Opinion: Another failed manager bites the dust at Norwich City
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It’s days like this that make you wonder when the downfall of the last Norwich City manager began.
For some, you can point at an individual game as the one that really put the final nail into the coffin. For others, it’s a slower death, cuts by a thousand knives. The latter, if you think about it, is the way it should be, otherwise it’s a knee-jerk reaction.
The modern era, arguably, goes back to Nigel Worthington – it’s convenient because it was the previous occasion when City were promoted to the top flight, back in 2003-04 season. Convenient, because the job of staying there is so difficult that a decline set in which led to Worthy’s departure in October, 2006.
Worthington, Peter Grant, Glenn Roeder, Bryan Gunn, Paul Lambert and Chris Hughton.
There is an odd man out in that list. It’s Paul Lambert. Because none of the others went of their own accord. They all went because they weren’t succeeding in their jobs.
It is a sad scenario that in the space of seven seasons, only one manager has been good enough to be wanted by another club.
The reason could be down to Norwich’s position in the game, fighting a desperate battle to keep away from the have-nots while at the same time hanging on the coat-tails of the haves.
It could be down to the game itself, which has created more ‘tiers’ than are really necessary in football by its divide and rule mechanism. The top division was divided once, when the Premier League broke away, and now finds itself controlling, like a puppeteer, its membership .
The big boys are fine; they are over-flowing with money, but those who squander, those who waste, those who invest without wisdom, those who just cannot catch up with the filthy rich are cast aside, left to flounder down amongst the also-rans.
Norwich City slid down to League One on the back of poor managerial appointments: without digging up too much new ground, Grant was untested, Roeder was unsuitable, Gunn was unerring loyal, unashamedly desperate but ultimately unqualified. Lambert was unearthed. Chris Hughton was unable.
Lambert instigated the return to the top flight, but while Hughton kept City up last season, there were some hairy moments and, let’s be truthful here, the home win over West Brom and the away win at Manchester City in the final two games were helped by having opponents who, politely, were probably already on the beach, thereby giving the 11th place finish something of a false appearance.
Yes, it’s been all about surviving and growing, but this season has been dull, and the results have been appalling.
As a club, Norwich have been remarkable performers on the financial side. They have done well with their money but were reluctant to take a big step forward, with the building of a new City stand and various other works, just in case the stay at the top didn’t last.
And after the debacle at home to West Brom on Saturday, that may well be the case.
In the aftermath of Worthington’s departure, a member of the hierarchy of that time told me, “once you have lost the fans, that’s it”.
On Saturday, Hughton lost the fans.
It is a truism that without the people who spend half of their lives, and probably half of their money too, following their favourite football team, there simply wouldn’t be a football club. Norwich’s support has been remarkable in recent years: in League One, in the Championship, in the Premier League, it was hard to see any difference. There is little doubt that those fans kept pushing the club to where they are today.
But their faith and loyalty has been pushed to the limits this season. The football, according to the accusers, has been dreary, boring, defensive. The results haven’t followed and City have found themselves in the mire.
Having ridden the wave that was a victory over Sunderland - one of the worst sides you will see at Carrow Road this season – reality bit against West Brom.
The truth is simple: City are not good enough. And when the club decides that something has to change, then it is the manager who goes.
Chris Hughton. Why isn’t it the people who appointed him? Because the board run the club and they handed responsibility for the football side to Hughton. He is failing, and City have decided to change.
Once again, it’s failure that is the reason, not success.