New York, out of date ham and psychopaths - welcome to Norwich

New Norwich City head coach, Dean Smith, at the press conference at Carrow Road, with Stuart Webber,

Dean Smith talking to the media at Carrow Road - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

Psychopaths, cycle rides in Central Park, Joe Biden, jilted partners and out-of-date ham in the fridge. 

As press conferences go, Dean Smith‘s first since his appointment as the new Norwich City manager had its lighter moments. 

Around 30 media types, from TV, radio, national newspapers and, of course, us locals who are there every other week, awaited the arrival of Smith, sporting director Stuart Webber and media chief Dan Houlker. 

Having walked in just 10 minutes after the scheduled 1pm start (pretty decent for managers nowadays), Smith set the mood before he’d even sat down, saying, “hi... you okay?”.  

Then it was down to business – Sky Sports and other TV types first, followed by print media and then, 49 minutes later, out into the City Stand for pictures and a radio huddle. 

Smith was comfortable – he's done this before, as manager at Walsall, Brentford and then Aston Villa - the media throng no doubt growing in size each time.

The press meet Norwich City Football club's new head coach, Dean Smith, at Carrow Road. Picture: DEN

The image makers at work inside Carrow Road - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

There wasn’t much use of the Norwich name, but there was liberal use of “we”. It’s homely, and it feels like Smith is part of the furniture as opposed to someone who has yet to take a training session with his new players. 

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The challenge of keeping City in the Premier League is serious stuff but there needs to be a smile in there somewhere... which is where the ham comes in... 

Smith has been in football for 30 years and rarely been out of work. So, when he was unemployed, what did he do? 

“I have a bit of OCD in me... I check the fridge to see if the ham is out of date and things like that,” he said, with a smile. Smith’s exit from Villa was swiftly followed by an approach by Webber. The biggest sticking point in negotiations? Insisting he and his wife go to the States to see their son for the first time i 18 months, thanks to the president lifting travel restrictions. 

“My wife had a little more planned for me than what she has got,” he explained. 

Cycling around Central Park, visiting the Empire State Building and getting the Staten Island Ferry were all on the Smith family agenda. But you guess there was football talk as well. 

Smith mentioned his family on several occasions. “I have always included my family in decisions we have to make,” he said. For a club that treasures its family values, it would have made good listening. 

There was a raised eyebrow when attention turned to Webber, a man who has a habit of supplying, unintentionally you feel, some excellent sound bites. The man who had to tell Daniel Farke that his race was run as City’s head coach was inevitably asked how that particular part of his job went. 

To paraphrase Webber, he said that anyone who could sit there and say it’s easy to have that “you’re fired” conversation “must be a psychopath”. 

And the timing? Coming as it did after a win at Brentford  That, said Webber, was like breaking up with a girlfriend – there’s never a good time. It raised a smile from the man sat to his left, but perhaps the biggest one was on the face of Zoe Ward – Webber's wife – who was an interested observer. 

As we all were, of course. The brief moments of levity can’t hide the fact that Smith has, as he mentioned several times, 27 games to keep City in the top flight. 

Smith is an Aston Villa fan and there were, legitimately, questions regarding his former employer. The one that would probably cast him in the role of jilted lover. 

The response was reasoned and precise. 

“I’ve had 30-odd years in football and only three of those years were at Aston Villa... I know how to disconnect.” 

Aside from the clear intent of proving people wrong, there were no great proclamations, no promises, no threats. There was a lot of common sense from a man who, on the face of it, seems to be a good fit for Norwich City Football Club.