Here endeth the lesson… the one that says don’t believe it when someone tells you there’s still a mathematical chance of City scraping into the top six.
It was never going to happen because they were simply not good enough but while the maths (and Sky Sports) told us there was a chance we had to believe.
But not anymore.
That it ended in fury and acrimony was typical of season 2022-23 – a campaign beset by poor quality, fallouts, sackings, press bans, anger, and apathy.
Nothing good of a Norwich City hue has emerged from 2022-23. Absolutely zilch.
Nothing has worked. Most decisions have been the wrong ones. Morale is at its lowest ebb for a decade. And the club has decided it’s the fault of the fans.
Just to square that circle nicely, our early Saturday evening at the Hawthorns concluded with Andy Hughes (above) reprising his role of 2007, by clashing with City fans at the end of a game.
Sadly, Hughes clashing with fans – the official line is that he was attempting to appease them – isn’t the only similarity to 2007.
We still (at least for now) have the same owners who espouse ‘self-funding’, we have that same lack of direction and clarity, we have that same unsustainable level of debt, and we have fans who are concerned as to where this is all leading.
For the record, in 2007 it led us to Glenn Roeder and to League One.
In the here and now, and prior to the summer reset that we’ve been promised, no one would be surprised if, this time next season, we’re suffering another dose of the Roeders. A run of one win in ten, however you try and spin it, is the type of form that ultimately leads to third-tier football.
It’s impossible, therefore, to underplay the importance of said summer reset. Get it wrong and we risk returning to that place – the one that yesterday saw much whooping and hollering from those clad in blue and white.
We’ve looked down and poured scorn on them for most of the last decade but we meet next season as equals, albeit they are as one, have ambitious owners, and have momentum and belief of which we can only dream.
We’ve lapped it up. Now we must take it on the chin.
But it’s not about them, however much it irks. Now is about getting our own house in order. And for that to happen, we need the right people in place.
This is where it gets tricky. I’m not convinced we have the right people on any level.
I’m not sure we have the infrastructure to robustly challenge and overhaul the club. I’m not sure we have the personnel in place to robustly overhaul the infrastructure. I’m not even convinced anymore that we have the right head coach in place to oversee the compiling of a new squad.
Nothing is working at the moment from the top down.
Fellow MFW columnist, Stewart Lewis, put forward a calm and measured argument in the week around why Stuart Webber, on balance, is the right man to manage the process. He pointed out Webber’s success in compiling two, very different, Championship-winning sides.
And he was right. Both, in different ways, were a joy.
But I’d argue that the Webber of 2018 and 2020 was a different animal to the Webber of today. Then he had no beef with the supporters and the local press. Then he didn’t perceive the club’s fanbase as the enemy. Then he had drive, ideas, and purpose.
And back then, Webber – like us – hadn’t been badly battered and bruised by two of the most demoralising campaigns the Premier League has ever seen.
That David Wagner is intrinsically tied to Webber is potentially a problem in itself. They are trusted colleagues and clearly have each other’s back. And, rightly or wrongly, as Wagner hitches himself to the Webber and Hughes wagons, some of the credit he had in the bank disappears.
Those credits, borne of some successful cheerleading in the aftermath of some of those early wins, are now in short supply. And, let’s be honest, there are plenty of clubs out there who would be questioning the position of a head coach who, with a supposed squad of quality players, has won one in ten.
So, the biggest problem right now, is that a lot of fans have no faith whatsoever in those people who, it appears, will be placed in charge of the summer refresh. In fact, those same people, in the view of some, are the ones that need to be refreshed. Or replaced.
It’s, of course, not as easy as that. As has been the topic of several columns on this site, the structure of the club is such that there is zero accountability of those in power.
If Webber wants to stay – and it appears he does – he will. So will Wagner. And if the Attanasios continue to drag their heels, so too will Delia and Michael.
With the club now limited in the number of players we have of value, the summer fire sale will not be raising Emi Buendia levels of funding. So, saddled with debt, we’re back to wheeling, dealing, and gambling on players with injuries and/or something to prove.
Problems at every single turn.
What an absolute mess.
Thanks and glory be to delia Smith and her merry band.
It is a complete mess,a bloody shambles.Some fans could see it coming a couple of years ago,but all the old happy clappers told us it would be ok with auntie Delia and the mountain climber at the helm.How wrong they were and should hold their heads in shame.For me the biggest mistake was the atrocious recritment by Webber at the first promotion,only Byram was bought i believe,and his lack of knowledge on player ability has gone downhill ever since..Where do we go from here?League one, unless big changes are made in the summer,that includes Webber and Wagner both leaving hopefully.along with new owners with more than loose change in their pockets
Not really because each manager had different players available for games. Smith lost left backs and Wagner lost Kenny, Hanley Gibson and Dowell. Regardless of their footballing merits, that is a lot of the experience and most of the characters gone from the team.
I’d prefer us to learn from our mistakes instead of going into the unknown and making more mistakes.. The team relegated to Division 1 was a complete reset, the youth policy was abandoned and we relied on mercenaries
Gary Field says
All this angst towards the Sporting Director, might just result in his toys also being thrown out of the pram, with him saying, “I don’t need this ____”, him walking out of the door, with one or two other causalities following swiftly thereafter.
Unpicking that lot really would be a big problem.
Staff retention being so good.?
Gary Field says
That’s not really the point I’m driving at, is it.
If anyone is more loyal to Webber than the club, good riddance.
As 2017 Webber would say, we don’t want anyone who doesn’t want to be here.
Gary, I’m not sure he would walk as he’s not likely to find new employment in a hurry.
Our owners seem totally unaware they’ve outstayed their welcome and the mess is so big it’s probably now limiting outside interest.
Gary Field says
I think you’ll find that MA would be more than willing to step up.
Not sure if he isn’t an American version of self funding.
Bernard Owen says
That would not be a problem for me..
New blood needed. He’s been here 6 years.
Good Old boy says
What is the worst that can happen though. Webbers head is not in the game after his 90% comment, his refusal to engage with the press and claiming he never heard the chants for his resignation. All this suggest a certain arrogance, culminating in his statement about him being head hunted by other higher clubs but refusing to engage. its all too cosy for him and his family. Pulling two good salaries with what appears to be teflon and fire hesitant overalls. What happened to accountability? If Delia wants to hand over a successful club to her nephew she needs to act quickly and start the rebuild with a capable director of football who wants to be at Norwich City not just for the salary and freedom.
Gordon Eagling says
I have to ask is Wagner the right man, I said before his appointment that his last 2 jobs hardly installed confidence. That erratic streak in results has continued. Schalke 04 yeilded an 18 game winless run. In Switzerland Young Boys he finished 2nd 15 points behind Zurich, Young Boys had been champions 3 seasons running.
I can’t say that his record since he took charge is nothing to shout about either, I know some will say he hasn’t built his team, He is a football coach/manager, he should be able to manage what he has. To me he hasn’;t they look clueless as they did under Smudger, that doesn’t all fall on the players.
Coaches have to take some responsibility.
Not saying he should be sacked, but the relationship between Him and Webber and then Webber and his Mrs, is not the ideal situation for any football club. They will support each other to the hilt.
Just part of the mess the club is in .
Inside Right says
Such is the stubbornness of the few individuals that run the club, one wonders that we could easily be in administration with in year. Quite what our American friends think of this is of course unclear.
Were they hoodwinked by Smith & Jones or in reality, they saw straight through them that their business model was built on sand and are ready to pick up its rotting carcass?
Watch this space.
That sounds a very plausible outcome.
Jon B says
Thanks for the journalistic excellence this season Gary.
A crying shame, there has been limited excellence on the pitch, like yesterday, just a momentary glimpse.
Would appreciate someone posting the Smith v Wagner stats for this season please,
Roll on the closed season with umpteen EDP rumours of who are we linked with, annoying white noise !
A workmate aptly reminded me that going to Carrow Rd, is what we do in these parts, and he is right, which is fortunate for the club, will be interesting if there are swathes of empty seats next week.
Gary Gowers says
Your wish etc….
Dean Smith – Pld 24, W 10, D 5, L 9, For 31, Against, 27, Pts 35. Pts/game 1.46.
David Wagner – Pld 19, W 7, D 5, L 7, For 25, Against, 24, Pts 26 Pts/game 1.37.
Jon B says
Great, thanks Gary, ‘ telling ‘ !
So last round of matches sees the parachute heavy weights of Norwich and Watford in it to win it, busting an absolute gut ………… to Finish 12th ☹️🤣
The fan bases won’t be able to sleep this week with such a prize within our grasp
What a crap season of poor signings coming home home to roost, injuries both to new signings and the spine of the team and mis-management at every level -deep deep down the higher ups must know it’s their fault
Too much to change in one summer I would presume and we all know that Webber is unlikely to put his hand up and admit most of what’s happened in the last couple of years is his responsibility.
We all have known since day one that a club City’s size couldn’t be self-financing unless it got periodic Premiership status – preferably for longer than 1 season – but to attain that you need to finance a squad and the City owners not only couldn’t afford it but would dig deep or search out investors till it was too late.
We are now in a situation of twist or bust – the sticking has long gone.
If we twist it could mean new owners, possibly a new board, and changes throughout the club.
Bust just means relegation and maybe a £66m hole that could bring us bankruptcy.
Sticking as I said has gone no changes, relying on unproven players at this level and then Bust kicks in.
There isn’t a future that many can see under our present ownership and the happy clappers, the Delia cohorts, can’t see the wood for the trees. The club is back to wherever it was under Roeder and could soon be further back to the last days of Robert Chase.
Smith and Jones, the Webbers sit in their ivory tower with the mantra ‘ignore the noise’, blaming everyone for the club’s failures except themselves.
How many clubs have gone because owners thought they knew best and ignored the noise?
City isn’t the plaything of a multimillionaire – it’s the thing that keeps her in the media’s attention. You mention Norwich and the reply is Delia Smith, not the Canaries. In 26years this club has been swallowed up in her identity.
Sorry if my opinion may upset any happy clappers but they are just my opinions.
To be honest, after the last 2 seasons of absolute fifth, the constant attacks on the clubs support, the high prices for rock bottom quality I don’t give a rats ring about upsetting happy clappers.
A multi-millionaire owner who doesn’t put any money into the club leaves us in a position where we are competing in the transfer market for players that “bigger” club’s have no interest in. With this limitation, it is completely unrealistic to expect Webber to find 2 or 3 Emo Buendias every season., yet this is what is required to challenge for automatic promotion and PL survival. How any supporter can be a happy clapper for 26 years of mediocrity baffles me.
Think sadly Webber is living off Buendia when it was Keiran Scott who was head of recruitment signed him against the wishes of Webber.
Andrew T says
Some seem to forget the injuries we’ve had of late which has certainly impacted on our league position. Had they not occurred I’m sure a top six place would have been a certainty and fans outlook considerably more upbeat. But no, the unreasonable angst against the owners and Webber rears its ugly head instead. No wonder I rarely visit this website.
Unreasonable angst. Seriously, that’s a ridiculous statement.
Get real,and take your head out of the sand!
Jerry R says
We are so lucky that you chose to this week, otherwise we would have missed out on your incredible insight.
Can you please let me and 25000 other know exactly what you’re on and where we can get some??
Or is it just your parallel universe which doesn’t realise the carp we’ve been fed throughout this season….and which it seems may well continue?
Bernard Owen says
A balanced squad would have been able to cope. Lose 2 centre backs to injury , no problem , except we only had one spare plus a midfielder to fill the gap. Maybe the sporting director didn’t think we needed cover.
MYSTIC KEV says
Hanley Gibson McLean been mistake ridden last 3 seasons don’t miss them at all
You’re taking the pi$$ of course!!
Tim Ball says
Excellent article, Gary.
From top to bottom we are in a right old mess.
Firstly yesterday, a patched-up team again, a refereeing performance of complete incompetence, and some strange substitutions from DW.
And yes, I bet those in blue are well up for next year’s derbies. A win for them for the first time since Andrew Omobamidele was in diapers is looking more likely than possible at this time.
We need change at the top desperately. Sky produced their slew of metrics for our performances in the last ten games or so where we came in 24th place in many of them. Yes, 24th !!!
David Wagner did surprise me yesterday by substituting Sorenson and especially Tzolis.
I just didn’t get it. Tzolis was having his best game for the club since … well, as far back as I can remember and Lungi does create as well as defend in that holding role. Isaac hasn’t proved himself at all, albeit from very few appearances.
However getting rid of Wagner I feel would be the wrong move. I won’t give him as long as I did poor old Smudger but I think it is clear now that even with Klopp or Pep this team would still be what they are, a mid-table Championship side. It is recruitment all the way.
David Wagner seems to know what he wants – let’s let him get on with it and judge him at Christmas.
It would be like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic at the moment anyway. And Delia is the iceberg.
Until Delia and Michael go and allow others to take over both Webber and Wagner cannot succeed. Personally, I would like to see Stuart Webber go as well, but I get the feeling from Gary F’s comments above that would, at this moment in time, cause a lot of problems for the club.
I don’t know what he may be alluding to, but is everything going forward tied up with Webber? Although I feel everyone is replaceable.
Finally a bit of an apology to Aaron Ramsey. I was shocked to hear Michael Bailey confirm it WAS Norwich City FC who cancelled his loan to get … Marquinhos 😱
My god that is proof that the recruitment team has really lost the plot. Now I don’t condone his outburst at Middlesborough but I do understand it.
Thanks, Gary, for your excellent reports throughout the season.
We were told at the season’s start that we had sufficient quality to challenge for promotion. Not only have we failed to secure automatic promotion but we’re not even in one of the play-off places. If we’d gone at it with fight and determination l’d accept our fate but our performance levels have been weak, woeful and inconsistent and haven’t improved with a new manager. We need radical change to be competitive next season.
I’m agnostic about Webber but he needs to show some humility, build bridges with the fans and accept that our recruitment just hasn’t been good enough. Wagner talks the talk but 1 win in 10 tells me he’s not the man to lead us forward. He may be excited about the season ahead but l’m not if he remains head coach. Happy days.
Just one word I’d change in the article, Gary. When you contrast West Brom with ourselves, you describe their “ambitious” owners. I’d say “rich”.
Gary Gowers says
Point taken, Stew, but the comparison was meant to be with Ipswich, not WBA. If I didn’t make that clear, that’s poor writing on my part.
Henry Nurne says
It was clear to me
Gary Field says
Their owners, Gamechanger 20 Limited, issued 22,580,000 shares last June 2022, at £1.00 each, presumably to help clear their debts and pay for the forthcoming season. And, I use the word ‘presumably’ deliberately, as they’re late issuing their annual accounts for the period to the 30 June 2022!
Gary Gowers says
Cheers, Gaz. Useful info.
Gary Field says
You’re welcome, just don’t accuse me of being obsessed with that lot. Just taking a passing interest. 😉
Am I right to be suspicious with regard to the late issuing of the company accounts? I’m aware of penalties for such behaviour and I’m always on the button when dealing with hmrc
Spot on article.
What a total mess that anyone with half a brain or interest could see coming from the moment it was announced Buendia was about to be sold to Villa.
Anyone who said that last seasons shambles of a squad had quality to challenge this season was either on drugs or a complete foolish lier!
Self funding is now so yesterday in today’s fast moving highly funded game.
Sell your best players and you’ll eventually end up bottom of the pile who ever is the manager is.
This set up has got it so wrong twice now in the prem and now in the championship and a 5 year plan has ended up so much worse than when it started.
Nobody in their right minds can have confidence in that level of fail.
If you follow Norwich you must really be expecting the worst is to come.
Bridget James says
Am writing having been at the Hawthorns on Saturday. And after meeting an itfc fan 5 minutes after the very same game who proudly unzipped his jacket to show me his blue and white. The future looks decidedly bleak. The last few transfer windows have begun with the coach standing alone excusing that there are no plans, there is no money and we have to sell to buy. What follows is no activity, or little to inspire and enthuse. Loan players who make Ollie Skipp look like he gave us 10 years and deserved a testimonial. Every time there are fewer prized assets. Those who used to be talked up as top dollar stars look as lost as us fans. i can’t see this same old story driving us forward. It ties the hands of the coach and, as much as I have gone off the guy, the Sporting Director, who hasn’t spent any of the small pot he has had well of late. All this feeds the fan apathy we have seen all season, which turned to palpable anger on Saturday. I expect CR to be empty on Monday, as we all feel inside. We have to look at the board for accountability. Delia is over 80. I cannot understand why she hasn’t planned and communicated a future for her beloved ncfc and used at least the last 3 years to line up an exciting investment strategy; if the Americans aren’t it, we really are in the proverbial. Regardless, she has needed to at least secure a broad exec in place to challenge one another.’s thinking to safeguard the club. Those in charge have never been such a small, closed and apparently stubborn set. Us fans have no idea if and when we will be given a view of what the future looks like, We are all in the dark and hurting, blamed for our behaviour. Set against the fear 2023-24 will dish up more of the same, it is hard to find the hope that so frequently kills.!
Gary Gowers says
Wise words, Bridget. Well said.
Good comments and thanks.
Bridget James says
Don’t know what else to do Gary, have to vent somewhere! Sorry for my typo in line one, should read been not being 🤦🏻♀️
Gary Gowers says
Sorry, should have spotted it. Amended now.
As with all of our lovely commenters, if you ever wish to expand any comment into 800+ words, there’s always an MFW column here for you.
Good article, ironic that Parklife came on the radio just as I finished reading! Or just plain torture 🙁
Excellent comment Bridget. Particularly the part about Oliver Skipp.
Nick Bedford says
What a glorious mess indeed.
Things couldn’t possibly be worse. It’s easy to mock, and oh how that us coming back to haunt us.