Michael Bailey: Is this the blueprint for a brighter future at Norwich City – and the names they should be lining up for their new sporting director
PUBLISHED: 19:20 16 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:11 17 March 2017
Archant Norfolk 2016
A week is a long time in football, so the cliché goes – but that doesn’t stop some weeks being longer than others.
My column last week laid bare a lot of questions for Norwich City to ponder as they sculpt their future. Clearly those words had no bearing on what happened next, but that hasn’t stopped Carrow Road being the centre of another seismic change in the Canaries’ direction of travel.
Alex Neil’s time is done, and we will always have Wembley. As for his replacement, they will be the headline-grabber. It will also be at least second on the City board’s to-do list for a few days yet.
If I may be so bold…
THE BOARD: Piecing together what we will get before kick-off on Saturday will start with the business. Interim chief executive Steve Stone is primed to continue in the role, but without the constraints of a title that has raw connotations from how David McNally ran the show – and how Jez Moxey didn’t. Make Stone your MD and the managing director can do exactly that, away from the football intricacies and idiosyncrasies.
THE MODEL: That just leaves the football framework, where all the signs point to City attempting to recreate a model Southampton have used to such wonderful effect since both sides scrapped their way out of League One just a handful of seasons go.
Their first-team and academy structures work in tandem. Long-term recruitment and managerial planning is their strength. The change of head coach has become a regular event on a par with making any new signing. The infrastructure of the club is robust enough to both deal with there being a change – and critically, making the right change.
THE FOOTBALL CHIEF: For City, naming their new manager or head coach will wait. That appointment almost arguably becomes something more short-term by its very nature in the new structure. It’s the role above it – City’s new sporting director – that will have the club’s fortunes in the long run inextricably linked to its success. A job that exists at other clubs, and the following names should help you piece together what will be expected of whoever takes on the role on at Norwich.
DAVID MOSS: Ex-Sunderland sporting director Lee Congerton may have been an option for City until he became Celtic’s new head of recruitment. That appointment thrust David Moss as the first name linked with the Carrow Road vacancy. Celtic Park’s head of development scouting has a proven eye for unproven talent – a desirable recruitment angle for those at Norwich.
PAUL MITCHELL: Spurs’ head of recruitment followed Mauricio Pochettino from Southampton, but dealing with chairman Daniel Levy and the constraints of his role reportedly left the young and highly-respected Mitchell serving his notice during January’s transfer window. He has now left and was linked with Glasgow Rangers’ director of football vacancy last week.
ROSS WILSON: And you thought management was a merry-go-round. Mitchell was only linked with the Rangers post once Wilson turned it down, opting to stay at Southampton – where the 34-year-old has played a major part in the Saints’ success as director of recruitment and scouting. Wilson didn’t fancy taking up a role in Scotland.
STUART WEBBER: The ex-Wolves man has been head of football operations at Huddersfield since 2015. He was key to David Wagner’s arrival, opening up Huddersfield to more continental recruitment while balancing their squad for Championship life. He took over from Wilson, when he left to join Southampton.
MIKE RIGG: Fulham’s chief football officer “cordially” parted ways with the Cottagers in December. He had been head of talent identification at the FA under Dan Ashworth, as well as a technical director at Man City and QPR. Slavisa Jokanovic was his appointment. And yes, he’s also been linked with the director of football vacancy at Ibrox.
RICKY MARTIN: Internal promotions have been Martin’s recent domain, to the derision of some. Many lament what he has done to warrant them, yet several of the above names have had similar journeys – and have aired their vision in public. A lot of Martin’s current role may well translate into what City want from their sporting director – but the City board only has eyes for an external appointment.
ROY HODGSON: It would be remiss not to mention the former England manager and his friendship with City’s majority shareholders. He certainly has the contacts and knowledge, and it may yet secure him some sort of consultancy role – but what City are seeking stretches beyond the energy Roy could bring.