'Wild speculation' that proved to be spot-on
David Cuffley Loyalty is a rare commodity in football these days. Not my observation, but that of Norwich City boss Glenn Roeder as he looked ahead to today's match at Reading.
Loyalty is a rare commodity in football these days. Not my observation, but that of Norwich City boss Glenn Roeder as he looked ahead to today's match at Reading.
He was in fact praising the Championship's top scorer, Kevin Doyle, for sticking with the Royals after their relegation last May in an attempt to help them regain Premier League status at the first attempt.
“Steve Coppell must be absolutely delighted that Doyle showed a rare quality for a footballer nowadays and that's loyalty, to try to stay and help Reading get back up, because I can't think of a better striker in the Championship,” he said.
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There have, of course, been similar instances of players standing by their clubs despite their reduced status, and one very obvious example close to home.
Darren Huckerby will always be held in high regard by the vast majority of City followers for staying at Carrow Road for three full seasons after their fall from the Premiership.
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Yes, he was doubtless very well paid for his services, but his insistence that he would not play for another English club against the Canaries, even after being released in May, did him credit and will always guarantee him a warm welcome in these parts.
City fans have seen enough of their “heroes” jump ship at the first big opportunity in recent years - the departures of Dean Ashton and Robert Earnshaw spring to mind - to recognise loyalty and applaud it when they see it.
It is probably unfair to expect coaching staff, most of whom are unlikely to have the same earnings potential as top players and whose jobs are certainly more precarious, especially when the team is struggling, to show unswerving loyalty to a club when a better opportunity arises.
But, as all parties insist there was no contact between Huddersfield Town and Norwich City, or assistant manager Lee Clark, until Monday - when they were granted permission to speak to Roeder's number two after agreeing a compensation package with the Canaries - he certainly did not spend days agonising over the decision to leave.
He informed Roeder that he wished to take the job late on Monday while returning from his meeting with Huddersfield - and, far from provoking a tug-of-war for his services, was given his boss's blessing and a “Good luck” message.
“Lee has been itching to become a manager,” said Roeder. “He's very ambitious. I like ambitious people, and I don't want to work with people who have no ambition to improve themselves in life.
“Once someone wants to do something, I'm not going to try to change his mind because when you do that, it often backfires.
“I respect Lee as a man and I respect his decision that he wants to be a manager now. I would never have tried to stop him going. It was his choice alone that it was time to move on and time will tell whether it was the right decision or not.”
The blow of losing Clark from his management team was swiftly softened for Roeder by the availability of highly-qualified former Newcastle reserve team boss Adam Sadler - soon to be a Pro licence holder but yet to reach the age of 30 - who has joined the first team coaching staff. Sadler had been at Colney working with the academy youngsters, he was in the dug-out at Watford on Wednesday night and his appointment was confirmed on Thursday.
“I get over things very quickly,” said Roeder. “I enjoyed working with Lee but now he's gone and in Adam Sadler I know I have a coach of the same ability who has had to learn the game from the bottom.
“He will qualify for his Pro licence next month at the same time as Lee. It's a huge feather in his cap to qualify for that at 29.”
In the end, it was a swift and relatively smooth changeover, but one is truck by the remarkable prescience of the man from The People.
Two weeks ago, the Sunday tabloid reported that Clark was set to become Huddersfield boss, and even claimed he had been interviewed twice.
Roeder stated the next day that the story was “unfounded and untrue”, “irritating” and “wild speculation”, adding: “Lee is fully committed to myself and Norwich City.”
Clark had previously been linked with the Carlisle managerial post - incorrectly as it turned out - but there was certainly no obvious reason to connect him with Huddersfield. He had no playing background with the Terriers and it is not a club in his native North-East.
A few days after the Sunday newspaper story appeared, Sky Sports claimed in their ticker-tape newsfeed that they understood Clark was about to be offered the Huddersfield job, but then, oddly, withdrew the story almost as soon as it appeared.
But it's remarkable how many times the end result is exactly as forecast in these irritating stories cooked up by the Press.
Wednesday morning's announcement of Clark's departure therefore completed a bizarre 11 days of claim and counter-claim. One only hopes that if he makes a success of his new job, Huddersfield will not forget to thank the man from The People for giving them the idea in the first place.