I was sorely tempted to copy and paste my MFW piece of Sunday, October 16.
It was penned in the aftermath of City’s 5-0 capitulation at the Amex and told a sorry tale of eleven half-hearted individuals who purported to be a team but who were in fact anything but.
It told of Sunday League-type defensive howlers, of a beleaguered manager who had no answers and of a senior pro who faced the press afterwards and laid bare the extent of fracture, disharmony, disinterest and disrespect in the dressing room.
In the 126 days between said trip to Brighton and yesterday’s trek to Hillsborough it seems reasonable to suggest that not one single lesson has been learned. Not one.
And if it’s possible this feels even worse, even if the optimists and pedants will point to Cameron Jerome’s goal being the difference, But please…
Yesterday was different because it was the last chance saloon.
Brighton, for all its horrors, offered at least a transfer window and time to turn things around. A rotten, really rotten, day at the office but at least if the proverbial lessons could be learned and appropriate personnel changes actioned then there was still time to regroup and mount a challenge for promotion.
Except lessons were not learned. Again, not one. And any changes in personnel were of the cosmetic variety.
This is a squad and a club in decline. Some have suggested it’s a club rotten to the core but in truth I’m not close enough to the inner sanctum to comment. Yet there’s been precious little evidence to promote a more positive prognosis.
What happened on the grass of Hillsborough was alarming but it was only the blind faith of the football fan that fooled us into thinking it was going to be any different. The evidence was there: away visits to those in the top six invariably end in a capitulation triggered heartache and with a fair sprinkling of defensive cock ups.
On that score they never let us down. I’ll give them that. One solitary win against the top ten, either home or away, pretty much says it all.
But it’s season over; mid-table mediocrity now beckons for the most expensively assembled Norwich City squad ever. Riches abound, at least in Championship terms, have been lavished on this bunch of under-achievers and to no avail whatsoever.
Money can buy you a player with an impressive CV, one who has a deft first touch, who can ping the ball onto a sixpence from forty yards and pull the ball out of the sky as if ball and boot were adorned with Velcro but unless that player has hunger, appetite, desire and is well managed it counts for diddly-squat.
Which is exactly what’s happened – and also happens to be the precise sum total of our season.
The money’s been spent neither wisely or smartly and despite the board’s steadfast refusal to admit otherwise the squad’s not been well managed. Timm Klose and Steven Naismith, both expensively sought and bought in the January 2016 transfer window, were meant to be part of the solution but instead have become part of the problem.
Alex Pritchard and Yanic Wildschut (still early days in the case of the latter admittedly) have delivered little, partly because their game time has been so limited, and one has to question why players with burgeoning reputations come to Norwich and see their careers go in reverse.
Within the current group the number who have come here and actually progressed can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Whether that’s an indictment on the coaching, the managing or the embedded culture I have idea but where once we were a fertile breeding ground for those making their way up the professional ladder, Norwich is now a place where players either stagnate or decline.
The powers that be are unlikely to accept this of course and will likely trot out the ‘we have complete faith in Alex Neil’ line but this club needs an overhaul on the pitch, at Colney and in the boardroom.
The latter of those we understand is being consulted upon as we speak but there needs to be a genuine will to reform in the first place for this to succeed. And then a root and branch review of the football side needs to establish that a new broom needs to sweep through Colney.
The old guard need to be thanked for their service and then politely shown the door, making way for the young guns who hold the key to the future.
The money’s going to run out in the next fourteen months and our self-financing model will fund only a lower Championship budget, so young and hungry will in reality be the only way forward. And that may as well start now.
Of yesterday’s starting XI there are precious few who deserve another chance.
John Ruddy has for a while been a keeper who looks ready for a challenge elsewhere. Of the back-four, only Ivo Pinto looks to have appetite for the future; Mitchell Dijks will be gone in May.
Jonny Howson is naturally worthy of the armband and being the ‘old head’, and Jacob Murphy, along with Josh, simply has to be part of something new but I’m struggling to see others who are this club’s future.
And up front, while no-one doubts the qualities of Cameron Jerome, he’s one whose engine is unsurprisingly showing signs of long-term fatigue.
Yet I have limited faith that those with the power will make the right decisions or even have the willingness to make them in the first place. We’re at a crossroads but to take the right path needs clear and innovative thinking.
No pressure Ed… and Tom.
Oh, and on Tuesday night we go to Bristol City, who have one league win since December 3. I think we know what happens next.
We’ve been in decline since Lambert left.
Let’s change managers now so the new boss has plenty of time to clear out then construct a balanced side while we still have the opportunity.
Honestly It is same old, the only thing that really changed was by seaside we heard from Russel Martin now yesterday Cameron Jerome drew to short straw. I believe he was as honest as Martin has been. It seems an age ago since the Brighton debacle and seemingly nothing has changed in the dressing room. The problems have been there for almost two season. Personal has changed . a cart load of money (in City terms) spent on players who have not progressed to become strong first teamers. I honestly would like to see another manager work with these players before the squad has drastic surgery. There is undoubted talent and skill in that squad, but Alex Neil has no idea of how to get the best or utilise what he has got.
He has not rectified the problems that are of his own making, because we hear the same things being said near the beginning and now toward to end of the season.
Paul Harley says
Spot on Gary. What I find hard to believe is that when Neill took us up nearly 2 years ago now most fans believed that we needed to strengthen central defence and 2 years later we have only bought one central defender and yet we have spent loads of money on the midfield – £8m on Pritchard, who has not been given much of a chance, a lot on Wildschutt, who has dropped out of the scene, too much on Naismith. Now might be a good time for Neill to go. A new manager would have a few games to assess what needs to be done and a close season to bring in new players, sweep out the deadwood and hopefully launch some sort of promotion challenge next season.
We need new owners. End of story.
Steve C says
A really well written article Gary, perfectly sums up the big black cloud hanging over our football club. Was hoping that by some miracle Neil might have resigned last night but that won’t happen and board won’t sack him. Just hope that major changes that are desperately needed on and off the pitch happen soon or we will sink into Championship mediocrity like that lot down the road.
Gary Field says
There’s no doubt that the current City squad isn’t fit for Championship purpose but, also, given the number of goals conceded away from home, you also have to wonder if they’re being coached / managed properly? That, in turn, begs the question, do we have the right man in charge to begin the required squad rebuilding task?
Andy Delf says
Spot on Gary, clueless from the board down. The chairman won’t be discussing yesterday’s debacle he is self promoting on Sunday morning tele. We never hear from Delia and Michael, why not? For gods sake tell us the plan Delia. Alex Neil you have clearly been found out,the players you have bought are either hopeless or gutless whichever it is they and the old guard do not respect you, understand your tactics, or show any inclination to carry out your game plans. What an absolute shambles to see our club in. It’s no good going on about the players except to say to each and everyone of them, your hopeless, you are overpaid underachieving prima donnas who should be thoroughly ashamed. Get the youngsters in now under new management, Gary Rowett is available, spend the best 2 million and get rid of Alex Neil now.
It is astonishing how bad this Norwich team is. To have any debate over which is our worst performance of the season is always disappointing. The fact that the list of total, epic fails includes Brighton, Rotherham, Burton now This one as well as any number we got away with is depressing. Being taken to the cleaners by every other top ten team equally so. It is of some surprise that we cling to the top half.
That a total clear out of the playing staff is needed is beyond question. That Alex Neil is still Norwich manager is, frankly, staggering.
So much potential at this club, so much wasted. Such a bad season. It’s not failing to be promoted that is the worst thing about it, it’s the fact that they didn’t even really try. That’s a horrible thing to level at the players. So very shameful that it’s probably true.
Alex Neil has 4 number 10’s and not one owned Norwich city left back.
In midfield only Howson is fit for purpose. The others are in decline.
Add to that selling Vadis and letting GON go we added not one CM or purchased a CB. Instead we retained Turner. I want them all gone, AN down
A brilliantly written yet painful read. This season feels like 05/06 all over again – an imbalanced squad, players not playing for the manager, disharmony from the stands and a board too loyal to the manager.
What worries me is how we can buy players with such pedigree (Naismith, Klose and Pritchard to name three) and turn them into horrendously out of form players. The defending from Klose yesterday was embarrassing for a non-league player, let alone a player who has played International and Champion’s League football.
No matter what spin comes from the board, we all know the season is over. Finishing 7th or 15th this season doesn’t have a big impact on our immediate future so surely now is the chance to get a new manager in, bed in some of the younger players and rebuild for next season? I have little faith however in the current regime to make the necessary change.
The board have given Alex Neil time to turn this season around and it hasn’t worked. Only dangerously incompetent owners would persevere with this manager.A sorry mess and all of our own making.
Dave H says
Spot on. Nothing to add, nothing to say that hasn’t been said countless times before just that there are a number of people who should really hang their heads in shame at their own incompetence.
Professionally speaking, the board are a complete waste of time. Mere amateurs and nothing more. As well meaning as they maybe and having a drink with fans after the game, their intense naivety has cost the club potentially £100M + by failing to act in the summer, or indeed November.
I’ve never, ever understood the Delia love-in that some fans have got their head so far up Delia and Michael’s backsides that they cannot see the wood for the trees. They are financially inept and has wasted huge resources by continuing to back a failed manager with their head in the sand attitude that things will turn out well.
This club is drowning in its own incompetence. We don’t need nice people, we need professionals.
Norwich City is an increasingly hard club to like, let alone love, but we all have to share the blame in what is happening as we have and will no doubt continue to support failure and the failure of dictatorship.
Phil W says
Once again Gary your words are painfully spot on. The most daming being the fact that too many of the players have failed to improve their game and have instead gone backwards. Please wake up and smell the coffee you bunch of under achievers, play for the Club, for the HONOUR of wearing a yellow and green shirt, for the thousands of supporters who turn out in all weathers, for the sake of your kids and for your own future if you want one that is. Shake up or ship out!!
Finally to those with the real power, publically read the riot act to all concerned and Delia “let’s be having you” this is a football club not a cookery school!,
Can only agree with everything here (but where is Jeff??).
It seems that we are lumbered with AN for the long term, so surely we must see some personnel changes for Tuesday. There is nothing to play for now other than pride, and Jerome’s interview yesterday showed that the current first choices (with only one or two exceptions) have none (at least as far as wearing the green and yellow is concerned). Get the younger players in now so that at least they can be assessed before a full Championship season next time.
Otherwise, get shot of AN and bring in a new man now. Warburton; Rowett; Pearson; Ranieri are all available, however if they would suit our ostrich impersonating board is another matter.
It’s beyond belief that after 2 years of AN, we’re worse off than when he arrived. All he’s given us is a defence with more holes than a colander; no first team left back contracted to the club; loads of non-performing mid-fielders; and one up front – a system deemed unfit for purpose when he started the season with it, and 8 months later still the ONLY way he knows how to play.
I’m trying to understand just why we signed Wildschut….a player who got noticed at Wigan playing a particular way, but it seems will not feature for AN until he changes his playing style…but he was signed because of how he played……
So much money wasted on players whose hearts appear to never have been aligned to their wallets. I just wonder what we could have achieved if Paul Lambert had been able to tap into that sort of money…..
As has been said on here so many times “it’s the hope that kills you”…..but this season has definitely been one where my hopes for the club have been killed!
O T B C
I’m absolutely convinced Neil will still be in his position co e August, having overseen the fire sale of millions of pounds worth of footballers, all of whom will miraculously improve immediately, and filling the void left by rank underinvestment by the owners.
More square pegs in round holes, more Scottish loanee charity cases, with a couple of borrowed premier reserves for next seasons tilt at promotion promotion promotion.
Smith isn’t going to sack Neil, the only question is just how long she can get away with it.
We he better get used to it, lady gaga has her man and we have to lump it.
Alan Harper says
Bang on the money once again Gary. Great article. With no CEO and ‘Red Ed’ clowning around in the background these are very worrying times for all of us that love the club. Could Balls for Bowkett be just about the worst substitution in the club’s history?
Andy Delf says
Second post on this thread today, I wonder if it would be possible to get a statement from the club as to whether they have decided the season is over. If so it would save the supporters the bother of turning up only to find no one from the club really has any enthusiasm for the game.
Jill Waters says
This is the most depressed I’ve been as a City fan in many years. Root and branch rethink is needed, but I’m not confident that it will happen.
Ben B says
Good article Gary as usual, however the time has come for the city fans to take some direct action. The seasons over, start by boycotting the matches. Don’t renew season tickets until there is a change. It’s pretty obvious that if nothing is done, we will bumble on in the same way, we have been here so many times before. Delia & MWJ need to see the strength of feeling from the fans by the fans doing something very un Norwich, which is not turning up through thick & thin. It’s s bad as it was under the final days of the Chase era
Great piece Gary and wish I could disagree with all you’ve said but I can’t. This season has just been a follow up to the last. Same tactics, same management, same short comings, same inept performances, same personnel, same expectations now. We have a board that are living in the past in the belief that being ” nice”and “old fashioned in values” is what makes a successful ” community” club. Football and it’s values, whether you like it or not, has moved away from that. As a supporter of my club for over 55 years, I think I’ve seen most of the ups and downs of NCFC in that time and can see when things need to change. That time for change came over a year ago and if the current board do not act now,Ipswich fans will be taunting us about 15 years in the championship!
I can’t see Delia et al having the balls to act and I have a very negative feeling about our future. Please Delia make me and all our faithful supporters smile again. If you don’t do something those faithful supporters will act with their feet and not just their voices.
An excellent piece and some good comments. The thing that really annoys me is that with every opportunity this year available to us AN has thrown it away carelessly. Barnsley have sold most of their good players now but they are just as competitive as our team on a fraction of the budget. Norwich City at the moment is almost the dictionary definition of a poorly run club. Board arrogant and out of touch, tick, most of the players the same, tick. Manager useless, tick. Even if AN went we don’t even have a CEO. You couldn’t make it up. Our hope for the future is our young players. I would like to think we would play some of them in the remaining meaningless games but I suspect AN will try to cling to his job by sticking to his favourites. We need change at all levels of the club if we are to move forward.
Dave "The Optimist" B says
Our current position is the result of a half-decade of mismanagement at every level of the club.
We are now a mid-table Championship team and it would take a leap of logic to believe we’re anywhere other than where we deserve to be.
It should not come as a surprise to anyone, this has been clearly telegraphed. Why people felt the need to constantly repeat “we are a well run club” contrary to mountains of evidence, I’ll never know.
We need rid of the the board, the manager, the coaching staff, the recruitment staff, and about half the players. Since that’s unlikely to happen in the short term we should brace ourselves for a protracted period in The Championship.
Who is Jerome taking about when he calls out his team mates? Because most of us would agree that’s our strongest available team. And that team were certainly putting a team effort in during our most recent good run.
There are too many easy candidate for us to point at but it’s more complex than that. When Naismith came here he talked about the players not communicating enough during games. I still see that. We aren’t embued with big enough balls to take games to teams or dig in when we need, and we haven’t been since Hughton’s second season. It’s a club problem and it needs sorting.
My worry Dave, is that this so closely mirrors the decay that followed smiths refusal to dispense with worthington that a protracted stay in the championship is not the worst outcome.
Stewart Lewis says
Dave B #22: “Why people feel the need to constantly repeat ‘we are a well run club’ contrary to mountains of evidence…”
Well, perhaps you should tell that to the independent experts who study such matters. Most recently, the Telegraph’s table of Best-run Football Clubs in the Country ranks us as number 8, between Stoke and West Brom.
Not that I think things are rosy in the NCFC garden (as you’ll see on Tuesday). For most of the last eight years we’ve been not only well run, but also in the top flight. I rate that as success. But now – as you say – we’ve lost that combination and it’s hard to see us returning to it.
That’s not good enough.
John- I’m here, but don’t revel in our incompetence. I just excel at catchphrase and say what I see. I would have happily been wrong and disappeared, but I sense everyone is sick of repeating themselves. I will say tho…if this result came as a surprise, that’s behind foolish based on simple evidence and if this clause in Neil’s contract is true. Delia has been part of something unforgiveably moronic.
Flying High (Not) says
It’s been clear for a while that under this manager the team is far less than the sum of its parts. He’s just not good enough, and one win in FOURTEEN away games is relegation form. If the board stick by him they are more deluded than Trump supporters.
Another damning stat (as revealed by Channel 5 last night) is that City have conceded the most headed goals of any team in the division, clearly indicating that our problems stem from basic organisational failure.
We still have six home games left and if there isn’t a new man in charge those dead rubbers will be dead as a doornail. Sad!
The truth of it is that this club has in recent years squandered two golden opportunities in the PL. Under Lambert and McNally the club had momentum and was on the rise. The appointment of Chris Hughton brought little other than a boring brand of football and relegation. The appointment of Alex Neil was instead a bold move. A young, up and coming manager whose enthusiasm and hunger had the desired effect in catapulting the club back to the PL.
However, something somewhere has since gone very badly wrong. Promotion was followed by instant relegation, and despite being touted as favourites, a disastrous season in the Championship.
One can argue that Alex Neil was clearly out of his depth in the PL, and, the commitment of some of the players has also been a point of debate. However, I feel the real root of the problem is contained within the board room.
This current board are not known for making good managerial appointments. They have often opted for the ‘cheap’ option – remember Adams and also Gunn? It smacks of amateurism. The current board members are also a case in point. Ed Balls….Stephen Fry (now departed of course), and now favourite nephew young Tom Smith. I won’t mention the sudden, unexpected departure of McNally, nor the recent Jez Moxey debacle. It is a joke. Delia appears only comfortable surrounding herself with those who share her own personal values.
Recent spells in the PL have been totally mismanaged, which is of course no surprise. The club appears obsessed with an organic financial model, and as such will not seek outside investment. I like most Norwich supporters will always owe Delia gratitude for investing in the club when she did. However, she now has the club in a tight strangle-hold and shows no sign of letting go any time soon. As a consequence the club is being starved of investment and the new expertise that it needs to go forward. Instead it is turning in to a parochial enclave.
In essence, if the board structure isn’t changed then expect more of the same.
Dave "The Optimist" B says
@25 Stewart Lewis
Firstly that article is almost two years old now. Secondly it’s factually inaccurate.
“the supporters have not been fleeced for the privilege – season-ticket prices have been frozen for the second year in a row”
The ticket prices were frozen because the supporters were already paying PL prices.
“The purse strings may need to be loosened, though, if the squad is going to be strong enough to retain its top-flight status and enjoy the riches of the new TV deal in 2016. It’s stick-or-twist time for the cautious Canaries.”
And we know how that went.
I don’t believe the people who compiled that table had any idea what’s going on at the club.
Dave "The Optimist" B says
… And to be quite honest. I’m fed up of ‘insiders’ and ‘pundits’ telling the fans that what they’ve continued to experience wasn’t actually happening.
Those ‘in-the-know’ have been consistently wrong about the club’s future.