As you may have seen in the news, scientists have detected signals that may be emanating from a parallel universe.
When I hear such things, I can’t help the thought: “wonder how Norwich are doing there?” Juvenile, I know, but not completely illogical. If there’s more than one universe – listen carefully, there’ll be a test later – there are probably many, and likely an infinite number.
Most of them will be fundamentally different from ours. But in an infinite number, some will be very similar to our own, just with subtle and bizarre differences. Stewart Lewis might be creating the works of Shakespeare; Ricky van Wolfswinkel may be scoring (well, perhaps not THAT bizarre).
While it’s fun to imagine what our other selves might be getting up to in parallel universes, it’s time to return to the business of Norwich City in this one. But for a minute I’ll stay with the theme of people living on another planet, as we turn to those who are starting to question Alex Neil.
After four defeats, some are wondering if AN’s inexperience is undermining us and whether we should make a managerial change. I’m not often moved to quote Mrs Thatcher, but in this case I can’t improve on her response to Jacques Delors: “No! No! No!!”
What’s the greatest barrier to football clubs’ success? Short-termism. It’s what separates Southampton from Leeds; it’s why Manchester City won nothing for 25 years while their neighbours won everything.
Southampton’s chairman recently outlined the club’s philosophy. In essence it’s: “We know what we believe, and apply it to every decision; we don’t look for short cuts, but build and earn success; we don’t panic, we’re consistent”.
Few would disagree with such sentiments, but it’s remarkable how many clubs act differently. Southampton practice much of what they preach, as do Swansea. No wonder those clubs are successful and held up as a model for Norwich.
Occasionally a club has a special opportunity to build, if it has a young manager with a presence and talent out of the ordinary. Right now, we have one in Alex Neil.
Will we survive in the Premier League this year? I don’t know (though I suspect we will). But I’m more certain of something else. In 4-5 years’ time I want Norwich to be firmly established in the top division. Are we more likely to achieve that by keeping or ditching Alex Neil? I say keep.
I’d stick with Alex even if we go down this year. And what’s more, I’d make that clear to him now. It’s an unfashionable way of thinking, I know, and some will be horrified at that thought. How can we get the best out of him if he knows his job is safe?
I can only speak from experience of managing people and observation of AN. Yes, I’ve had some employees who would give more if they felt their job was under threat. But they were always the exception. Most will give their best if the organisation makes them want to, or if they have an inner pride and drive that won’t let them give anything less.
Alex Neil is clearly in that last category. We don’t need to whip him to get the best out of him; more likely, we’ll deepen his commitment to us if we show our commitment to him.
It’s well known, but instructive, that Man United fans had lost patience with their own Alex – Ferguson – after 18 months in charge. Their board considered sacking him, as their neighbours City would certainly have done, but they swallowed hard and committed themselves to their young manager. The rest is history.
Alex Neil’s immediate challenge, of course, is to get his players to cut out the costly individual errors of recent games. For our fans, the answer looks simple: tell them to stop it. But have you ever been in a similar situation? Did it help for others to tell you not to make mistakes?
If you’ve played any sport, you’ll have seen the strange mechanics of confidence. Even a golfer at the amateur extreme (i.e. me) knows how it works: when you’re confident you don’t think about it, when you think about it you’re in trouble.
Alex has to work out how to break that cycle. The answer may be different for different players. Even among the writers on this forum, there are mixed views on whether John Ruddy should start against Swansea. As far as I’m concerned, Alex Neil sees them every day in training and his judgement is good enough for me.
Sorry to leave you here, but another writing assignment calls. Now:
To be or not to be….
Agree with you on all of that (probably because McNally’s name was not mentioned).
Alex Neil has got us promoted once and would deserve another chance if we are relegated.
He does not look out of depth in the Premer despite pitting his wits against some of the world’s best managers who have played and managed in the top division for many years. He does lack certain experience as shown by his tactics in some games and would probably like do the last summer transfer window all over again, but he has the characteristics to be a top manager.
Toby Belch says
Let’s hope that the playing fields are more level in those parallel universes.
Realistically, to survive and prosper in this league you need to either employ a foreign coach and have 70%+ foreign players in the team (as with 9 of the current top 10 sides + Watford) or employ Tony Pulis and suffer the dire consequences to the viewing spectacle.
We have to stick with and back Alex Neil even if the worst happens. Hull and Burnley have stuck with their managers and look good for a quick return. If they do, they’ll be in the same boat that we are currently bobbing along in.
I hope we continue to try to be an exception and not the rule at this level but I suspect most fans would be quite happy to ditch such principles for success at any price rather than suffer ‘the slings and arrows’ of yo-yoing.
Stewart Lewis says
Toby (2): I’m with you.
The irony of chasing ‘success at any price’ is that it rarely leads to success. I was hoping there’d be a new example of mindless chop-and-change around the time of my article (given that Leeds haven’t changed manager for almost a full week). Lo and behold, one of the usual suspects comes up trumps, with QPR ditching Chris Ramsay. While they stagger around for another random appointment – my money’s on Tim Sherwood – they’ve given temporary charge to Colin W… I mean Neil Warnock.
Continuity and consistency aren’t in the vocabulary of these clubs. And guess what? They perform far worse than they ought to.
Stewart Lewis says
PS Those familiar with my musical tastes will understand my joy at one of today’s sports headlines:
“Wagner named new head coach of Huddersfield”
Siegfried Meistersinger says
Stewart (4)- it’s bound to get dramatic at Huddersfield now. Word is Herr Wagner is looking for a big, vocal lad up front and a pacey winger from Holland to ensure more crowd-pleasing performances in future. Will Wagner be in it for the long run though?
For you to keep AN he has to show he can adapt and learn from his mistakes. For me so far he has totally relied on momentum from last season and his ability to motivate his players. In this league that is not enough. The premier league is not really the place for a manager to be learning his trade. In your last match he changed his formation and caused city problems.
With a home match and a win needed can he show that he is taking on board the tactical side and keep a clean sheet to get the three points, even if the natives do not like what they see. This will also earn him the respect of the players.
Stewart Lewis says
Mick (7) – “He has to show he can adapt and learn….In your last match he changed his formation and caused city problems”. I think you’ve answered your own question. Shame (for us) that his brilliant set-up at The Etihad was spoilt by two individual errors.
Siegfried (6) – No-one ever accused Wagner of being uncommitted (or brief). I just hope he didn’t misunderstand that well-known Huddersfield saying “Where there’s muck there’s brass.”
Sadly, Wagner never had a chance to visit Carrow Road. But there’s no doubt where he’d have wanted to sit. Given that his work is full of passion, intensity and song contests, it would have to be The Barclay.
Stewart (8)- It has taken him 11 games to realise you cannot outscore premier opposition. Better late than never I suppose! Have to remember City gave you an almighty clanger as well for your goal. On the highlights I saw they missed a lot of clear chances without Aguero and Silva, plus they took the gamble of leaving Sterling on the bench. Paid off for them with result and midweek.
Stewart Lewis says
Mick (9) – Not quite – I’m afraid you’re still showing that you don’t pay very close attention. Our previous wins over Sunderland and Bournemouth, for instance, would have been clean sheets but for sloppy consolation goals conceded at the end. The only gung-ho performance as you describe was at Newcastle.
This was a weekend when we could easily be patronising or gloating towards your team. But not my inclination. The table says Watford are doing creditably; I won’t disagree. Cheers.