Well, the New Year has arrived and with it, as sure as death follows taxes, will come a host of New Year resolutions. So, for my last article of 2023 (I would not call it Annus Horribilis – but it could have been better) I thought we might look at what ‘New Year’s resolution’ means to Norwich City.
The word resolution has three basic meanings.
1] Resolution – a firm decision to do, or not to do, something.
Many fans are seeking a resolution to the question, “Should David Wagner be sacked?” Mr Wagner was appointed on or about January 6, 2023, with a one-year rolling contract, which is due to be renewed in the first week of the new year.
About ten weeks ago, we had just been beaten 3-1 by Blackburn Rovers at Carrow Road and I have to say I joined the ranks of those looking for a new manager. Not because I thought he was a dreadful manager but because I simply didn’t like the way we were playing. I believed then, as I do now, that our squad, fully fit, is capable of far more than we have achieved to date.
Following that we had a couple of wins, although unimpressive in nature, following the early arrival of Ben Knapper on November 13 who arrived early to take the reins from the late and little lamented Stuart Webber. And then Watford beat us 3-2 after we had led 2-0 twelve minutes into the game on a day when we made a grand showing of snatching defeat from the jaw of victory.
We then went on a bit of a run which included snubbing our noses at those from Portman Road for almost the 15th year in a Rowe (pun intended) and we beat a very poor Huddersfield. And then along came West Brom.
I do not blame Knapper for not immediately replacing Wagner and acceding to the bleating from the peanut gallery. Any new manager needs to assess things properly and with the renewal of the contract imminent, it gave him a reasonable timeframe to make a balanced assessment.
As a sidenote here, I noticed, yesterday, someone adding a hashtag #Knapperout to one of the City Fan pages on Facebook on the basis that two months was enough time to act. I agree that two months should be enough, but if Mr Knapper started on November 13, then surely two months is still two weeks away. While I understand the disappointment fans like me are feeling, we must lose some of this ‘everybody out’ toxicity that is prevalent on social media… although Reg Varney would be proud.
Oh, come on – someone must remember the quote! (On the Buses? – Ed).
So, to answer the original question, NO, I do not believe that Wagner’s contract should be renewed in the first week of January and I am hopeful that the hunt is already on for a replacement.
2] Resolution – the quality of being determined or resolute.
There are three groups involved in this version of resolution.
First are the fans who are becoming more and more resolute that Wagner needs to go ASAP and that our owners should be thinking about moving along a lot faster than the previously stated possibility of three years. I do not disagree with this view, but I would also ask them to be more resolute in their support of the players who should always be remembered are playing as directed by Wagner and his team.
Wagner said after the Millwall debacle that Jonathan Rowe had been left out of the side because he is not performing as well as he should. I would argue that when you have a player who worries the hell out of most defenders when he is running at them from wide areas, you do not ask him to continually cut inside to leave room for the fullback down the outside and then expect him to be as incisive and inventive after removing one of his greatest weapons.
This leads us to the second group – the players. They are doing their level best, in my humble opinion, to support Wagner and play as he requests, but when you make a decision like bringing Ben Gibson back into the defence as soon as he is fit just because he has a left foot, it must be hard for the players to keep applying themselves. Grant Hanley should take one of the spots if you are not going to leave Kenny McLean in his new-found defensive home. It was noticeable last Friday that both Gabriel Sara and Marcelino Nunez were far less effective with Gibson back in the side.
And finally, we come to the owners and the board. Our owners are staying resolute in their decision to remain in control for a longer period, and I think it is sad that this will lead to a bitter and acrimonious departure when they finally go. No one can force them to go unless they decide to move on, and the constant ranting at them will probably only result in them digging their heels in harder. No matter the pressure placed on them, they will not leave until they decide to go.
3] Resolution – the act of finding the answer or solution to a problem.
At the beginning of this article, the main problem raised was the continuance of Wagner. As I stated earlier, I do not believe his contract should be renewed.
The way he has set up the team has been worked out by other managers and we have no answer to the way they lock down in front of us and then hit us on the break when our fullbacks are so far up the field they need GPS to find their way back.
In addition, almost all in-game decisions regarding substitutions are puzzling and some have caused us to drop points or, at best, just hang on.
It is apparent to me that Wagner is not the man to get us moving again although he may pick up a few wins, and it is time for Knapper to move him along for the benefit of us all.
My only hope is that the new incumbent will be given the funds to bring in a couple of new faces and be given time to change things before the septic keyboard warriors unleash their venom again.
Some have given Knapper just seven weeks and are already calling for his head, so I fear for any new head coach who cannot get some immediate results, even though I do understand how difficult that may be.
Finally, a Happy New Year to us all. My New Year’s resolution will be to continue to support the club I have followed since my birth.