Chris Goreham: It’s taking time for Norwich City to hit the right note
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
At least Alex Neil only left Carrow Road with a point this time.
The last time he departed Norwich City he took with him a seven-figure pay-off. The exact details of what it cost to remove Neil from the manager’s job are still the subject of contractual confidentiality but decisions like that and the resulting hole in the finances are bound to come under scrutiny from shareholders at the AGM later this week.
In fact no-one can have taken more away from Carrow Road in 2017 than Alex Neil. He didn’t actually lose any of his last seven home games in charge of the Canaries so Saturday’s 1-1 draw as Preston manager extends his unbeaten record at the ground.
The last time he oversaw a defeat in NR1 was almost a year ago when that impressive Huddersfield Town side played Neil’s stalling Norwich team off the park on their way to the Premier League. We didn’t realise it at the time but that was a hugely significant night for the Canaries.
Huddersfield’s energetic, clinical performance was mesmerising enough for someone in the boardroom at Carrow Road to thump the desk and shout “Get me the man who built that team”.
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In reality, it was probably a lot more polite but if Hollywood ever makes a biopic of Stuart Webber they will go with my imagined version of events.
Canaries fans were hoping to see that Huddersfield style transferred to Norwich City along with Webber over the summer.
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He’d brought in a German head coach, just like he did up north, so the plan seemed clear.
What the Carrow Road faithful have actually been treated to so far is something akin to the way that John Lewis selects the tune for its annual Christmas campaign. The formula for rock ‘n’ roll football seems to be in place but the end product is a much more slowed down version.
This may work for selling night lights, coffee machines or nice bedding but the patience is wearing thin for those who prefer to spend Saturday afternoons at Carrow Road rather than queuing up to pay for Christmas shopping in the place all true Norfolk people still refer to as Bonds.
Perhaps the difference is that when Elbow are re-working a Beatles song to be played in every ad break from early-November onwards they get to make their mistakes behind closed doors.
The final polished version that is so difficult to escape from at this time of the year doesn’t feature any of the missed notes, abandoned bass lines or forgotten lyrics that may have been played out in the recording studio.
Elbow might not have coped so well if some of their most valuable instruments had been sold by the record company in the summer in order to help balance the books.
Webber and Daniel Farke are still sitting around with their guitars in their bedrooms trying out various riffs and jams but 26,000 people have been invited round to watch them do it.
This was always going to be a difficult second season back in the Championship for Norwich City after the loss of Premier League revenue was compounded by some expensive mistakes in terms of player recruitment and paying off too many people who were not doing their jobs well enough.
The mood around any football club is largely dictated by results and performances in home games.
It stands to reason because that is when players, fans and board members come together in the greatest number.
I expect some of the concerns brought on by three months without a home win to be voiced at the AGM.
Alex Neil meanwhile is free of that yellow and green burden and can probably afford to do all his Christmas shopping in John Lewis.
Inter the spirit
I am not one to wish my life away but I am already looking forward to May 2018 after the announcement of the exhibition match between teams of legends from Norwich City and Inter Milan.
I was at the highly impressionable age of 11 when the Canaries embarked on their UEFA Cup run and so that team will always have a special place in my heart.
The same goes for the Inter players of that generation because it was when Channel 4 had started showing live Italian football for the first time and so the stars of Serie A were becoming household names in this country.
I still think that the rise of coffee shops and café culture in the UK can be traced back directly to James Richardson presenting some of the coverage from tables in Milan and Rome, with a frothy cappuccino for company.
The knock-on effect is that I have now reached my mid-30s which means, for the first time, I can justifiably say things like “they won’t remember any of this lot in 25 years” and talk about Sutton, Goss and Crook in the way that my grandad told me about the 1959 cup run.
It’s not true of course.
Today’s 11-year olds will tell their offspring in 2042 that none of the Norwich City team of that year are as good as James Maddison at taking free kicks.
They will probably also tell the story of the day ‘Spud’ stood in as the fourth official in a 1-1 draw against Preston.
Generational Top Trumps aside, the match in May promises to serve a useful reminder that football is supposed to be fun and we all need one of those from time to time.
The most important aspect of it is that it is being arranged to raise money for a brilliant cause.
Norwich City’s Community Sport Foundation does an incredible amount of work around the county to bring sport and football to people with a range of issues but who all see kicking or moving a ball around as the great leveller and valuable escapism that it is.