It was inevitable in the end. The only thing that could have saved Dean Smith was if his prophecy that his team would emerge from the World Cup break a “different animal” had come to fruition.
It didn’t. The exact same animal emerged. A muddled, half-hearted, and miserable one. The one that played turgid football, gave away soft goals, and had no decipherable style or pattern of play.
Ultimately, for all of the stuff around Dean Smith and Craig Shakespeare not being a good fit (they weren’t), or them making little effort to engage with the fans (they didn’t), the crux of it all was their inability to produce a team that could play an attractive brand of football while also picking up results that would offer a chance of automatic promotion.
If they had, the fact he never looked comfortable in the City dugout or the fact he never did olés with the fans would not have mattered one jot, but he failed in that most fundamental of footballing requirements.
That he ticked neither the ‘good fit’ nor ‘engagement’ boxes meant he had no credits in the bank – the ones Daniel Farke lived off when we were in the Premier League. If he’d had some then he would have been given more latitude by the City faithful but without some good football to go with it, it would only ever have been a temporary truce.
I imagine City fans are about to be launched upon by those outside the club and the national media in another ‘what do they expect down there’ moment, but they’ll ignore the fact our direction of travel is downward and our realistic expectation of a challenge for a top two place has faded away.
They’ll instead focus on our current league position, while also ignoring the fact we have a squad with Premier League experience and a sprinkling of internationals. The tone will be very much, ‘what are you all complaining about?’
You wait. It’s coming. And oddly enough, the stance of the Club itself will not be dissimilar.
The fact that fan pressure will be seen as a contributing factor to the trigger being pulled will simply be yet another reason for them to despise us, the fans.
But we’re not as daft as they think we are. We all know the Dean Smith era has been beset by poor football, dwindling attendances, terrible atmospheres, and fan apathy on a scale hitherto unseen.
Carrow Road has not been a fun place. It’s been joyless and bereft of hope.
Yet, having asked for the removal of Smith and Shakespeare and for it to have happened, we have to now hope that the coaching reset, whoever is chosen as its spearhead, will have a positive impact.
And I say that because, as has been much discussed on these pages, the problems within our football club run far deeper than the first XI’s coaching team. While the reset at elite playing level is now underway, the culture within the club remains, and it’s unhealthy.
Kathy Blake wrote an eloquent but stinging piece on the cultural change that has swept through the club over the last 18 months, and it made for uncomfortable reading.
In her capacity as a board member of The Canaries Trust, Kathy has witnessed up close the negative impact of changes in both personnel and approach. Even to those of us not as close, the change in culture is apparent and the Club’s perception of the fans as a hindrance is blatantly obvious.
So, yes, changing the coaching team may have an initial positive impact on a group of players who are capable of so much more than they are delivering, but even if that change works it won’t right all the wrongs of a club that is misfiring and has badly lost its way.
I rather hope this is but the first domino to fall of several, with the end result being a football club rising again; one that values its fans and sees them as an integral part rather than a destructive, negative force.
I’d be gobsmacked if anyone within the Club’s inner sanctum dares to utter the phrase “community club” at the moment because it’s anything but.
Right now, it feels like a Club being run by, and for the betterment of, two high-profile couples. No-one else. And those people brought into the Club – ‘the suits’ as they’ve been described – are but subservient pawns in their game.
It’s rotten, and Dean Smith’s departure won’t change that.
I’d normally end this piece with a thank you to the now departed and touch upon a few highlights of the Smith/Shakespeare era, but there haven’t been any.
I do, however, believe they are both still thoroughly decent men, and capable football men, but who happened to take on roles at the wrong place and at the wrong time.
I may be alone in this, but I genuinely wish them well.
A different set of circumstances and it may have worked out. Who knows. But it didn’t.
So, go well, lads. We’re not this horrible all of the time.