It’s time for a hero, that’s the message Alex Neil needs to convey
PUBLISHED: 09:16 19 May 2016 | UPDATED: 12:31 19 May 2016
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When considering where to strengthen ahead of City’s assault on the Championship, nothing has really changed from this time last year.
Most fans knew 12 months ago that Alex Neil needed two top rate defenders and two quality strikers. The failure to secure them was ultimately what cost City.
A year on that equation still applies.
But the most important signing of the Summer could involve one player who is already here.
I’m resigned to the fact that, as much as we’d wish it otherwise, there will be a handful of players who will do all they can not to face a season in the Championship.
Rather than admitting they were culpable for relegation, they will, or maybe already have, be at the manager’s door looking for the next move.
I sincerely hope Swiss defender Timm Klose isn’t one of them, because if I was Neil I’d be looking to rebuild the squad with him at the very heart. Step one, make him captain and urge him to give City one season to get back up.
Step two, tell him that if he is willing to stay he has the chance to be remembered by Norwich fans long beyond his playing career.
A hero, hall of famer and legend all in one, rather than someone who always made a good impression wherever he went, but never a sustained one.
If Neil manages that, which might be a tough ask given there will no doubt be other Premier League clubs trying to tempt him away, I’ll be much more confident this foray into the second tier will be a brief one.
Elsewhere, it promises to be a busy Summer for the pen pushers at Carrow Road, as much for the fact City’s squad is too big for the Championship, than that the squad needs wholesale changes.
In the list below I have predicted up to 16 departures from the current first-team squad, but this would still leave 18 remaining, with another six or seven quality players to find.
We’ve seen the last of Nathan Redmond, of that I’m sure. If he departs it will be with my blessing and I hope he finds a club able to regularly coach the best out of him. I still think he’ll be in the England squad one day.
Steven Naismith and Robbie Brady strike me as two players likely to tempt other top flight teams, while of the remaining regulars Sebastien Bassong seems likely to depart while it seems unlikely Dieumerci Mbokani’s wage demands will befit a club of our status.
There will be big question marks over players like John Ruddy, Martin Olsson and Johnny Howson, but while there agents might tell them otherwise, it could be rival clubs come to the conclusion that there’s a reason why they’ve been relegated twice from the Premier League in recent years.
If Norwich can start 2016/17 with something resembling the squad below, if Neil can restore their confidence and get them playing to their potential and if fresh impetus can be gained by using the cash available to make half a dozen really good signings, City fans could find themselves back in the top flight at the earliest opportunity.
The players that could go...
Jake Kean, Andre Wisdom, Steven Whittaker, Michael Turner, Tony Andreu, Ricky Van Wolfswinkel (loan), Patrick Bamford, Sebastien Bassong, Robbie Brady, Kyle Lafferty, Jamar Loza, Dieumerci Mbokani, Youssouf Mulumbu, Nathan Redmond, Steven Naismith, Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe,
The players that could stay…
John Ruddy, Declan Rudd, Russell Martin, Ivo Pinto, Martin Olsson, Harry Toffolo, Ryan Bennett, Timm Klose, Alex Tettey, Johnny Howson, Graham Dorrans, Gary O’Neil, James Maddison, Wes Hoolahan, Jacob Murphy, Josh Murphy, Matt Jarvis, Cameron Jerome, Carlton Morris.
The positions to fill…
Centre backs (x2), left-back/left-midfield, right-winger, striker (x2)
Key period for the board
The start of the season also promises to be a key period for the club’s board, in particular majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones.
That they have done so much good for the club isn’t in doubt and they will forever have my gratitude, but for some fans patience is running thin.
Norwich’s board suddenly seem unsure of what direction of travel they wish to head in and I wonder if that’s why chief executive David McNally left the club. Did he harbour differing ambitions to the rest of them?
When he joined, they were so sure of the plan, setting out the aims for the next seven years.
Now, while other clubs take a leap into the unknown attracting foreign investors, Norwich risks being left behind. I love that the Canaries remain a family-club rooted in the community, but is there a way of maintaining that while attracting new investment and impetus. That’s what Leicester have done.
Time for Neil to get some extra help?
After taking City to the Premier League at the first attempt Neil has money in the bank.
However, as with Neil Adams two seasons ago, it will be vital he gets the season off to a decent start, otherwise some fans won’t take long to turn. Some of the errors from the management team over the past ten months have been made because Neil doesn’t have enough top-flight experience alongside him.
I hope Neil gives some thought during the Summer to whether it’s worth bringing in an older head.
If that isn’t the way he wants to go I still question why clubs, including Norwich, have dedicated goalkeeping coaches, but don’t do the same for other key areas on the pitch.
Would either a defensive or an attacking coach have led to better performances this season? We’ll never know, but I don’t see how it would have done any harm. The biggest challenge during the next few months is to ensure the players start the season with smiles back on their faces again and showing the spirit and belief to start winning again. Neil himself has started to show signs of the pressure getting to him and I hope we see a return to the positive and confident figure we saw join the club last year.
And it’s goodnight from me...
It’s been such a privilege for the past six seasons to have my Norwich City views aired in this paper.
However, I’ve decided it’s time for a fresh voice to have that chance, so this will be my final Fan’s View.
Thanks for all your letters, emails and Tweets over the years. Even the abusive ones.
I’m looking forward to watching games from the Barclay End again without having to try and think of an introduction to my next column or find an angle to write about that others haven’t already covered.
To finish with, I’m taking a look at what next for the Canaries.