“Get up, John”
“Why do I have to?”
“If you don’t get up now, you’ll be late for school”
“But I hate school. Everyone’s mean to me”
“Come on, John, you have to go. You’re the headmaster”
I’ll come back to the significance of that story.
In the meantime, if you’re waiting for a considered, well-informed, elegantly written summation of City’s season, look away now. In fact, look away and don’t look back.
I can’t offer that. First, Gary Gowers did it here on Sunday in a way I couldn’t get close to (and I’m not sure many others will). Second, it’s still too raw. I’m writing this before City’s fate is officially confirmed, but I’m assuming the worst and it’s gut-wrenching.
There’ll be plenty penned, of varying quality and rancour, about where it all went wrong. Many will point to the games where we under-performed, the ‘no-shows’. The problem with that approach is that fans of every team – from Newcastle (who didn’t beat Villa either home or away) to Arsenal and Man City – can say the same.
As I walked away from The Emirates, a friend asked about the game. Without thinking, I said “we tried, but we weren’t good enough”. Having given more thought to it since, and taking the season as a whole, not sure I can come up with a better summary.
On Saturday night, our musings over the United game and other results were interrupted by ‘Resigngate’.
Regular readers will know I’m a fan of David McNally and what he’s done for our club. Now’s not the time to go over that ground again, but maybe I can throw in some slightly-informed thoughts on three of the weekend’s mysteries:
- Why did he resign?
- … and announce it in the odd way he did?
- Why was the club silent for more than 24 hours?
Let me be careful not to over-claim. My speculation (it’s no more than that) is based on a few conversations with the man himself and a lot of experience with the way organisations communicate.
To me – and I suspect to most fans who actually met and spoke to McNally – the most striking thing was his passion for the club. His assertive management style created the image of a calculating, hard character. Perhaps to his own surprise, though, he’d caught Delia and Michael’s bug and fallen in love with City.
It’s that emotional side which came to the fore, I think, on Saturday. Faced with the inevitability of City’s relegation, he will have turned in on his own role. The clear shortcomings of player recruitment, especially in the summer, are at his door. He’ll have felt, I suspect, that he let us down. When we feel that way we tend to lose perspective and do irrational things.
I don’t know what happened next, but can imagine a scenario. The Board, in no doubt about his importance to the club, perhaps invited him to sleep on it – which would explain the club’s silence. Fans and journalists demand information, but if you’ve nothing to say, it’s best to grit your teeth and resist the demands.
However the final decision was made, it’s a momentous and – I believe – sad day for our club. We need to do everything possible to bounce back next season, when we’ll have a financial advantage over most of the Championship. Beyond that we’ll be competing with clubs who’ve enjoyed the benefits of the new TV deal, including its increased parachute payments.
We had two seasons in the Championship under McNally, both finishing with promotion (for comparison, his predecessor Neil Doncaster had eight seasons with one promotion). You can never count on promotion, or even competing for it, but with McNally and Alex Neil I was more optimistic than I am now.
A final perspective on McNally’s tenure. When he arrived, we had to look a long way up the football league (and the financial league) to see Wolves, Birmingham, Sheffield Wednesday, Reading, Preston, Cardiff, Bolton, Portsmouth, Blackburn, Fulham and many others.
We’ve no God-given right to be ahead of those clubs. Let’s hope we find someone to keep us ahead of them.
The point of the story that started this article, of course, is the loneliness of being in charge. Many people can’t think of anything better and more fun than running a football club.
Unless your owner is a billionaire encouraging you to spend his money – ie Bournemouth or Man City – I can’t think of many worse jobs. ‘Emotionally wearing’ would be a severe understatement.
A personal note to finish, if you don’t mind:
I’m no believer in fate or destiny. After my brief conversation with McNally before the game on Saturday, though, for some reason I was haunted with the thought that I should have said “if the worst happens, I have two hopes: that Alex Neil stays, and that you stay”.
It wouldn’t have made any difference, of course. But I still wish I’d said it.
I, like all of us, will only miss McNally if we appoint a dreadful new CEO. If we manage to pull out a quality signing on that front, we should all thank him and not be the sentimental fools that tends to hinder progression. I’m not sure I can agree on the no show element though…it wasn’t just a no show, it was the opposition. I don’t need to remind you, but not even looking likely to score against those teams is totally unacceptable. Neil needs to seriously up his game or he wont find another emotionally accommodating CEO to take the hit. I suspect McNally was dedicated to NCFC and Delia and wanted to deflect the negativity, having already made his money. He falls short of dictatorship (which most are calling him) during his tenure as they don’t tend to loosen their grasp on a sinking ship for anyone. I feel it was his time to move on, but some of the myopic accusations being fired his way are pathetic.
Bucks Canary says
We’re back into ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ territory. McNally has done an incredibly sound job for this club. Our stable financial situation has to be diwn to him: that’s an intrinsic part of the job of a CEO.
Some of our ‘fans’ continued to berate him over our recruitment failures without actually knowing even a tiny smidgeon of his role in transfer negotiations. Ignorance rules, okay.
Let’sjust hope we get a quality replacement.
Keith B says
Ah, nice opening quote Stewart – Jo Kendall and John Cleese on I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, late 1960s? The programme that spawned “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue”, which ought to be the by-line of a lot of our fans on Twitter….
The situation reminds me of the day that Martin O’Neill walked out, with us recently relegated and, thanks to him, nicely poised in the top 3 for an immediate return. It took the best part of 10 years to get back to where we were and even then it only lasted a year or two.
Get it wrong now and we will be heading south again. And unfortunately football club Boards are remarkably good at getting it right once and then wrong 3 or 4 times. Ask Bolton fans how things have been going since Allardyce left…
“Neil needs to seriously up his game or he wont find another emotionally accommodating CEO to take the hit. ” says Jeff(1). Well most people are blaming the Board for our predicament in not recruiting the players Neil needed. I’m not totally convinced, my own view is that Neil needs much better backroom staff to help him get those we do recruit (like Naismith, Jarvis, Mulumbu and Pinto) to play to their potential.
Either way for me we need to follow the Burnley/Dyche model and let Neil continue to build.
But will Neil want to stay? Finding a capable CEO to oversee/support him is very unlikely to happen quickly, it may take a while unless we are very lucky. With McNally gone it is surely much more likely that, 15 months after arriving, Neil will also be much more open to offers from elsewhere. Celtic for example. They will not have forgotten what he achieved with Hamilton, nor his impact on us.
We need some continuity, so to me it is more important than ever that we keep Alex Neil, otherwise it’ll be a double whammy.
David Nobbs says
My own speculation about the events of Saturday night had got to roughly the same place, an emotional resignation followed by a request to sleep on it. The appointment of his successor will be the most important decision the club has made in 7 years. One way lies building on the firm bedrock of financial stability, the other lies the squandering of that legacy in a perhaps futile attempt to join the big boys .
We are almost certainly relegated and will need to rebuild again. This time we can’t claim to have a premiership squad, they have proved twice that they can’t cut it. Personally I would prefer a clear out and perhaps turning to youth ( step forward Murphy(s) Maddison et al), even if that means 2 years rather than 1 in the championship. I certainly think Alex Neil deserves to have a crack at building a team in his own image.
Well . . . into the unknown we sail. I can’t rid my thoughts of “careful what you wish for”. I wonder what all those calling for his head and have got their wish, will wish for next. I know what I’d like to see : let the dust and bile settle, and then see a rapprochement brokered – after all the chairman is/was a politician, he ought to be able to do it.
If Stewart is right, and I think he probably is, that McNally has been seduced by NCFC, then let’s get him back, and get some better support around him.
He’s made mistakes – Wow! Are human beings supposed to do that? In a second coming, he’d make others. Maybe if he wasn’t paid quite so much, doubters and outers might cut him some slack. At tis critical juncture – we’re going down – we need an up to speed CEO more than ever and we need his particular strength of purpose (ruthlessness) in changing the whole set up on and off the pitch.
Many of the squad need to be moved on – for their own benefit as much as for the club’s. Colney needs a sort out, not just recruitment, but also fitness. A recent post here highlighted the team running out of steam and conceding late in the game. In the Blessed Paul’s day, it was us who ran till the last second and grabbed late winners.
And then there is Alex. Should he be asked to stay or to go? He has qualities, and they were just what were needed last season. But, he is undoubtedly inexperienced and shown to be tactically naive and inflexible. It is no good hoping he can repeat the Championship gig because if he did he will still not in my opinion be fit for purpose in the top flight. He’s got to go.
Where the replacement comes from opens up a whole new challenge but it’s one that I’d rather have a restored McNally doing than the now rudderless board on its own.
So, come back David, please. Let’s start again.
Reading in-between the lines, McNally resigned because he had the realisation that he wasn’t as good as he thought he could be, much akin to his employer, Norwich City. He had reached his ceiling.
With two relegations in three years, good talking isn’t enough and he had the carry the can. However, I dearly hope he is replaced by someone who doesn’t put friendship before business, so someone completely uninvolved with the current board.
McNally was a polarising figure. Someone who wanted to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond and probably wanted too much control, which is dangerous in any business. The fact that the board consists of well meaning amateurs, meant this placed extra responsibility on him, so it was convenient for both sides.
I’m grateful for most of the things he has done, but for me, he was a man who was clearly running out of time as it was clear to some that we were going to get relegated after the shambolic transfer window in the summer.
Ultimately you have to learn from your mistakes, but in McNally’s case, he didn’t and the person who was the professional amongst amateurs in the Norwich board became amateur on Saturday night. The sooner he can be replaced with the right person, we can draw a line under the whole affair and move on.
General Fluff says
Short ode to a resigned CEO.
When D-Mc arrived, the club was in a right pickle,
My interest had dwindled away I must confess,
The coffers reduced to dust, hope down to a trickle,
D-Mc cracked heads and soon began to impress.
In 2016, NCFC is mostly in rude health and fine fettle,
OK, the Champ looks like being next season’s home,
But let’s give thanks and grab opportunity’s nettle,
Cheers to D-Mc and best of wherever he may roam.
The fact he resigned before relegation has been confirmed is very surprising. ‘The club’ expects the players to keep playing and fans to provide support until the very bitter end.
I suspect he was proud of his record and could not face being here any longer after a shambolic season.
He has been in the game a long time and knows enough people to be aware of potential next roles open to him if he quit.
I imagine he thought the next year could only get harder. Promotion next season is already assumed to happen by most supporters. But it will be very tough, and if achieved he would get little credit (or thanks) from fans because an instant return to the Premier will be the minimum expected.
Perhaps his faith in Alex Neil, the players and/or the finance being sufficient to lead another likely promotion has waned too.
Peter C says
Looking at today’s statements, it seems that the rest of the Board were not impressed with McNally’s resignation, which came out of the blue, and the manner in which he did it. Let’s not rule out the possibility that in a few days he might take up another post. As pab says (8) he is well placed to be aware of roles open to him and it is likely he will find a new post a lot easier than we will find such a capable CEO. So let’s not feel too sorry for him. I am sure he was passionate about NCFC when he was here but as a professional he will have no difficulty in transferring that passion to another club.
And from Alex Neil’s comments, that he will look closely at his position, I cannot see him staying if he feels his career will be further threatened. Why stay here for a difficult season seeking expected promotion if another club gives him better opportunities. What are the odds on Neil and McNally teaming up again somewhere in the near future? Stranger things have happened!
We are, for the first time in seven years, looking at the club to make a major decision without McNally’s input. Based on many of the decisions made before 2009 that seems scary. As Keith B (3) says, once things start going wrong they tend to continue. Let us hope the remaining Board are good enough to find someone for the CEO role that fits the bill. After all something needed to change after all the money we have wasted on poor signings over the last three years (if I remember correctly, there is still a further year on RVWs contract!)
Stewart Lewis says
Thanks for the thoughtful comments (not to mention poems!).
Have to say I was braced for more pushback and argument. McNally’s departure seems to have moved many fans into reflection mode. As several comments highlight, City have to get the next appointment spot-on.
Dan R says
Time for Red Ed to make his mark.