June 2009 was our majority shareholders’ finest hour.
With the club in crisis, a divided squad lacking in hunger and motivation, and a manager whose serial incompetence would be so conspicuously exposed by Paul Lambert’s well-drilled Colchester United two months later, Delia and Michael acted.
In the appointment of David McNally, they recruited an astute pragmatist – a prudent individual with a long-term vision for success. A shrewd operator, it was McNally who pioneered the success of the Lambert years, ruthlessly removing the Scot from Colchester’s clutches and forcing him north into Nelson’s county. The Great Train Robbers of 1963 would have been proud of such a heist.
Success ensued. One promotion brought another, and the McNally-inspired-institution remained in the top flight under his diligent leadership for a further two seasons before inept recruitment proved our downfall.
We shall never forget the glory and jubilation of the Lambert years.
Almost a decade on from his appointment, our loyal owners must delineate such similar principles of sagacity and wisdom. They must appoint a successor for the divisive Jez Moxey with the shrewdness of McNally, a character who possesses the requisite hunger and motivation to instigate a prolonged period of City success.
Visibility is key. Moxey represented the fundamental antithesis of his predecessor, appearing inaccessible and unapproachable compared to the more open and interactive McNally. Such a lack of exposure was so palpably revealed in his startlingly sanitised in-house interview following December’s defeat to Huddersfield.
McNally had his flaws. The bizarrely announced resignation via social media aside, his decision to publicly undermine the reign of Chris Hughton through the announcement that he was searching for potential replacements was far from his finest hour. Such impetuousness is not what this club needs.
It was McNally’s efficacy as an operator that we shall remember, however. His ability to secure the services of Lambert, to sign the talismanic Grant Holt, to oversee the construction of a squad who were capable of achieving such memorable and remarkable things.
I don’t want him back. Alternatively, the presence of a fresh chief executive who does not possess the ego of Moxey and is instead open, visible and benevolent with our loyal supporters is sacrosanct.
Our new CEO must also be bolder than Moxey, determining his actions and decisions based on circumstances rather than steadfastly sticking to his undesirable principles. City’s season may be slowly turning a considerable corner, but the fact remains that Alex Neil should, in my opinion, have lost his job weeks ago. Moxey failed to act.
While his successor may not have a vital role to play in the subsequent developments of this current season – that is up to Alex Neil and his players – his influence in terms of the long-term future of the club will be critical.
Rather than the unspecific and unnecessarily vague plans for ‘promotion, promotion, promotion’, he needs to have a more direct and step-by-step vision for success.
City need to get back to the top flight. The well-documented and lucrative television deal that manifests itself the season after next is ominously looming, and we are all aware of how financially detrimental a prolonged Championship spell will be for our club. We need a plan and fast.
It will be up to the new CEO to derive and execute this. He must quickly draw up an efficient and viable formula for success, providing a sustainable model for City to launch an assault on this increasingly draining and turbulent division.
Although such a progression may be impossible in this campaign – but, you never know – his role in prudently planning for a crucial season next year will be – to appropriate the words of Lambert – colossal.
City need a visible, accessible pragmatist with a long-term ambition for success. We need a man who cares, not a figure such as Moxey whose apathy and unwavering sense of contempt towards fans and their views became conspicuous on so many occasions.
On the field, defensive frailties are still yet to be fully eroded, and new recruit Yanic Wildschut has struggled so far. The arrival of Mitchell Dijks however appears a canny piece of management and hopes of snatching a fifth or sixth place finish off the likes of Sheffield Wednesday or Leeds remain tenuously intact, particularly following Saturday’s demolition of Nottingham Forest.
What our new CEO will inherit once he arrives is unclear. Similarly unclear is the timing of the announcement, with interim position-holder Steve Stone inevitably awaiting such a decision with anticipation. The prospect of a more external candidate remains a possibility.
When the time comes, however, Delia and Michael must act wisely. Our beloved club cannot dither in The Championship, embracing mediocrity and lacking the sufficient enterprise and hunger to make a return to the top flight.
We must fight. The presence of an adept chief executive will facilitate this, a character who is willing to be decisive and make the big and sometimes contentious decisions.
And so we wait. Fans crave benignity, visibility and interaction. A bold figure who makes efficient and effective decisions. McNally had it.
Eight years on from his appointment, it’s now time for our loyal owners to deliver such a figure again.
Dave H says
I fully expect the club to leave no stone unturned as they scour Europe in search of the right candidate ‘to take the club forward’. They will then settle on the first stone they found – Steve Stone. This will do nothing for the fans other than give plenty of pun/analogy opportunities. I’ll start with my prediction that the club/stone will then go into long shore drift in the Championship before beginning to drop like a stone.
Gary Field says
Interesting thoughts Will.
Grant Holt was actually recruited by Gunn, not Lambert, during the close season.
One point being pondered seems to be the extent of power of the CEO. David McNally seemed to run the whole show. Is it really necessary for a football club? It’s great when it works but it seemed as if there was no succession plan in place when he left.
Some dreadful comments here. It is not a fact that Alex Neil should have lost his job weeks ago. It is an opinion and one that recent results seriously question.
To mention that Wildshut has struggled after 2 difficult away games is ridiculous. Give the guy a break and at least a bit of a chance to settle. Football is littered with players who have needed a bit of time.
How about getting behind the manager and the team and help give us the best chance of the playoffs. Surely we have had enough negatives for one season.
Ian S says
Let us not forget the contrast of ruthlessly getting rid of Bryan Gunn to the truly shocking appointment of Neil Adams. The complete opposite of how he acted from when he started and the moment where I felt McNally was no longer capable of doing his job properly. They scoured Europe to find the best man and the best man was the Youth team coach? Do me a favour. McNally WAS a very good CEO but he made a couple of glaring errors.
Stopped reading halfway through. Even Mickey mouse would have no effect before end of season. It’s team and manager
Well perhaps we might end the season thanking Moxey for not sacking our manager. I was in the out camp and l would be delighted if AN shows he has what it takes after all. Not going too well for Crystal Palace is it ?
Will Jennings says
Richard (3) – This wasn’t a negative piece – far from it – merely a suggestion that the appointment of a new CEO is vital in ensuring the club are capable of achieving long term success. The Wildschut comment may have been misjudged this early on his City career – and I do hope he goes on to prove me wrong – but I fully agree with you that unity is now key between fans/players/manager in terms of maximising our chances of gaining promotion. I am an optimist and do believe that our season and AN’s future has turned a corner, and am genuinely confident of what could happen if we did sneak sixth owing to the experience of our squad and the fact it’s essentially the same group of players who went up at Wembley two years ago. I hope I’m right. Regardless, the point remains that the appointment of a visible, caring and interactive CEO – even if not until the summer – is crucial.
Will Jennings says
Barry (5) – And Barry: that was my point exactly – if you did carry on reading I explicitly stated that a new CEO would have a minimal impact if appointed before the end of the season and that it’s now up to Alex and his players to deliver a play off push. I really hope they can do it.
Bracken (7) – Completely agree: whilst vehemently criticising AN on multiple occasions I’m delighted he’s shown the resilience to turn it around and hope that him and his squad can continue to do so. There’s no-one I’d rather see pioneer another promotion than him.
Curious article. Shades of Shakespeare : “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him”
Will doesn’t want McNally back but then goes on to write a job spec that correlates highly with McN’s CV. Methinks he does subconsciously yearn for David’s return . . . . . . .
And why not? He made mistakes – don’t we all? – but he sure is smart enough to have learned from them.
Why risk another unknown quantity? Of course, this all assumes that he would want to, and that the majority couple would have him back – but as they seem risk averse I’d bet they’d see him as a safe way forward.
Will Jennings (8).
Didn’t have time to expand…wife finished doc appointment. Take on board what you say having finished article.
I felt AN faded in actions as time passed. But at least he had time for supporters unlike Moxey who, to quote my son, “was too far up his own a**e”.
To finish…it was a good read after all.
sean morgan says
I think that the next appointment is crucial………if we really are to be a Premiership Team,we need to truly be a Global Brand,half a dozen+ in the Premiership already are.Delia has to embrace this otherwise we will remain at best a YoYo club in the Championship,even though basic demographics show me that a successful Global Team and future is possible…
martin penney says
Interesting stuff Will and you get your views across in a very positive manner.
Your reply to #5 Barry says most of it for me. I couldn’t agree more.
However, as has been discussed between several of us on MFW before, I am firmly of the opinion that Delia does not want anybody – least of all someone in a position of power and influence such as a CEO – to be able to even attempt to change her old-fashioned views.
Therefore a man she should obviously trust like the loyal and capable Steve Stone is an ideal appointment for her. Now, here comes the rub…
There is no-one on or anywhere near that Board with any real knowledge of the ins ‘n’ outs of football. Someone who can sort out the recruitment team, for instance. It sounds like Alex Neil did the Mitchell Dijks deal all by himself. In that case, well done AN.
Whether AN if he remains – and just now I think he should – wants one or not, we desperately need a Director of Football. Even if it is a member of Delia’s inner circle like Roy Hodgson, I would be happy. We are the sort of club who is crying out for a time-served expert to whisper gently in Delia’s lug.
Appointing Steve Stone would facilitate such an appointment and the money would be in situ to do so.
One or two folks think Neil Adams could fulfil the role. Not in my book.
Anyway, a great article to get us all talking!
Bracken (6) You make a good point re the board sticking with AN and now that we have sold Brady and recruited Dijks and Wildschutt, I feel we are stronger as a result and at the very least, we should consider anything less than the play-offs a failure. Dare we hope for another day out at Wembley????
I’m concerned that we have no obvious replacement at LB should anything happen to Dijks, as I get concerned seeing Whittaker coming on, but he did OK on Saturday, though to be fair, Forest were totally demoralised by then. How would he fare if he came on with say 30 minutes to go against Newcastle and their strikers/wingers …….
Ben K says
McNally: this is the man who saw fit to sack a manager with five games left and put the youth team manager in charge. The same man allowed the club to embark on a new season with the same youth team coach in charge, following relegation (and a Europe-wide search). The transfer window activity in the summer of 2015 was woefully inadequate. These are on top of the things you mention. I know there are some who rate his performance over his time highly, and he should be given credit, but it is arrogant in the extreme not to acknowledge some very poor decisions made during his time (and there are those who have all but refused). Very poor decisions, indeed.
McNally appears to be taking the blame for a lot of decisions that bear the hallmarks of somebody else. Not for one moment do i believe that McNally sanctioned the stupid appointment of Neil Adams as first team manager, after apparently scouring the whole of Europe.
Just as it wasn’t his decision to recruit gunn into a job he plainly was unqualified to perform. It’s our old friend sentimentality that people should be pointing the finger of blame at for such bizarre and damaging “leadership”.
If we are reliant on the perpetrators of such a crass appointment For some “sagacity and wisdom” we are up the creek.
I fear you and I will be disappointed however, as what I’m hearing from Carrow Road is that after being passed over last time around, Steve Stone is very likely to get the job on a permanent basis.
If this ends up being the case, I cannot see this being a good thing as we need a CEO to challenge the majority shareholders and Stone will not fit the bill.
McNally had too much power because he was the only professional amongst a board of hapless amateurs. I now feel that Delia is completely calling the shots and will not employ an ‘outsider’ again.
You are absolutely correct in stating that Neil should of been sacked weeks ago – He is the luckiest manager in the country as ANY other club with his record would of gone. But to be fair, he appears to have turned it around and the future is very much in his hands. Maybe with hindsight he would recognise that keeping players that wanted out in the summer was not a wise move which I hope he will learn from.
I think the only chance Stone may not get the job is if we go up. There may then be pressure to get someone of higher profile in, but it is looking that the money is on an in-house appointment…
Mike C says
Will, I think you give Delia and Michael a little too much credit for McNally’s recruitment. Yes they appointed him, but I understand that he cut short a trip to Australia because he heard that there was a vacancy. he flew back and offered his services. A man with his previous experience at Fulham and Celtic would have put him top of most people’s lists and a virtual no-brainer choice from the list of potential candidates.
His work with Bowkett to stave off the banks and bring in Lambert are certainly among his best moments for us, but transfer windows eventually showed up some issue he was having with being able to recruit the players we needed, whether that was an inability to fund, or an unwillingness to pay, the going rate is perhaps something we will never know.
The contrast between his treatment of, and reaction to, Gunn and Adams is certainly stark.
We thought we needed someone of experience to replace McNally, and we got someone – Moxey – who proved to be highly unsuitable. We should have enough expertise within the club to see us out this season, but I still think AN needs help at a senior level – whether he does is another matter.
As always with our great club we watch and wonder what might happen next!
Don Harold says
Mike C(17) makes a good point.
The appointment of McNally and Bowkett seemed to be an acceptance from Smith and Jones that the era of the club being run by well meaning amateurs had to end. The harder nosed and in some ways nastier way of doing things that Bowkett and McNally brought in were successful for about three years;
it’s no surprise that McNally and Bowkett left the club at close to the same time as each other.
Smith and Jones seem to have moved back to the cosy little Norwich model. Ed Balls can’t be throwing spokes into wheels whilst striving to rebuild a political career and master the perfect foxtrot. I know nothing about Steve Stone but any of the senior management team will know that young Tom is lurking, I wonder what influence he has.
I think we really have to move away from the club being run by people who are cosy with each other. I haven’t got answers but we all have plenty of questions.
Alex B says
It seems Mcnally is getting some bad reviews, We are all liable to make errors in the work place.
My take on him resigning was he took one for the board as I don’t think they wanted him but didn’t have the guts to sack him it seems strange that both the catalyst for the turn round left at the same peroid of time.
1) Could there have been jealousy amongst other board members that they were getting all the plaudits for how well the club was doing.
2) Did this result in the board cutting the transfer budget, refusing to let players go or sign players that were needs to progress.
3) Mcnally possible saw the writting on the wall as did Bowkett and decided to get out neither of the replacements have proved a success.
Mcnally and Bowkett at one time was looking into overseas investment maybe the Smiths saw that as a threat and declined to get involved or sanction any talks with possible investors and this made them leave.
martin penney says
#17 Mike C: David McNally’s life at NCFC became full of personal issues and he eventually had to leave because of them. Sad but true.
Gary Field says
Alex B @19. It’s not so much a case of DM getting bad reviews – it’s more an issue of how best to run a football club?
Norwich, like many Clubs, have a majority of non executive directors who aren’t involved in the day to day running of the business. This is usually left to one or two executive directors.
There seems little doubt that DM was very “hands on” – which is great when things are going well, but can leave a huge void when he departed.
Whether there needs to be a separation between the commercial and the football side – although the two are undoubtedly linked – seems to be the debatable point of the moment.
Some are adamant you need a CEO with football connections – personally, while it is beneficial, I don’t think it’s absolutely essential. But it would need a much improved recruitment set up – which, again, seems to have room for improvement, given recent transfer windows.
Dave B says
“we have sold Brady and recruited Dijks and Wildschutt,”
We sold Brady and Olsson and one of our signings is a loan.
Dave B says
Lambert, Holt, Bowkett, McNally – Success
Holt, Bowkett, McNally – Success, but poorer football
Bowkett, McNally – Failures start. Relegation, then promotion.
McNally – Relegation
To me McNally contributed to our success, but I also suspect if McNally had left instead of Lambert, that we’d be in a better position now.
Alex B says
I am still of the opinion rightly or wrongly you can’t take the credit away from McNally or Bowkett of the success that was there to see, I know there was a couple of relegations but we bounced back each time.
Yes McNally made or took the blame for bad decision as he put his head above the parapets, but the smiths like to share in the limelight and this was reduced to bit parts during McNally and Bowkett that is were the jealousy comes in and now she has put her nephew on the board.
What does he bring to the table or is he just waiting in the wings to take full control once the smiths leave, as before we need either a Russian or Chinese oligarch to buy into the club as I don’t think we have a wealthy enough supporter like Gibson at Middlesbrough to finance the club long term.
Essentially, you want the Lionel Messi of CEOs. Reminds me of those who say, “If only tettey could pass better, he’d be amazing.” To which I always say, “Then he’d be at Barcelona. Makeleles of this world dont tend to sign for us.” This is norwich remember, and with Delia in charge everything is down to luck. A top CEO will not come here and the Smiths want a yes man after Mcnally…hence moxey.
Stewart Lewis says
Mike C (17): I don’t think any credit should be taken away from Delia & Michael for the appointment of McNally.
As others have said, D&M decided that a more professional approach was needed to counteract their amateurism and tendency to sentiment. The mechanism of the appointment, as I understand it, is that their friend Roy Hodgson recommended McNally (from their time together at Fulham) to fit the bill.
An alien coming to this conversation might conclude that McNally was a powerful presence at Norwich from 2009 to 2016, responsible for both good and bad decisions.
That wouldn’t be too far wrong. In a nutshell I’d argue that the good ones were more important – in fact, essential to our still having a club to support. We really were in trouble in 2009.
He shouldn’t be praised (or blamed) for the quality of signings we made: he simply pursued the players identified by his managers. He should be praised (or blamed) for achieving those signings. His big failing was summer 2015 after promotion, when Alex Neil’s targets weren’t delivered.
Whatever his mistakes – and anyone who makes decisions will make mistakes – history will record him as a saviour of Norwich City FC.
Spot on Stewart, David McNally wasn’t responsible for identifying players. People conveniently forget that McNally was an employee, like any employee he is subject to the conditions and restrictions placed upon him by his employer.
It’s correct to say the club was in a mess in 2009, bigger than the mess inherited from chase and a laughing stock. The amateurism and sentimentality that I and many others so despise which had precipitated our plumbing the depths came to an end with McNally and bowkett and the hard edge of business acumen and decision making,
That we are now heading back down the same road, with internal bean counters touted as the next CEO and random relatives being mentioned in dispatches is sickening to those of us who recall the dark days.
It’s a good job the article is a better read than the endless comments by people in the know / who have a direct line into Delia’s brain.
27) ‘Sickening’ and ‘dark days’ are phrases best left for occasions that deserve them, such as atrocities or tragedies. This is football.
Mike C says
#20 Martin you clearly have more knowledge than I about why McNally chose to leave. I made no reference to that, rather than to what he did well, and keeping us trading was paramount in that.
#26 Stewart and #27 Chris my concern with McNally was his inability to deliver the targets identified (presumably) by the manager, especially after the play off final win. As I said whether that was because he was constrained voluntarily or limited by the attractiveness of the club, location or manager to any potential recruit we don’t know. I wouldn’t expect him to do the scouting as well! I’ve no doubt that Hodgson was consulted before he was appointed, but McNally made that trip without even the guarantee of a meeting with D&M. He brought a hard-nosed business edge to Norfolk in a way that Moxey certainly couldn’t manage, but he was approachable and I had many conversations with him over his first two years in the job.
Dave B says
@Chris – Spot on Stewart, David McNally wasn’t responsible for identifying players.
He was responsible for the the running of the club, including having a recruitment team. Which we did not have in place upon promotion to the Prem. What a complete shambles that was. Inexcusable.
Not only that but he appointed himself to the Football Executive Board. Increasingly linking his role with what happened on the pitch.
Clwyd Canary says
I gave up on this article the moment it extolled Paul Lambert as the lost messiah. He had a fleeting moment, which was to the clubs advantage. We will probably never know the real reasons for his departure. As an aside, I favour greed, and vastly higher salary. Aston Villa, Blackburn, and Wolves ….. Poor, brief, and too mundanely early to judge. I’ve seen nothing to suggest that since his departure he is anything other than vaguely ordinary. The record books as they stand underline that assumption.