As I write, Dean Smith (as far as we know) remains in situ. Whether he will be by the time I finish this piece… who knows.
But if he is and, more importantly, if he is still here on Friday when we face Reading, then no one wins – unless, of course, you’re a stubborn, cornered sporting director who currently perceives getting one over the City fans as a win.
For every other party – the football club, those who are employed by it, those who love it, and, crucially, Dean Smith – there are no winners if he stays.
With his every passing word, it’s becoming abundantly clear he is not enjoying his time here – why would he? – and I suspect, deep down, he never has. At no point has he looked comfortable in the role, nor in the dugout, and now the dissenting voices are vociferous and loud, it must be miserable.
Equally, he’s a professional and with that comes professional pride and a CV that needs to be as unblemished as possible. There’s also the small matter of a contract that would need to be honoured by the club if it’s they and not he who calls time on his tenure.
But either way, last night’s humbling looks and feels like the final straw. The sight of fighting in the City away end only further magnifies the unrest and the need for decisive action to be taken to – at least in the short term – arrest a slide that’s pitting City fan against City fan.
It’s been the grimmest of seasons, but last night felt like a new low.
Whether Stuart Webber has the will to do the most humane thing is now the big question. So too whether the Club can actually afford for him to do the most humane thing. We know that money is very tight – as is the wont of a self-funded football club – and they may simply not have the funds to do so.
If so, another sorry indictment of this increasingly rotten (and rotting) regime.
Talking of which, any decision to relieve Smith of his duties will require Webber to admit he made a mistake in appointing him in the first place – not something the Webber of 2022 appears particularly comfortable in doing. But a misjudgement on such an industrial scale also brings into question his own position.
Let’s not pretend these things are easy though because they’re clearly not. Wind the clock back 13 months and most agreed Webber’s decision to pull the trigger on Farke was the right one, but where it went awry was when Smith was chosen as his replacement. Not only did it appear rushed, it also veered away from the Club’s masterplan.
It didn’t work and it can’t continue.
Nothing works anymore. Going to a back three doesn’t work; reverting to a back four doesn’t work; playing Josh Sargent alongside Teemu Pukki doesn’t work; reshaping the midfield doesn’t work.
We compete reasonably well and have, so far, remained free of those bruising Premier League-style thumpings that became our schtick last season because, on paper, we have better players than many opponents but, as a unit, there’s absolutely no pattern or cohesion.
Smith and Craig Shakespeare may give the players the freedom to problem solve on the pitch, which in a different time and place may be considered brave and bold, but that only works when you have players equipped to do so. And they’re clearly not.
While I have no doubt they are all working very hard on fields of Colney, there’s precious little evidence of it when crunch time arrives. It’s becoming increasingly shambolic. In the heat of battle, the thinking becomes muddled and the pre-match messages lost.
It’s a group of players bereft of belief, void of confidence, and without direction. That the coaching team has failed in its most primary of tasks is no longer up for debate.
But also, for this group to be so fragile that it shrinks rather than grows when faced with opponents who are down to ten, says an awful lot about its own lack of cojones.
Technically blessed some of them may be but, as we well know, it takes more than ‘tekkers’ to win games of Championship football.
Some of that steel comes from within, which is why recruitment is crucial – ie. signing the right type of character – but part of it comes down to how the players are prepared, fired up, and motivated. The Classes of 2018-19 and 2020-21 would have, as the saying goes, ran through brick walls for Daniel Farke.
I don’t see this lot running through wet paper bags for anyone anytime soon.
Yet, as we’ve discussed on these pages many times, the removal and replacement of Dean Smith would be only part of the reset needed. The problems run way deeper than a dysfunctional coaching setup.
But his has to be the first domino to fall. That one of the dominos to follow should be the sporting director is a major problem and is why Dean Smith, after several weeks of it being clear his race is run, is still here.
What a bloody mess.
The club infrastructure will be his only legacy when this comes to its natural conclusion. I dread to think what our current wage bill is and how much money has been wasted on players there was no plan for!! The strategy of ‘flipping’ some of these big bets has been a universal disaster. You have to go a long time back for a proper successful couple of transfer let alone window.
It’s crunch time. The club has to act now and remove Dean Smith, as it appears he is not going to do the right thing and throw in the towel. The supporters are the life blood of the club and without them NCFC does not exist. This situation cannot go on and very quickly we will slip down the league and could end up in League 1 again.
Spot on, Gary. I’ve been inclined to just about give Smith the benefit of the doubt and I hate fans booing the team (I can’t do it – it doesn’t help) but I don’t want to go until things change (in spite of my season ticket). – the atmosphere has become so toxic. The players seem almost parilysed by all of this. We need to reset without him.
Mystic kev says
No points no hope no promotion but still still smith in charge yes this season is bad but so was last so it’s now 18 months of dross and rapidly getting worse .smith was showing the strain in his interview get out mate if I was you your players based on last nite are in no hurry to help you out you can play six center Half’s if you want but if only one is half decent the outcome will be the same only gunn Gibbs looked like they were interested last nite very poor to get out
played by a very average team not looking forward to Friday if smith is still here poor choice from day one should have got foreign like everyone wanted before farke came in or a least someone with a bit of charisma not dull as dishwater.
So after 24 games we are ten points clear of automatic relegation and 12 points behind automatic promotion.(13 points if you count the goal difference).
So Dean Smith has guided the bookies favourites for promotion into a position of mid table mediocrity in half a season .
Why did the bookies, never knowingly generous types, get it so wrong. Outstanding championship players , see last 2 promotion seasons, and a fan base that can make the Carra a fortress. What the bookies discounted was Smiffy’s way of playing .Patternless , clueless etc.
David C. says
Good morning Gary. Hope the Xmas festivities went well for you. You are very correct – what a bloody mess. It’s quite plain Dean Smith wants out and that he’s waiting for the tap on the shoulders, after all, he’s got a contract and will want as a minimum a negotiated payout.
Then of course (this is my take on it) there’s Webber who’s waiting for Smith to resign so as to avoid having to pay him out, it’s no wonder Norwich are becoming a laughing stock in football.
My feeling is that the fans have to be a bit more patient as things may be about to happen further up the chain during the remaining months of this campaign. The club I feel is imploding and the sooner the better.
As you say Gary, “What a bloody mess”.
Inside Right says
Great piece. There is nothing much I can add, other than this is the worst state I can ever remember, as every aspect of the running of the club is rotten. As we all know, replacing Smith doesn’t solve the wider problem.
We get put to the sword by 10 man Luton and their supporters jeer at Smith, our supporters fight amongst themselves, it‘s going to be toxic on Friday. Smudger is telling his family not to attend, how bad does it have to get before the whole sorry mess is sorted? Pay the man off, it‘s going to happen, no point in waiting, it would be a kindness.
‘A stubborn, cornered sporting director who currently perceives getting one over the City fans as a win’. Indeed Webber does, which is why he’s not fit for purpose. A fan on Canary Call last night asked to who he’s accountable, with Rob Butler replying the board and the fans. The board includes his wife – an obvious conflict of interest – and Michael and Delia, who have come to heavily rely on him. As for the fans, Webber’s ‘ignore the noise’ mantra appears to extend to any form of outside criticism, however valid. He’s toxified the relationship between club and fans and, along with Smith, needs to go.
The fiasco called self funding has now gone full circle and failed miserably because it was an absurd gamble that required us to find an annual Maddison. As soon as it failed the whole structure collapsed incurring unserviceable debts.
Dean Smith is a distraction and should not be allowed to overshadow the real problem.
Last night the cameras briefly (fortunately) focused on Delia and Michael who looked completely lost.
Now is the time for Attanasio to sit down with them and explain the end has come as the only way out of this mess is a buy out and complete restructuring.
I hope he’s sincere in his investment and up to the job because he appears to be our. only hope.
Once staff imply the fault for poor performance lies with its customers there is no way back. Delia’s failure to immediately condemn those remarks speaks volumes.
Kev V-M says
All I wanted for Christmas was for Daniel Farke, to be re-appointed as manager of our beloved football club. How things are now, I would be happy for Father Christmas to be our new manager.
A truly awful evening for the club.
A comically abysmal performance in front of live TV cameras continuing the long running theme of humiliation from last season. Smith, webber, Shakespeare, McLean, Gibson, et al all culpable in some way to the dreadful malaise hanging over ncfc. Yet when all is said and done all are just symptomatic of the elephantine the room. The thorny subject of ownership. The imposition of “self funding”, tge instrument by which we sold our best player upon our moment of triumph. The catalyst for 18 months of steady unrelenting decline.
The lack of leadership, common sense, humidity and honesty from top down is sickening. Sacki g the hapless Smith would be akin to rearranging the life boats on the titanic. Typically, the board of directors are sitting on their hands, hurling vitriol and blame in equal measure at their paying customers, fiddling and farting while Rome burns again.
What will it take for a tipping point to be reached and the club joins the rest of football and removes the self imposed straitjacket.? For gods sake, the further vilification of Dean Smith while he stands clueless in the technical area merely deflects blame away from the real culprits.
Tim Claxton says
My my, I actually felt sorry for Smith! Multi million pound pay off, but he is a broken man. I cannot imagine what Carrow Road will be like on Friday if he is still there.
There is the door Mr Smith, leave it open when you leave, there are several coming through!
If Dean Smith leaves the problem still remains in so far as we are stuck with owners who unfortunately cannot afford to finance a club at this level.
If a skilled coach like Daniel Farke failed through underfunding how can we expect anybody else to succeed. I doubt if Pep could deliver under our current circumstances.
Christmas is over and what a way to end it with such a poor result.
Steve Warnock this morning praised Howe at Newcastle, he said he took a club with a toxic atmosphere and under preforming player too second in the Premiership playing great football, he say Howe has coached the players into believing in themselves and the style he wants them to play and the supporters have bought into it as well, but nots forget they also have money to burn.
City showed last night no appetite for the task in front of them yet when they played as we know they can Pukki scores, a well taken goal and were on top but and a big but at that why didn’t Gibson or someone take the pressure off before the second goal by hoofing it into row Z, tippy tappy outside our own area no one closing down was asking for trouble and it came calling again.
Smith gets 3 questions
1 Why ask the players are they happy with how things are going and are they on side with him.
2 With possibly the best squad in the league how are you achieving so little
3 Automatic promotion or playoffs was the aim has that changed to avoiding relegation.
1 Do Turkey vote for Christmas No and players will not voice their concerns or distrust to a manager.
2 Simple poor coaching that has taken the belief away from them, No game plan and players in poor condition.
3 Simple aims still achievable if changes are made please leave.
Smith backers say this isn’t his squad he has had 18months to coach them into his methods, Kompany has had 8months half a squad and their style has completely changed from Dyche’s bland to Peps Galacticoes.
Coaching is the name of the game with set plans for the players to follow not allow them to have input that confuses them.
Ed C-L says
One argument I keep hearing, else reading relating to Smith is that the club “cannot afford” the cost of paying off his contract & that of his staff if he is dismissed.
It’s become a line-in-the-sand type of statement. We can’t afford to sack him so they all remain in situ.
If that is the case, then someone needs to raise a hand and ask how the hell a major business that turns over hundreds of millions of pounds can get itself into the sort of position where it “can’t afford” to pay off a few underperforming employees, as is the norm in other businesses, because the money isn’t available to do so.
What sort of financial management is that?
We’re the ‘noise’ now. The club are doing a great job of ignoring us. Until, of course, we, or rather our pockets, are needed again.
The question is not when will he go, it’s who he takes with him.
I’d like to see a mass clear out, but I’m doubtful my Christmas wish will come true.
Luton was clearly better, their lack of quality was the only thing that kept Norwich in the game. All of a sudden Pukki scored an individual goal from nothing, after that he gave Norwich 1 player advantage. Still that was not enough and Norwich ended up losing. During the game there came stats that Pukki had less touches to the ball and he is the player you should get a ball as much as possible.
I dont believe that Norwich will sack Smith now, maybe or likely after the next 2 games. He has proved to be a typical british old school manager, which I already thought he likely is when Norwich appointed him. In Aston Villa his plan was Jack Grealish, so he had no real plan. Brentford is now much better after he left. All these old school british managers have been sacked 1 after 1. Its possible to coach the team even with good results for a shorter period by spirit and will power. Even the british coaching has now started to improve, it took a very long time but it has improved. That does not mean that Potter could do well in Chelsea, or Nathan Jones or Steve Cooper should be the premier league managers. All those are better than Smith, Wilder and so on. Norwich are still top 6 placed, because league outside top 2 and couple of bottom teams is so even. WBA and Boro had an awful start and now even those 2 are after promotion. I also remind that your parachute money business partner Watford has not been any better than you, yesterday they even lost home game vs Millwall.
Smith should stop playing the victim. Most, if not all, other clubs would have sacked him for failing to save us from relegation as he promised. Resigning is an option that would put him out of the misery he’s suffering, so he’s hanging on for a pay off.We finished last night’s game with three centre backs and three centre forwards and still managed to concede against ten men.. Three points lost which with Webber directly responsible, because he ignored the fans. He must prove that he doesn’t share his team manager’s disregard for the club.
C’mon Webber lets be avin you!!
Another good, thought- provoking article. If there isn’t enough money to actually pay Smith and his entourage off then that definitely qualifies as “a bloody mess.” If Smith knows that then he’ll sit it out and things could actually get worse. There were so many depressing things about last night’s game. But one of the most painful for me was the actions of the Luton manager after the game. He went straight over to the Luton fans and celebrated with them like he had just scored a 30-yard screamer. Sadly, that took me back to what we had, and have lost. If we do end up sacking Smith do any of you clever types know what the combined total of both Smith and Farke’s pay-offs would total? Possibly the equivalent of a couple of new players to underpin this year’s promotion push?
Yes, what a bloody mess.
David Coles says
The players must shoulder a large part if the blame for this predicament. Whilst Smith can be blamed for the ponderous, possession based tactics, am sure he did not coach them to play without energy, intensity, passion and pride.