Cheers Dave - McNally leaves Norwich City in a far better position than when he walked through the door
- Credit: Archant © 2009
After a weekend of job hokey-cokey, David McNally has left the good ship Norwich City for the last time.
A figure that demanded respect, courted controversy and wasn’t afraid of upsetting, well, seemingly anyone.
Under his guidance the club evolved, if we wanted to play with the big boys, we needed to behave like them. His ruthless elbowing of Bryan Gunn back to the golf course was vintage Fashanu. His pursuit of and recruitment of Paul Lambert smacked of how we’d lost managers to “bigger fish” in the past. Back to back promotions and Premier League football seemed about as likely as, I dunno, Leicester winning the Premier League when he came in, but that’s what we did.
We spent three seasons at the top table, dining with appetite even if we weren’t sure which cutlery to use at times. Ultimately, we were relegated and his wisdom was questioned for the first time.
He’d delayed on firing Chris Hughton despite a mass of the loyal support tugging relentlessly at the trigger. He argued that he was performing in line with expectation, his record was comparable to his peers and that while we weren’t in the bottom three he was fulfilling his brief.
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Then we lost to West Brom.
With five games to go, McNally finally relented and relieved careful Chris of his duties. While this was certainly an outcome an increasing number of the supporters wanted, many thought it was too late. Others felt he might as well have let him have the last five games as he’d dug out results before. He’d backed his man and then dumped him at the last minute; did the indecision cost us? Many thought that sooner or not at all would have been preferable. Perhaps, either way, that did cost us our top flight status.
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But what did it cost him? Well, certainly he was no longer revered in all corners of the support and, to outrage in some quarters, it didn’t cost him a bonus. The already extremely well remunerated Mr McNally earned a bonus (presumably due on financial performance as opposed to anything that had happened on the pitch) despite relegation. This in turn further weakened his position with the fanbase.
Coupled with the claim that they’d scoured Europe to find a replacement for Hughton only to land upon the temporary incumbent in Neil Adams, all of a sudden the previously unflappable, untouchable McNally was being cited as “little Norwich” and doing things “on the cheap”.
Yet within weeks of the Championship season fans were proclaiming that “their Norwich was back” as Adams set us up to play a swashbuckling attack focused style.
It didn’t last. Leads surrendered and a plunge down the table led to “Neyul” being replaced by “Neyul”.
A gamble. A huge gamble. One that I wrote about at the time stating that if it didn’t pay off it might be McNally next out the door.
But McNally once again had THAT touch. People might say it was similar to that of Midas but I’m more inclined to compare it to that of Ian Crook. Sublime, creative and devastatingly effective.
We went on a stupendous run, fell just short of automatic promotion but then demolished Ipswich and dominated the Boro side that had effectively killed our automatic chances weeks before.
That day at Wembley will live with me forever. I took my son to Wembley and my team not only won but were victorious in such style. There was no need for the intervention of Gordon Chisholm or anybody else’s chest here as we were utterly dominant and largely unplayable.
From there though, well I guess it’s all gone wrong.
We missed out on summer targets, big bids submitted, accepted but the expected influx didn’t materialise. Did McNally not have enough options? Was he too rigid in his negotiations? Was he simply too tight with the purse strings? Was he reluctant to spend because he wanted to safeguard a financial bonus?
All of these were levelled at him, perhaps not directly, on social media.
We’ve gone into a season with a defence that has been relegated before and strikers that have either failed at the top level (Jerome, Hooper, Wolfswinkel) or haven’t even played at the standard (Lafferty). Yet we held our own, played with a belief that was refreshing - well, until Newcastle away.
That result knocked us but while we might have changed our on-field approach, we changed our off-field position too. With the lack of spending in the summer a moot point, all of a sudden Alan Bowkett leaves, Ed Balls comes in and we can afford Klose, Pinto and Naismith. Coincidence? I doubt it.
Of course, it looks like the financial gamble has failed. We simply haven’t been able to pull ourselves over the line.
I imagine that hurt McNally. He clearly has an unwavering degree of self-belief and for the second time in three years he is being glared at by the wang eye of imminent relegation.
And so he has gone.
CEO’s traditionally have a limited shelf life. It stands to reason that when you come in fresh, focused and hungry that you see immediately things that can be improved, need changing or simply need investment. The longer you stay in position, the staler things get. Gradual deterioration isn’t noticed because you’re there and seeing it every day whereas a new set of eyes might notice it straight away.
Time was probably up. But let’s be honest, even the fiercest critic would have to cede that he leaves Norwich City in a far better position than when he walked through the door.
A man who could undoubtedly be thorny, a man with a ruthless coldness about business but with a reassuring confidence.
With him at the forefront of our affairs I’ve had the League One championship, that night at Portsmouth, the Lambert Premier League adventure, the multiple destructions of Ipswich and THAT day at Wembley.
He had his faults, I don’t think anyone would question that, but as this maverick rides his steed into the Norfolk sunset, I’m watching him disappear with only blind hope that we can recruit that well again.
• Blog post written by Duncan Edwards