Rioch - Gunn calibre not in doubt

David Cuffley Former Norwich City boss Bruce Rioch today reaffirmed his belief in Bryan Gunn as the man to revive the club's fortunes - but stressed that he must be given time to do the job.

David Cuffley

Former Norwich City boss Bruce Rioch today reaffirmed his belief in Bryan Gunn as the man to revive the club's fortunes - but stressed that he must be given time to do the job.

Rioch, who managed the Canaries for nearly two years, endorsed Gunn's credentials for the job back in January and insisted relegation from the Championship last month had not changed his mind.

Asked if reappointing the goalkeeping great for the League One campaign ahead was the right decision, the 61-year-old former Scotland captain said: “Absolutely - something the club needs now is continuity. The appointment of Bryan Gunn will bring stability because of his long association with the club over many years as a player and in various other roles.

“The introduction of former players in Ian Crook, Ian Butterworth and John Deehan as part of his team brings in people who know about Norwich City, know the environment and the people, and understand the club.

“I say that despite the fact that they have been relegated. It was always going to be a difficult task to try to keep up, to survive because you're taking on a team that's losing games on a regular basis and has a losing mentality. The one ingredient missing was confidence and it's not easy to regain it.

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“I still believe it's a good appointment because one thing the club doesn't need is continually changing their manager and coaches.

Look round the country - Queens Park Rangers are on their fifth manager in two years. How many managers have Norwich had in three years? It has got to stop somewhere.”

With many fans critical of Gunn's appointment and divided over whether to claim their season ticket rebate after relegation, Rioch backed the manager's plea for unity.

He said: “I've seen comments in the last 48 hours from Bryan about how everyone has to come on board and that's right.

“He's new to football management, he needs time to learn the trade and learn the job but he has good people around him and I'm quite happy with the set-up.

“As supporters, we don't like to give people time but the question we should ask is do we want another change now, and then another one halfway through the season if things aren't going well?

“I hope they do well and whether it's next season or the season after, getting back into the Championship must be the aim.

“But success doesn't happen overnight. If I was Bryan, I would have asked for a five-year contract to give me time to build it. If it's one or two years it's always short term.

“You need to plan with security. Even if you have a three-year contract you need the people at board level to back you. The manager and staff need to know they have time to do the job.”

Rioch knows all about escaping from the third tier of English football on a shoestring budget. He worked a miracle at Middlesbrough with successive promotions from the former Division Three to Division One between 1986 and 1988, and later took Bolton from the third flight to the Premiership in the space of three seasons.

Boro' were in liquidation when Rioch began his rebuilding job.

He recalled: “From a staff of 34 players, I released 20 and kept 14 - people like Gary Pallister, Tony Mowbray, Colin Cooper, Brian Laws, David Ripley, Alan Kernaghan and Peter Beagrie. They were home-grown players who went on to have very successful careers, all in the 19 to 21 age group, and I added some new signings. They were fit, had great desire, and wanted to do well for their home town club.

“At Bolton it was a more experienced squad with people like McAteer, Stubbs, Bergsson, Thompson and Owen Coyle and Phil Brown, who are now managers.

“At Middlesbrough we went from crowds of 5,000 to 26,000. Norwich have crowds of 24,000 so what a fan base they already have.”

With Gunn facing a major rebuilding job, Rioch believes Deehan's role will be crucial in unearthing new talent.

He said: “Dixie and I go back a long, long way because he was an apprentice when I was a player at Aston Villa and he was in the FA Youth Cup-winning side with people like Brian Little and John Gidman.

“I had the same scout at four clubs in Ian McNeill. The secret is to find players before they become stars, even at 16 or 17.

“Norwich have found Cody McDonald in non-League football and he may not be ready yet but he seems to have pace, determination, desire. A player like that may make a big impetus at first and tail off a bit, but then come again.”

Rioch said City's young professionals also had an opportunity to prove their worth.

He said: “One of the aspects fans were unhappy with last season was that there were so many loan players but I imagine that was a financial thing because the budget wasn't there to bring in four or five new players on three-year contracts.

“You need to go and find talented players, and you have to look inwards and see if your young players are capable of stepping up. There is a good Academy, they had some good results - let's see if one or two of the youngsters can step up.”