In a busy ‘ordinary’ footballing week with a build up to a big weekend of league action, the news that Barry Simmonds had left his post with “immediate effect” at Norwich may well have gone under the radar of most fans.
But with the mother of all Championship promotion tussles in full flow, the frustrating sudden hiatus caused by the international break has left many like me, hungry for any juicy morsel of news out of Colney or Carrow Road. My radar is buzzing.
I’ll be honest. The name Barry Simmonds is a new one to me. In hindsight, I feel a tad shame-faced that I had no idea he was indeed ‘head of player recruitment’.
With no disrespect intended, it’s a name you might associate with a pub landlord or a local builder but not one for such a pivotal role within a football club.
If I passed him in the street, I wouldn’t have checked my stride and asked for his autograph.
Joe Royle, yes I would have; Mike Phelan, for sure; Neil Adams, of course – but not Barry Simmonds.
The first three on that list are household names (at least round these parts) – all former players and hall-of-famers. All have similarly – quickly and to varying degree unexpectedly – departed from their roles at the club since the summer.
Also through the exit door went Mark Robson and Tony Parks. In total, the collateral backroom damage for a single ongoing season has to be unprecedented.
Simmonds had been in his powerful position – on the football executive board – since July, joining after seven seasons in a similar role with fellow relegated and arch bogey-side Fulham. He joined them when Roy Hodgson was in charge of team affairs – a tenuous link with the international week I’ll admit.
On taking the role at Norwich, Simmonds said, “For me it was a very easy decision.”
With the condition of the club he left at Craven Cottage after the comical Martin Jol and Felix Magath eras, I’m guessing that was an understatement.
On leaving the role with us on Tuesday, no quote from the man himself was forthcoming – only a dry official club statement knocked off from a well-worn template.
Simmonds seems to have left little impression at the club but maybe that’s being unkind and he did make an important contribution in his eight months here. I’d welcome enlightenment.
His departure tweaked my interest, so I tried a bit of electronic archaeology to find what made the man tick, why he might have been offered such a powerful role with us and why it had all ended so tamely – at least from the outside.
It turns out he’s one of the ‘Nowhere Men’ – a label which forms the title of a book written by a Michael Calvin and published in 2013. Sub-titled, ‘The Unknown Story of Football’s True Talent Spotters’, Barry Simmonds commands an entire chapter.
The book is a fascinating glimpse into the shadowy world of those important yet generally uncelebrated club employees whose job it is to tour the country, make connections, spot young talent and recommend future signings to their employer.
In old money, the job was ‘chief scout’. In new currency, it’s ‘head of recruitment’.
Chapter 13, entitled ‘The Road to Perdition’ (not to be confused with the Tom Hanks mobster movie), gives a warts-and-all-ish insight into Simmonds’ career at Fulham.
It seems he was a very hard worker – often shirking days off – and a man who racked up the air miles in pursuit of the foreign imports, which arguably eventually brought the club down to the Championship.
I’m guessing that his time in Norfolk will not be featuring in any future books – his face seemingly didn’t fit. Whether it was a case of jumping voluntarily or being pushed from above will remain forever a mystery most likely.
It’s a curious episode but one which might just make me take a bit more notice of whoever replaces him at Carrow Road.
It would be remiss of me to not to take the opportunity of sending out my regards to the Milk Cup Final winning team, and management, of 24th March, 1985. Thanks always to Ken Brown and his boys for the memory of a great day out at the old Wembley.