It's a bold appointment...
PUBLISHED: 14:59 14 October 2006 | UPDATED: 09:43 14 September 2010
As an opening speech it was pretty impressive. "For Peter Grant it's all about Norwich City now," said the new arrival at Carrow Road. "Hopefully I can put my shoulder to the wheel and help this club get back into the Premiership.
As an opening speech it was pretty impressive. “For Peter Grant it's all about Norwich City now,” said the new arrival at Carrow Road. “Hopefully I can put my shoulder to the wheel and help this club get back into the Premiership.
“This is a new challenge for me. It's a real shot in the arm and I'm delighted to be here.”
It was just the kind of positive thinking the fans were looking for - back in 1997. Grant had just arrived from Celtic in a £150,000 move and was poised for his City debut at home to Crewe Alexandra the following day.
If I remember correctly, he went on to talk about how his gravestone would now refer not just to Peter Grant of Celtic, but “of Celtic and Norwich”. Manager Mike Walker said he had found an organiser, a winner, and a bargain.
Alas, things didn't go quite to plan. Crewe won 2-0 the next day and though Grant was a solid contributor in midfield in 75 matches over the next two seasons, his dream of playing in the Premiership with Norwich didn't materialise. City finished 15th, then ninth in Division One and had to wait until five years after Grant's departure to realise their ambition of a return to top-flight football, albeit for just one season.
Now, subject to the completion of the formalities of his move from West Ham, the 41-year-old former Scotland international will get a second chance to bring Premiership football back to Norwich, this time from a position of much greater influence than merely one of 11 in yellow shirts on the pitch.
It's fair to say that when Nigel Worthington was sacked 13 days ago, Grant's name did not immediately appear in the bookmakers' odds or in our own list of the men most likely.
Neither, I must admit, did he figure among the pictures of 16 potential “candidates” we featured on the front page of this publication last week.
It was last weekend when West Ham's assistant boss was first reported to be a contender, but with the Canaries sticking rigidly to their policy of not commenting on the selection process, at least not publicly, and effectively eliminating no one from their inquiries, it was open season. Just about everyone short of Sven was getting a mention, so one could be forgiven for not immediately elevating Grant, as someone yet to manage his own club, to the top of the list.
But, whether or not he started at the top of City's wanted list, that's where he finished up. City may have had to announce the appointment sooner than they liked, but yesterday's developments on the betting front, plus the disclosure that Grant had not travelled with the West Ham party for today's Premiership game at Portsmouth, meant the cat was out of the bag, and at 6pm he was confirmed as the new boss.
It's certainly a bold appointment. City cannot be accused of making the obvious choice or taking the easy option. Neither, with a compensation deal to negotiate with the Hammers and a handsome salary to be paid, is it the cut-price option - particularly if there are any more departures on the coaching front, an issue the club last night refused to discuss.
But the board clearly see the makings of a top manager in Grant, who has done an excellent job as number two at Bournemouth and West Ham, but is untried as a boss out on his own. They are investing a lot of faith, and money, in that potential.
The majority shareholders, Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones, making the statement that spelt the end for Worthington, lamented the lack of passion and commitment in the defeat at Plymouth three weeks ago.
One of Grant's biggest supporters has no doubts about him on that front.
Bryan Gunn, former City team-mate and a fellow Scot, says the new boss has “passion and desire” in abundance.
He will need all that, and a whole lot more, to turn the club's fortunes round.
If Grant takes a look at the league table, it's not so different for City from when he arrived nine years ago. Steering a course away from the wrong end of the table will be his first task, but it's hard to imagine he'll be happy with 15th, or even ninth. And neither will the fans.
t With their search for a new manager now over, one wonders if City missed the opportunity for a rare televised first.
The current craze for TV shows where the candidates for a particular role are eliminated one by one would transfer quite nicely to the job of picking a football boss.
Fans registering their phone votes could help a panel of judges - the directors, for argument's sake - make up their minds. If the nation's viewers can endorse the ballroom dancing credentials of Darren Gough, judge the ice skating capabilities of Bonnie Langford or help choose the next Maria von Trapp, they would probably relish the chance to pick the next manager at a Football League club.
The lines are now closed, but it would have been interesting to discover who would have been the people's manager. And the profits from the phone calls would certainly come in handy.
t The loyalty, fanaticism - dare I say masochism - of City's supporters never ceases to amaze me.
About 3,000 of them bought tickets for this afternoon's match at Queen's Park Rangers, and though it's one of the shorter trips this season and there may be just a hint of a new era dawning at a time like this, it's still a phenomenal figure for a club in the bottom third of the Championship.
Today's ticket sales took City well past the 10,000 barrier for fans at away league games this season, and topped the 2,601 who were at Coventry's Ricoh Arena five weeks ago.
It's a kind of perverse characteristic of the Canaries that they have so often failed to deliver away from home despite such a show of support - one trend the new manager, Peter Grant, simply has to reverse.