I’m not sure the defeat in Cardiff is quite the prelude to Canary Armageddon that some are predicting but it was definitely one of those where it was hard to nail down too many positives.
I mean, it might end up being all of the things the prophets of doom are saying and more, but just one fairly rotten performance on opening day – a day when all sorts of daft results occur – isn’t the best barometer by which to judge what the next ten months are going to bring.
And when we have two, probably three, new faces entering the mix, it’s not yet too late for our fortunes to change.
Even defeat on Saturday by Wigan won’t automatically signal the tilting of the Canary world on its axis, although I dread to think how toxic the atmosphere in Carrow Road (and online) will be at 2:30pm if it does all turn to rat dung.
Let’s hope we don’t get to find out.
But, either way, I fear for Dean Smith and Craig Shakespeare. A win on Saturday won’t sate the increasing calls for their P45s to be delivered pronto and will only buy them time. Any win will merely buy them time.
For some, their tenure here has already run its course and any City win will be perceived as a hurdle in their quest to make their positions untenable. Smith is, apparently, a ‘poor man’s Steve Bruce’ … ‘worse than Alex Neil’ … ‘Chris Hughton mark II’.
But I’m not here to defend Smith and Shakespeare and, as I wrote on Sunday, the fact neither has been able to noticeably improve any of the players in the last nine months is a bit of a shocker. Nothing good though can come of wanting your coaching team removed after one game of the new season.
Some still long for the days of Daniel Farke but, alas, that ship has sailed. Whether it was the right or wrong decision to sack him (in my view, the right one), he ain’t coming back.
And it doesn’t feel right that some attack Dean Smith because he isn’t Daniel Farke. While Smith clearly, to most folk, seems a decent human being, he clearly doesn’t exude the charm of Farke but that shouldn’t prohibit him from being the head coach of Norwich City Football Club.
Charisma alone doesn’t make a good head coach and for all his undoubted qualities that took us on the most wonderful of Championship journeys, even Daniel Farke had abandoned the Daniel Farke project by the time he departed.
(If it’s about just charisma, Webber should have appointed Ant and Dec.)
The beautiful football, the Farkeball, that left us spellbound when waltzing to two second-tier titles simply wasn’t do-able with those same players in the Premier League because they weren’t good enough. And our model certainly doesn’t enable us to go out and buy players who are.
So, through no fault of his own, Farke was wedged between a rock and a hard place. His time had come.
Where I agree it gets a little fuzzy, is when Webber appeared to abandon the appointment of the Farke-style up-and-coming, hungry coaches and instead diverted off into the aisle marked ‘safe pair of hands’.
And by this point, he’d already veered from the model.
The premise of the sporting director structure, as we’ve been told, was that if a new coach comes in, little to nothing changes. The new appointee, theoretically, seamlessly slots in, picks up the reins, and off we go on that same route, playing the same style.
Except the style had already been abandoned because it wasn’t working. And this is why we now hear the argument around whether it’s right or wrong to reserve judgement on Dean Smith until he has some players of his own choosing in the squad.
If the model was functioning properly that wouldn’t be a thing.
So I do still believe we need to at least allow Smith the time to bed in those new players, even though the signing of Isaac Hayden has already set the alarm bells ringing. A fit Hayden may well help address the brittle underbelly of this team – one that plays only 10 games almost certainly won’t.
And, while we’re here, we also appear to be asking a lot of (hopefully) two South American lads who have never kicked a ball outside their own continent. Emi took time to settle and he’d already played four seasons in Europe before we signed him.
So, yeah, things do appear a bit muddled right now and have not been helped by all of our predicted Championship rivals producing performances of energy, cohesion and vigour in their opening games. That we looked decidedly stodgy by comparison certainly has fed into the already-high levels of angst.
But it is just one game.
Let’s not forget we are notoriously cr@p starters in the Championship and were even under Saint Daniel.
Anyway… let’s see what Saturday brings. A win over Wigan will certainly help the collective mood even if it’s only until we lose again.
But there’s something else that’s been gnawing away over the last couple of weeks and this time pertains to Delia and Michael.
‘Oh god, here he goes again’.
But when, following the final day horror show against Tottenham, it was revealed the club had played host to some potential American investors, it appeared some of our prayers had been answered.
It felt like the penny had finally dropped, and our joint-majority shareholders had, at last, acknowledged their self-funding model was wholly unfit for purpose when it came to supporting a team with designs of staying in the Premier League for more than a season.
Team Attanasio felt like our saviours – the people to help us smash through the glass ceiling under which we currently operate. I posted almost a week’s worth of content on said gent for god’s sake as we excitedly speculated on how it may unfold and the potential impact it could have.
Even when it became clear the men from Milwaukee were only going to be buying the 18% share currently held by Michael Foulger – and therefore there’d be no new money – it still felt like the start of something that, further down the line, could become something much bigger.
But, as time passed, there was nothing. We comforted ourselves with the fact that these type of deals are complicated and the boring stuff, like due diligence, takes an indeterminable amount of time to complete, but we expected (or at least hoped) to hear something positive before the start of the new season.
Eventually – initially via a fans’ forum in Edinburgh and then from the lips of the club’s commercial director, Sam Jeffrey – more official information was forthcoming.
Both sources confirmed it was the sale of Foulger’s shares being discussed and both were very careful to steer clear of that grubby ‘i’ word. Instead of investment, we should, apparently, be looking forward to some additional ‘expertise’ on the board.
And then, last Friday, it was there in black and white in Michael Bailey’s excellent piece on The Athletic:
“Smith and Wynn Jones will remain the majority shareholders and have no plans for that to change in the foreseeable future“.
We knew the first bit, but some of us had rather hoped, given the horrors of last season and how they were, at least in part, related to the majority shareholders’ resistance to fresh money coming into the club, that Delia and Michael had accepted they have taken this club as far as their depth of pocket allows.
But it seems not.
It feels as though we’re solely in this position because of Foulger’s desire to sell his stake in the club, and not because it was recognised that new voices, a new direction, and new money are desperately needed.
I hesitate to say it (because it will get me in trouble), but I’m not even convinced Delia and Michael are welcoming of these potential changes at boardroom level.
All of which is a shame because, going back to the days following the Tottenham game, it genuinely felt as if they’d looked in the mirror and concluded that there are other people out there equally capable of owning and running this football club.
Now I’m not convinced they believe that at all.
But, hey ho, if nothing else I feel better for having got it off my chest and, to be honest, this if this whole piece reads more as a stream of consciousness than a considered article, that’d be because that’s precisely what it is.
I promise to try harder on Sunday… after we’ve beaten Wigan 🙂