Football, to reach into the bag marked ‘Well Worn Cliches’, is usually one of very fine margins.
A penalty call there, a save there… Such ‘fine lines’ can determine so much in the course of any one season. And with it the fate of any manager.
But in the instance of Alex Neil’s appointment as the new boss of Norwich City Football Club, I think the rule about fine lines goes out of the window.
Because in handing the 33-year-old 20-odd games to steer the Canaries back into the top flight at the first time of asking, City chief executive David McNally has just made a very, very big call.
One that either goes spectacularly badly… Or spectacularly right.
And time is on no-one’s side here.
Neil has to get this very right very quickly ahead of the derby clash with Ipswich. Get that wrong and hell might hath no fury. And history may well be swiftly re-written when it comes to the exit of first Neil Adams and then Mike Phelan.
Because I am sure the rest of the football speaking world raised something of a quizzical eye-brow when Norwich parted company with a manager who had only managed to deliver seventh place midway through their first season back in the Championship.
If that was to become an established benchmark for managerial success or failure, then it would be a revolving door for club after club, manager after manager, as they each re-adjusted to life back in the second flight.
The point is that the more the Neil regime stutters a la Brentford, the more the Adams reign starts to shine. Not perhaps as the brightest star in the managerial firmament, but it will beg ever more pressing questions as to why, exactly, the former Youth coach was pointed in the direction of the gang-plank – a walk he took with considerable dignity.
That Phelan should follow is hardly surprising.
If Sir Alex Ferguson’s former No2 does harbour genuine ambitions of being his own No1, being asked to play No2 to an Accies legend was always going to be a big ask of a proud man.
Which then leaves the newly-arrived Neil on the bridge alone. At least until his pal arrives at the end of the month.
There is another aspect to this that pre-dates the McNally era but is one, big reason why Norwich City found themselves on the road to Yeovil.
With the honourable exception of Simon Lappin, Norwich’s forays north of the border in the reign of Peter Grant didn’t yield much fruit.
For anyone who made the long haul to Plymouth that November day in 2007 and witnessed Glenn Roeder’s reaction post-match to the ‘finest hour’ of the Ian Murrays of this world, it is with good reason that the City faithful might need some persuading that salvation player-wise lies beyond Hadrian’s Wall.
Hand on heart; I was never the biggest fan of Mark Fotheringham. City’s ‘salvation’ was also unlikely to be found kicking about in Swiss football.
This is not, I hasten to add, to in any way immediately doubt Neil’s ability.
He clearly has something about him. He speaks well enough. Looks the part. And I’ve said as much.
Instead the task here is to lay out the landscape across which he is going to have to travel. Quickly.
McNally plucked a peach in the shape of Paul Lambert. Who knew the English lower leagues like the back of his hand through his spells at first Wycombe and then Colchester. And if Lambert didn’t hand his homework in on time, you can bet your last bottom dollar that Ian Culverhouse did.
And, of course, City had a certain G Holt sat large in that dressing room.
But the challenge that the City chief exec has set himself is to pull another Lambert out of even more obscure surroundings than he did with the original.
The easy option would have been to do a Pulis or a Warnock.
It is, probably, what most punters would have gone for. Take effective ahead of pretty and just get yourself back into the top flight. Whatever it takes. They do you a job.
Neil may yet do a job – and entertain en route.
But again, go back to the luckless Steven Whittaker who will carry much of the can for this weekend’s reverse.
Neil may well have turned to him because – still only two-three weeks into the job – he will have known of Whittaker from the latter’s Rangers days.
What he may be fast discovering is that Norwich’s recent history is all-too littered with Scottish Premier League ‘stars’ that in the unforgiving light of Carrow Road and the Championship fail to live up to their north of the border billing.
It’s not a transfer pond I would desperately want to be fishing in next week PR-wise.
And someone did make a decent point about Conor McGrandles. If he is good enough to be on the bench, does that not mean the teenager ought to be good enough to start?
Of course, Neil will also be getting a swift lesson in the place that Wes Hoolahan holds in the hearts of many.
For a goodly number, you start with the name W Hoolahan on your team-sheet and build everything else to fit around him.
To do anything less is to arm one section of City support with a big stick. Which will be waving through the message-boards as we speak.
The point is that it is a minefield out there for any manager of Norwich City Football Club. With recent history and on-going expectations lined up against you, it is a big ask of anyone to turn the ship round at the required rate of knots – let alone a 33-year-old with no recent knowledge of the English game.
But that is the bar that McNally and the Board will now have to jump if this season’s comings and goings at Colney are going to have the desired impact and effect.