In the Norwich City low ebb league table autumn/winter 2016 is right up there and is giving the Glenn Roeder era a real run for its money.
I can see it, you can see it, 25,000 others can see it, yet all the evidence suggests that those with the power to do something about it cannot. Or maybe don’t want to see it because it involves being ruthless, tough and decisive.
Either way, after having suffered three hammer blows in the form of Reading goals we were dealt a fourth with news that in the few minutes between final whistle and post-match interviews Alex Neil had been told by the board to “keep going”.
No wonder he gives off the air of someone whose not about to have the rug pulled from under him. And that can’t possibly be healthy.
Football’s unlike a ‘normal’ profession, I get that, but for most managers it’s one that’s infinitely more precarious than those who tread the nine to five path. Right now for Alex it seems less precarious.
For him to have under-delivered in such an obvious and glaring way and yet not feel any form of heat from above is a luxury enjoyed by very few. Paper boys who literally fail to deliver are on thin ice, so too chief executives of major PLC’s whose share prices are on a downward spiral, and almost everybody in between.
Yet the manager of Norwich City FC who has overseen eight defeats in the last ten games when armed with a squad that originally had aspirations of top two is told “carry on”.
And remember… “promotion, promotion, promotion”.
Quite frankly, right now it’s the opposite end of the table that is of more concern.
We’re in free-fall with little evidence of it being arrested. And it’s no exaggeration to suggest the current trajectory is hurling us headlong toward an end-of-season relegation scrap.
Yet the Board are not for turning. And for the first time I do find myself genuinely questioning their ambition.
I’ve listened to and read the ‘little Norwich’ and ‘no ambishun’ arguments hundreds of times but have always been of the view that Delia and Michael want to see this club be the very best it can, yet their clear loathing of the Premier League (“all that Premier League money washing into people’s pockets”), as evidenced in the Henry Winter interview, has altered that view.
I don’t doubt for one second that they’re true supporters who have the welfare of their club at heart – that’s a given – but I do wonder if they now perceive the second tier as its natural home.
Why else would they preside over this decline and do nothing?
Whether Ed Balls, Jez Moxey and co have that same belief is open to debate, but the ruthlessness, professionalism and drive that typified the McNally/Bowkett era appears to be drifting off into the ether. Right now we seem to be re-entering an era akin to that presided over by one Neil Doncaster – and we all know how that ended.
That David McNally and Alan Bowkett were not best buddies is well known but while it lasted, and before it imploded, that volatile dynamic drove this club forward. From the brink to Premier League in three seasons.
It wasn’t cozy (ask anyone who worked at Carrow Road in that era), we weren’t particularly nice (ask Colchester Utd chairman, Robbie Cowling) and there was collateral damage aplenty along the way (ask Korey Smith and Chris Martin), but it was fit for purpose and enabled us to compete at the top table. We really gave it “a right good go”.
Like all good things, especially when you’re a provincial club with a stadium that holds less than 30,000 and has no major investment, it came to an end but from a financial perspective the club was set fair to establish itself as one of the best of the rest.
Yet now that good work is gradually being undone before our very eyes.
We’re in the middle of some parachute payments that give us a massive advantage over most of the Championship. Next season those payments are still there but in a reduced form. The following season they disappear.
If we’re still a Football League club in 2018/19 then we’re back to square one, Or, to put it another way, stuffed.
By then it’s fair to assume that Tom Smith will either be the major shareholder or at least sitting alongside Auntie Delia and Uncle Michael and we’ll be poorly funded also-rans with similar prospects to that lot down the A140. Minus any of that external investment that MWJ so despises we’ll be back to 2008 and it won’t be pretty.
Unless, of course, in the meantime something extraordinary happens; extraordinary in the sense the club can add to the talents of Maddison, Thompson and co to build a new, energetic, hungry squad, and the coaching/recruitment takes a very sharp upward turn.
But I don’t see it. Not with Team Neil in charge, and not with the return of the softly, softly approach in the boardroom.
We’re treading a very perilous path right now. I’m just not sure the Board realises it.