greatest failure of his career. And all the cost-cutting steps he’s taken since then have been in necessary response to that failure.
And yet. A financially-minded friend asked me with puzzlement in August: ‘Norwich have lost most of their revenue and they don’t have a rich owner like Cardiff and Fulham – how come they’re not having a fire-sale of players, and how can they be signing new ones?’ The answer is exceptional management since 2009: daily (and continuing) by McNally, building on the time bought by Bowkett in re-structuring our debt.
Some fans (I’m sure Dave knows better) think of the Chief Exec as sitting around between decisions on hiring & firing the manager. Far from it. McNally is the first to say that it’s all about what happens on the pitch, and decisions about the manager are of course key. But it’s the job of operational management (esp at a club like Norwich without a sugar daddy) to optimise the workings of the organisation and generate as much cash as possible to put at the manager’s disposal. There aren’t many better than David McNally at that.
His record on managers is up for debate, of course. Hopefully most contributors are better-informed than the Canary caller who stated in mid-diatribe that McNally hired Bryan Gunn. But as a Chief Exec in the round, he still looks impressive to me.
I find it quite depressing that Canary ‘fans’ start having a go at the likes of Delia, McNally and Bowkett as soon as results turn bad. How do they know exactly what these individuals are doing behind closed doors? Why do they assume that A.N. Other would do a better job? Don’t forget there’s 20 or so other teams in this league who also feel they ‘belong’ in the Prem. We’re in a far better position financially than almost all of them.
We should count our blessings our club isn’t the plaything of some random overseas oligarch, or at iminent risk of financial catastrophe. Crying over McNally’s 350k bonus just betrays a small club mentality. It’s a drop in the ocean. Lampard earns that every 12 days.