Richard Balls: Let's hope McNally has a plan
Richard Balls There are some who insist that Norwich City FC is a well-run club. They are half right - it is a club. Three days before the Colchester game I bumped into a fellow fan in my local pub.
There are some who insist that Norwich City FC is a well-run club. They are half right - it is a club.
Three days before the Colchester game I bumped into a fellow fan in my local pub. He asked me if I was optimistic given our fine pre-season form. I agreed the signs were good but that I didn't put much store by pre-season results and I would be more interested to see how we fared when it mattered. During our chat, I also said I had no confidence in Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones and believed the club would never move forward with them at the helm. An entirely unpalatable view to many, I accept, but one I have held for a while. The events of the past week or so have done nothing to convince me otherwise.
Sure, David McNally is being cast as the villain. He pulled the trigger on poor old Gunny just two games into the new season. He has made us a national laughing stock just when the team had regained some pride with a 4-0 cup win. And worst of all, we don't even know him.
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On one thing, we can probably all agree: that the timing of Gunn's sacking could not have been worse. It might have been slightly more understandable had it happened immediately after Norwich City's heaviest home defeat in 107 years. However, dismissing a manager two games into a season after allowing him to spend the summer building his own team looks like lunacy whichever way you view it. Although I never thought it possible after Colchester, it has taken farce at Carrow Road to an all together new level.
The blame for the laughable situation in which we now find ourselves, must not be laid at McNally's door, however. If the majority shareholders had even an ounce of credibility left, that has now been utterly destroyed. Bryan Gunn… the ill-conceived rebate offer. They have built on a dismal track record that extends back to Glenn Roeder and Peter Grant. They couldn't run a bath.
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Andrew Turner, speaking at the annual general meeting in 2007, said that if he and his wife Sharon did not meet their own objectives, then they would step down and let someone else have a go. “Ten days ago I saw Peter Grant very admirably put the club first before anything else,” he told shareholders. “We would do the same. And as much as this club means to us and notwithstanding how proud we are to be directors, if we fail we will step down without question.” Delia and Michael, while remaining the club's owners, must do just that.
A text I received from a friend after the curtains fell on our diabolical no-show at Charlton said: “One positive. I really can't see how Gunn gets the job after that.” A fair assumption, but as we know all too well, sentimentality and personal loyalty rather than common sense has shaped crucial decisions at our club. I believe Delia and Michael had already decided to give Bryan Gunn the job on a permanent basis before a ball was kicked at The Valley. They had certainly agreed to a post-match media call beforehand, but the scale of our collapse most likely forced a re-think: the dust had to settle before they could show their hand.
So although on the surface it seemed risky to appoint Gunn even before the new-look board and chief executive had been installed, this was no rushed decision. It was a fait accomplis. And when no-nonsense McNally bowled up at Carrow Road, he found the manager who had presided over our final day humiliation firmly in place and busily bringing in new players. But when a capacity crowd turned up for our first game in League One to witness a performance that put Charlton and the 6-0 rout at Fulham in the ha'penny place, McNally must have seen his chance. As he sat and listened to Delia innocently telling a meeting of Capital Canaries two days later that Gunn had their full backing, his mind was almost certainly made up.
Let's hope that, unlike his employers, McNally actually has a plan. But for what it's worth, here are my recommendations:
t Delia and Michael remain as owners, but stand down from the board and replacements found
t Someone with a football background and a supporters' representative are appointed to the board
t A realistic plan setting out the club's aims for the next two years is agreed by the board and made public.
One final thing. The constant cries from some fans that we should all “get behind the club” must end. After two relegations in five years and demotion to the third tier of English football for the first time in 49 years, we had 18,200 season ticket holders and a capacity crowd for our opening game. How much more “getting behind the club” do they want, for crying out loud? I say, the time has come for them to give us something to cheer about.