Michael Bailey: Someone tell Norwich City you can’t venture down both paths at a fork in the road – because that’s what they’re asking for with their loyalty to Alex Neil

Jez Moxey takes his seat for the first time as Norwich City chief executive at Ewood Park back in Au

Jez Moxey takes his seat for the first time as Norwich City chief executive at Ewood Park back in August. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

I guess you wouldn’t get prizes for writing such things in the last days of 2016 – but this was from my first column ahead of the new season, back in August…

“I’m really struggling to imagine City pulling off a Championship promotion repeat for a third successive second-tier campaign… The reliance every City player that has done it before in the Championship, will be able to do it again – albeit two years later… It would be lovely if football was so predictable.”

There it is – and I can assure you that while it felt to me like City’s yo-yo cycle would break this term, even I’m bewildered at its speed and severity.

For his faults, David McNally generally had a trait of fighting fires before they got out of control. It helped stabilise some rocky moments two seasons ago – alongside one astute managerial appointment.

So far this season, the only thing happening to fires at Carrow Road is fuel being poured on them like Heath Ledger playing The Joker.

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It feels pointless for me to opine on the virtues of independent media holding people in authority to account – such as board members at football clubs, on behalf of the fans.

To opine on the art of the interview and follow-up questioning, rather than teeing up answers the subject wants to give.

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On the intrinsic flaw of dressing an interview or exclusive as anything more than the public relations exercise it is.

No, I think the City fans can make up their own minds on that.

What does need addressing however, was the huge contradiction that even a carefully crafted video threw up – and for some supporters, those last words appear accurately descriptive.

This is all about the ideal to ignore the “norm in football by replacing our manager” – don’t forget, Alex Neil is well on his way to ticking off the second of his 10 years in charge.

Few things will go down in infamy more seamlessly than Delia and Michael’s 20th anniversary interview with Henry Winter.

All the noises point to the board trusting in the manager to rebuild City’s squad from the stale, aging, rudderless group it has rapidly become. Fine – but don’t for one moment accompany that, with any suggestion promotion is an ambition this season.

I can guarantee you this squad, Alex Neil and Premier League football cannot all reach Carrow Road come August – and if I’m wrong, you can batter me with all the letters, retweets and dislikes you find.

Reading’s third goal on Boxing Day smacked of players who, best case scenario, knew there would be no direct recrimination for their lack of effort or commitment.

If the restrictive “complexity” referred to around sacking Alex Neil is actually the multimillion-pounds pay-out needed to cut ties, then that – plus this year’s AGM pointing to an £8m overdraft debt in the coming summer – paints a picture that things will get worse from here.

And of course if City’s board have eyes only for Alex Neil, then bowing to the justified pressure to sack him presents one glaring problem – the likelihood they haven’t even considered who his replacement could be.

City are at a fork in their road and already seem set on which way they are heading, regardless of the sat nav. The problem is, they keep stating the other direction as their destination because fewer people would fancy buying a ticket to where they are actually going.

It’s a disconnect that will manifest itself at every game from here on in. In every football discussion. It’s a 2016 legacy that will play out in 2017 and for years to come.

Happy New Year indeed.


January’s transfer window will tell Norwich City fans all they need to know about the state of play at their club.

Regardless of how well Alex Neil has kept tabs on James Maddison at Aberdeen, surely he has to allow himself the chance to properly evaluate the midfielder’s progress and even give him a shot at a City appearance or two in the new year if he merits it. Any other hasty decision seems completely needless.

And then we have reports in London that new Crystal Palace boss Sam Allardyce wants more left-back cover – although is Robbie Brady really the best left-back option available?!

City fans should appreciate that after years of spending huge sums of money, in this new Norwich era an incoming £12m fee will not represent a £10m-plus fee out.

• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey and Facebook @mbjourno

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