While to me it feels pretty clear-cut that the club as a whole, and the team in particular, needs a change, there are still people urging the Carrow Road hierarchy to show patience and back the current manager through this period of underperformance.
I do, however, also think that’s irrelevant. Simply put, I have never seen a Norwich City manager with so little overall support ever come back from this brink.
I certainly wasn’t in the ‘it won’t work, he’s just not a Norwich City type manager’ camp from day one and was hopeful he would turn into a capable replacement for what had gone before. But many were sceptical and, to be frank, have been proven correct over an awful 12 months of truly dire football.
There is no visible connection with the team, the city or the county, and there’s been a decline that would normally take a concerted effort to achieve.
I cannot recall a single instance where the level of boos at the end of Saturday’s match has ended in anything other than a resignation – often later than it should have been – and the inevitable press release thanking the incumbent for his service.
If it’s not going to heal from here then better to amputate now and avoid any further suffering. The time it takes for the cheers to turn to jeers is getting shorter with each passing match. Fans are now expecting a drop-off in performance at some point and are seldom disappointed.
When it occurs it is invariably latched upon quickly as the division between the paying spectator and the football club as a whole gets wider and wider.
A change of Head Coach and/or Sporting Director with a refreshed narrative on club direction and the ending of the rift with local media could just about yet save this season – a season that will certainly be easier to gain promotion from compared to next when we could easily be joined by Everton, Wolves, Southampton or West Ham.
So, if a change of head coach is (a) inevitable or (b) imminent, then who could the club go for? If Dean Smith is not deemed a good fit, then who is?
While finding the next head coach is a bit of a lottery I do believe it’s possible to get at least a partial DNA makeup of a Norwich City head coach.
Let’s start with what they should not be.
If you think back to your least favourite managers over the last 30 years, Messrs Smith, Roeder and Hughton would figure highly on many lists. All three moved to Norwich having already managed at what they and the media would class as bigger clubs.
Each individual was either on their way down or trying to find a way back, and there was no sense with any of them that this was a job that they saw as a long-term position or one which they thought would enhance their footballing CVs.
In the eyes of the wider media, we should have been grateful to have them and that does not sit well with a fan base who understand pretty well the relative size of their club.
There are some, of course, who failed but whose reigns were (mercifully) quite short-lived – like Bryan Hamilton, Peter Grant and Grant Megson – and others who were held in high regard not because of their managerial CV but because of what they had done for our club, like John Deehan, Bryan Gunn and Neil Adams – all of whom were guaranteed a connection with the fan base.
The conclusion from that in the search for a head coach is to avoid at all costs those with a ‘big’ club already on their managerial résumés.
Of those that were most popular and who appeared to ‘get it’ (at least for a while) I give you Mike Walker, Paul Lambert, Alex Neil and Daniel Farke. All of them, up to their point of appointment, were making steady but significant advances in their managerial careers.
Mike Walker had his first crack at management after stepping up from the post of City’s reserve team manager. Even in the second coming, he was seen as something of a Messiah and in some people’s opinion was jettisoned just as it had started to gel again.
Lambert’s coaching career trajectory had somewhat stalled at Colchester following the bright lights of Livingston and Wycombe and he most certainly viewed the City job as a massive step up, in much the same way as Alex Neil did, who emphatically answered the question ‘who?’ in that glorious afternoon at Wembley.
After seeing the impact Alex Neil had on that particular squad, it does offer hope for our current plight.
And finally, Daniel Farke, who not only had limited high-level coaching experience but also had no experience outside of Germany and whose appointment was also met with plenty of ‘never heard of him’ comments.
In conclusion, from our recent experince, the message is to plump for someone young and hungry who values the opportunity presented by this role – a chance to build something that will enhance their managerial reputation for seasons to follow.
So, who does that leave?
Well, I think if we were to act quickly then there are four key candidates that fulfil the above criteria.
In no particular order, my shortlist would start with Russell Martin, who knows the size of the task and, as a club legend, is immediately bought time. I would also consider another ex-player in Mark Robins who many have admired for years but now looks to be proving that worth on very limited resources.
Robins would likely jump at the chance to leave the continued uncertainty of his current employer for the relatively calm waters of Carrow Road.
I suspect though that our financial predicament rules out compensation payments for incoming management teams on top of outgoing ones, so two far more viavle (and available) options spring to mind.
One is Rob Edwards – so harshly dealt with by Watford but whose profile matches our club so much better – and Gary O’Neil, who in his short time in charge at Bournemouth has shown he is ready for a big chance and has the sort of no-nonsense personality that would sit well with our current situation.
Deep down I believe this to be all hypothetical as the club will choose to stick rather than twist before the World Cup reaches its business end, but I also believe it will have to come at some point given where we are.
If, or when, it happens, choosing the sort of character who can galvanise our club over one with a glittering managerial past should be a priority.
Tommy Thompson says
The trouble is as I’ve said all along is the person doing the hiring and firing can’t be trusted and he needs to go first or we will get another knee jerk reaction and another year of the same old .
The problem is yes we do need a new manager but who ever takes on the challenge would still be handicapped by Webber, and also the lack of dosh. But I agree with the lean and hungry notion, finding a needle in the haystack time, hopefully someone in the club is working on it?
martin penney says
So little to celebrate about this particular anniversary.
Gary O’Neil for me, but there ain’t gonna be a change. Mr Webber will see to that.
David C. says
A real good read Duncan, unfortunately this is Norwich and as you’ve said it’s just hypothetical, I wish to god it wasn’t. Personally I think it’s too late, our seasons shot, Smith has been here far too long and caused far too much damage.
Interesting read Duncan. I would go along with any of your candidates as I believe they should be young and on the way up.
Regarding any outgoing move do we not make contracts conditional on performance?
Paying somebody over a £1million a year with no safeguard is crazy.
Whatever, the club desperately needs a change of manager and hopefully, in the near future, a change of ownership.
Timings of dismissals would make for a good article itself.
I was always bemused that Hughton, who had one strength; setting up against the big-boys, was allowed to remain in charge for all the lower positioned teams (who he failed to beat) and was then jettisoned for the run-in against big boys, against whom he had a good track record (by city standards).
Russell would sadly be a Yes man to Webber not sure he has the steel to fight him.
Robins could be your man on a free if Ashley gets Coventry and the Stadium soon rumours are he would take Bruce with him, Robins knows the lower leagues and could snap up some bargains.
O’Neil would be a good option but I would think a few are considering him once his position becomes clearer.
Edwards to much of a novice could do much with a settled squad at Watford.
Parker is another option and no compo not sure he would succeed at city with no money he spent big at both Fulham and Bournemouth
The gentleman at Bodo/Glimt would be my outside guess works on a low budget improves players and players in a similar attacking style to Farke.
If a change was made we should also try for the Bodo/Glimt DoF the one Delia says are recruitment team are studying his methods last summer and wanted to implement at the club.
I strongly concur with your nomination of Kjetil Knutsen, who was originally in the frame following the departure of Farke..
What he has achieved at Bodo/Glimt is little short of miraculous, taking a small, regional club to consecutive Norwegian Eliteserien titles within the space of three years.
In 2021, the club only lost once all season and finished 19 points above their closest challengers.
In his first full season in 2019, the club finished in second place, which is where they currently stand.
On the back of this, he was able to take the club into Europe, where they notched up an astonishing 6-1 victory over Mourinho’s Roma.
His team play an attractive, attacking, high-press style of football, with an emphasis on youth development, whilst working on a comparatively constrained budget.
He is clearly an inspirational, tactically shrewd leader and your suggestion of simultaneously hiring the Bodo/Glimt DoF makes the proposition highly compelling.
My major fear is that by hiring the proverbial “safe choice” in Dean Smith, we may have left it too late and he is snapped up by one of the Premiership.teams or a leading European club.
One only needs to see what Graham Potter achieved from the smallest of beginnings with Ostersund in the Swedish fourth division, to understand what can be achieved from the most unlikeliest of sources.
Been impressed with Schumaker down at Plymouth, and not only because he has improved Bali Mumba.
Does Smiffy know he’s allowed to improve players.
Colm O Brien says
If the long term goal is to try and develop a team capable of staying in the Premier League then bring in Ruben Amorim from Sporting Lisbon or Matthias Jaissle from Red Bull Salzburg, both are great coaches with a track record of building teams on limited budgets and developing young talent. Would cost considerably less than Smith and Webber and have results to prove it …
Chris S says
Remember the agonies of youthful love? If ever you’ve been out romantically with someone who’s still in love with their previous partner, you will know how ultimately unflattering that is. Well, Deano has always been in love with that Claret floozy up the A47, and when she dumped him, he ran into the nearest available and open arms of the kind and generous Canaries. But he will always love Villa. He knows that. And we know that. THAT’S why he will never truly be loved here. I don’t want us to be a second or third choice, I want us to be loved truly and for what we are. Daniel got that. My biggest NCFC regret is that if only he’d been remotely competitive in the PL he’d still be here. Forever probably… Love is forever.