To say that our club lurches from crisis to crisis is maybe a bit of an exaggeration. I say that because, for me, where we are now is the culmination of one single, prolonged crisis, which has been interspersed with the occasional, all-too-brief bouts of hope.
I would argue this goes back to the summer of 2021 when, fresh from emphatically winning that behind-closed-doors Championship, the club sold Emi Buendia and then attempted to use those funds to build a squad capable of surviving in the Premier League.
As we all well know, that didn’t happen and since then I would argue that almost all of the big calls made by those in power have been the wrong ones. Offer them a fork in the road and they take the wrong one.
Not intentionally so, of course, and we would all make different decisions if granted the gift of hindsight, but the harsh reality is that our club finds itself in a ginormous hole right now because time and time again the decision-making has been terrible.
Even now, as we reach the point where the head coach very clearly needs to be relieved of his duties, they hesitate, dither, and delay. Again, it’s a crisis within a crisis of their own making – with a sporting director in waiting not starting until November 27 and the outgoing sporting director not in a position to make a huge call that will affect the future of a club he has no wish to be part of.
We find ourselves in the very heart of you-couldn’t-make-it-up territory.
No other club in the land would tie itself up in knots in this way. Alas with this cozy, family-club ethos that Norwich City likes to espouse when the time is right, also comes an approach that, to be generous, is amateurish.
As I wrote last Sunday, David Wagner’s race is run. That much is very clear to everyone except those to whom it matters. He has reached the level of delusion in his post-match comments that only come from someone who no longer has the answers. He tells us that a performance was ‘okay’ when it was evident to anyone watching or listening that it was anything but.
He tries to validate a performance based on a few good moments within it – not on the whole piece, which was error-ridden, confused, and, in the second half, half-hearted.
That he is actually a decent guy makes it doubly difficult to watch. And let’s not forget, this debacle is not one of Wagner’s making. He’s a by-product of it – of a club that is in freefall – but he is also not the man to turn around the on-field problems.
Because therein lies the bigger problem.
Sack Wagner and all of the ongoing issues in terms of owners and boardrooms and executive directors and structures remain. Sack Wagner and whoever comes in would hopefully scrape together a few points courtesy of the new manager bounce, but once it settles those same big issues will still be there staring us all in the face.
Even when the day finally arrives for Stuart Webber to clear his desk and for Ben Knapper to take full control – who knows when that will actually be – the spectre of a three-to-seven-year appraisal of Mark Attanasio by Delia Smith awaits.
And what if she and Michael decide don’t like what they see? What then?
Do we start the whole process again? Back to more ultra-austerity under the guise of ‘self-funding’, which clearly doesn’t work and is actually nothing of the sort?
But that unfortunately is where we are right now:
- Owners lacking in ideas and funds but unwilling to relinquish the reins
- A lame-duck sporting director who is still here at the behest of said owners
- An executive structure that is unfit for purpose
- A new sporting director who is still four weeks away from starting
- A head coach whose Plan A has been sussed, who has no Plan B, and whose time is up
- A group of players who are error-ridden, bereft of confidence, and directionless
In an ideal world, this happens:
- The owners go cap in hand to Ben Knapper and do whatever it takes to get him to start immediately
- As soon as he arrives, Stuart Webber is told his services are no longer required
- Knapper humanely relieves Wagner of his duties and places Narcís Pèlach in temporary charge
- A new head coach is sought – one from the young-and-hungry category (this is the hard bit)
- Delia and Michael are made Honorary Life-Presidents but step aside to allow Attansio to take control
That, of course, is just me dreaming and I’m acutely aware (especially after the week I have just had) that ideal worlds rarely exist.
But we have gone way beyond the point of saying that ‘something has to change’ to halt this slide into League One. Lots of things have to change.
This club has gone way beyond needing a tweak here and a change there to make it better. Sweeping reform is needed but I’m not convinced those with the ability to bring it about have the desire to do so.
And that really stings.
But the risk of doing nothing is that, for the second time in the era of Delia, we sleepwalk into the third tier of English football.
To do nothing and sit tight must not be an option.