Monday, May 4, 2009

Post Mortem: Death By Poison.

It was enough to bring some to tears. Others called Canary Call on BBC Norfolk to vent. I thought I'd be more upset, but I had prepared after Monday's game and have been resigned to the drop all week. I am actually just angry, angry at the spineless display at the Valley yesterday and angry at the main reason Norwich City were relegated to League One. Down to the third tier of English football for the first time in 50 years.

Some fans blame the board, other the manager/s and everyone has an opinion. What's important is that the post-mortem is conducted in a speedy manner to allow preparation for an assault on Hartlepool and Exeter. We simply must bounce back like Leicester have this season.

So What went wrong that a team like Norwich can slip from the Premier League to League One in 4 years? What can be done to breathe life back into the club, so we come back bigger and stronger. I'm not going to dredge up the past, rant into history pre our recent flirtation with the Premier League, to me the club took ill in 2006 and died on May 3rd 2009. The good news is that resurrection is possible in the World of football.

Enough to bring tears.

After the initial shock of a gutless, pathetic display away to Charlton, I spent 4 hours gardening in the rain to avoid the phone. Giving me plenty of time to dissect this season and its grave misgivings. Barnsley won, so any result at the Valley would have relegated us regardless, but the players had no idea at the time and should be ashamed of their efforts.

The final straw. Gutless display at Charlton.

I'm going to call this fenced off section, 'Canary Corner'. It's where I'll go to dwell with miserable thoughts. Hopefully not for too long!

Norwich City were poisoned. The deadly substance? One dose of deadly Roeder. Hang on Bigus...I hear you, yes the board hired him, they allowed his poison to spread through the clubs organs stealing the life from a once healthy entity. I'll get there. I will. That's a long-term problem that we have had. But..The immediate state that the club currently finds itself in. The state of spiraling into the division below, heartless and bleeding heavily...Is down to Roeder.

Now, I'll admit it. Even though he came with a bad reputation, I was not unhappy at his appointment. The club needed someone to shake the tree, he certainly did that, problem was he also ripped all the branches off and siphoned out the sap. Friends emailed me. This is a disaster..He'll take you down. They were right.

Norwich is a community club. The fans are vital. They are the revenue. We are rarely on TV and there is no Russian sugar daddy or face-less benefactor hiding in the lobby of a bank in Bermuda, ready to splash the cash. We are run with what we have. Fantastic fans who fill Carrow Road for every home game and limited resources. Run comfortably it used to appear. But no longer, we are now short of cash. The fans that cram into Carrow Road and huddle around PCs to listen to radio Norfolk ARE the club and when picking a manager, it's not just a task to find a man who can possibly bring success. Another question needs to be answered.

Can he gel with the supporters he will have to face at road shows and events? In the supermarket when his actions are questioned? It's finding a balance. I'll get back to this later. So what did Roeder do?

First of all, the guy swept through the training ground with a sword, sacking people he didn't know for no reason but to be his own man. To leave his mark. He even fired Terry Postle, the kit man. A guy who has been at the club for 12 years! If he'd actually waited a while he may have gotten to know Terry and discovered he is a super bloke. Roeder was out to make the place his, and at any cost. In came new coaches, fitness staff, a motivational guru (even he didn't stick around long) and of course, a new kit man. While Roeder's whirlwind honey-moon period saved the club from relegation, the long term future for any team he manages has always been a disaster. Why should we be different?

Peter Grant may have left us adrift at the bottom of the table and Peter Grant was an awful choice of manager. He affected the team with dreadful signings like Brellier and Murray and the football was dire. A classic case of nice guy, crap manager. The world of football is full of these stories.

However, Roeder has done the real damage, not Grant. So much damage in a short period of time, the dynamic of the club and its relationship with the fans will take some time to repair. The team itself is now in tatters with very few of this years bunch set to be standing on the pitch at the start of next season.

While Roeder is not responsible for the lack of financial investment in the team and the decision to hire two bad managers, he well and truly f*cked us this season with a slew of stupidity. Ineptitude guided by his disgraceful personality and 'my way' attitude.

Roeder could not allow for a popular figure to be within a country mile of his inflated ego and fragile persona, so the first victim of his belligerence was legend Darren Huckerby. The most popular player at the club and one who truly loves Norwich City and wanted to be there. A player who was certainly up for a fight during the tough times. A hero who was sorely missed yesterday at the Valley. A place were no heroes were to be found, just zeroes.

Players who Roeder didn't like were sent to train with the youth team. Young players who were on the verge of breaking into the team, instead of being nurtured, were criticized and sent on loan. Captain and key CB Jason Shackell was stripped of the captaincy and flogged to Wolves. Norwich City used more than TEN different center back partnerships this year. Roeder played left backs there, he played right backs there. Even Sammy Clingan. The heart of the midfield played there.

It doesn't take a football genius to figure out that the lack of a consistent, defensive partnership would end in disaster. The goals we were conceding were a joke. While Middlesbrough loanee Jonathon Grounds may have been a super left back, he was played alongside Doherty in central defence. Before that, loanee and right back Eliot Omosuzi was played there. The goals we conceded over Christmas were not only embarrassing, they cost us dear.

Roeder had his favorites and outside of that, players were stepping on egg-shells. He loved Mark Fotheringham. A below average player who talked a good game and backed it up by ball-watching action in the box while he strolled back casually. This was Roeder's captain. If Roeder was poison then Fotheringham was the needle.

Glenn Roeder: Poison. An arrogant, ruthless man.

Roeder cut Grant's players and replaced them with loans. While I'll admit, I thought it was a good idea at the time. Better players arriving without costly salaries and transfer fees. Brilliant right? Well if you are near the top or mid-table without any pressure and the freedom to play football, they are great. However, as we discovered during the run-in. The extra heart and fight required to battle out of trouble just wasn't there. Even on our last day, the drop looming, we rolled over.

Some of Roeder's loans worked -- Leroy Lita for instance -- but others just sucked salaries while failing to even appear on the bench. Troy-Archibald Henville from Spurs. OJ Koroma from Portsmouth. Henville went back to Spurs and played in their reserves while we were still paying him! Another expensive mistake was the aging and injury prone Antoine Sibierski. He spent more time on the treatment table than on the training pitch.

Glenn Roeder's attitude was appalling. He was rude and arrogant. In fact, he was such a dick that he managed to lose the dressing room. And once the players don't want to know, the clock is ticking. On top of that, he had absolutely no respect for the clubs life-blood. The supporters. Standing up at the clubs AGM he replied to criticism by replying "I must have missed your tenure as England manager".

Now the club was in deep sh*t. But for me, the mother of all absurd f@*k ups was to loan Jamie Cureton to Barnsley. Cureton is a confidence player. He had missed some absolute sitters early in the season and instead of putting his arm around the guy and treating him with a positive attitude, he publicly criticized the player and threw him under the bus. He wasn't the only one. Roeder never manned up and took responsibility. A trait you certainly won't find in current boss Bryan Gunn.

Cureton: Thrown under Roeder's bus, then loaned to relegation rivals Barnsley.

While on loan. Cureton's goals bagged our relegation rivals 4 vital points. As soon as Roeder was fired, Gunn recalled Cureton immediately. Cureton has not been on form this season and I'm not saying he was important to our campaign. But Roeder ruined him, destroyed his confidence and then sent him on loan to score goals for the team who stayed up on Sunday. Roeder also threw Wes Hoolahan under the bus and destroyed his confidence too, after the player jumped out of a tackle that led to a goal. He then dropped Hoolahan for weeks.

The bigger picture of Norwich City FC's recent history is one of a club that keeps its head above water and relies of unearthing gems, like Clingan and Cody McDonald to compete. The funds to run with the pack are just not there. Hope is derived from seeing the likes Cardiff, Burnley, Preston and Bristol City flirt with the top 6 and in remembering Worthingtons class of 2003-2004. However, the board have made some monumental mistakes that have not allowed them a comfortable existence, notably the appointments of Peter Grant and Glenn Roeder.

Currently they are receiving some serious flack for not having enough cash. That makes no sense to me. There is no-one out there willing to invest or replace Delia Smith. She herself has pumped millions into the club and freely admits that it is not enough in football today to achieve success, but the abuse she has received for not having deep enough pockets is simply not on. If someone has money and wants to buy the club then fair play, but that person doesn't exist and Smith cares a great deal about Norwich City.

Takeover broker Keith Harris has been trying to find investment for Norwich, along with a buyer for Everton for over a year now and no one is interested. Owning a football club these days is not an investment, its a money pit. An activity for the rich with the rewards of glory and adoration should they be successful. A quick look at Sunderland, Birmingham and Wolves shows clearly what can be achieved with cash.

I'm not saying someone should NOT be made to pay for the current mess at Carrow Road. They should, the board have taken plenty of bad advice from within. I could highlight some non-football related faux-pas, but I'll save those for another day. It will be interesting to see if Delia decides to bring an axe down away from the pitch over the next few days.

So what's next? Well, some our best players are bound to leave and others deserve to. We have some great kids coming through and we need to find a balance. But for me one thing is blatantly clear. We need stability and we need a manager who understands the place, the supporters and what's required at Norwich City football club. That means no more outsiders. No more changes. No more gambles on managers who roll into town clueless about our club, it's academy and it's amazing supporters. No more dramatic change on the agenda. That could set us back years and leave us a League One mainstay.

The Roeder era will stay with Norwich fans for a very long time and should act as a warning now, as the board discusses the future.

The club has enjoyed its most successful spells under managers who were promoted from within. Managers who understand what's needed without destroying the clubs chemistry with the fans, ruining the style of football we play and upsetting the squad to the point of having to start anew. Mike Walker was promoted from within as was Worthington. Walker was appointed after years of working with the youth academy. As a manger he was familiar with the(then) current players and the players coming through the ranks. Now more than ever, that is what we need. That is why we must stick with Bryan Gunn.

Walker (right). Took Norwich into Europe.

Gunny may be inexperienced as a manager but he has played 500 times for City and he wasn't sleeping throughout those games. All managers have to start somewhere. What Gunn does have, is a deep seated passion for Norwich City, a rapport with it's supporters going back more than 20 years and an understanding of what's needed. He has already shown in his short time in charge he can do the job. He signed Cody McDonald for a snip and brought Jason Shackell back along with defensive cover in the shape of Adrian Leijer. He was handed a shi*t sandwich and saw what needed doing.

Without a shadow of a doubt, without Shackell, we would have been relegated weeks ago. Roeder had no defensive cover and deemed it unimportant. Unearthing future McDonalds is going to be crucial in a league with little TV money and lower ticket prices. Gunn's loans to replace Roeder's, were also good signings. Alan Lee should be signed permanently and Gow and Mooney played a part in prolonging relegation to the last day.

Cody McDonald. One for the future.

Most importantly, Gunn knows the youth players, the next crop and that is going to be key for us next season. We will need to rely on the next batch of academy kids to provide depth to a side that must bounce back immediately to avoid financial trouble. Korey Smith, Michael Spillane, Declan Rudd and Luke Daley will all need to play a part next year as we build a team of players who want to be at Carrow Road and play like they do. Gunn's lack of managerial experience must be complemented by the best coaching available. Whether that is the current coaches, Ians Crook and Butterworth or someone else. The right balance will provide the support required to make the right decisions and bridge the experience gap.

Roy Keane was handed a sack of money at Sunderland and had no experience before Quinn and co hired him. Today folks are calling him an ambitious signing at Ipswich. Whats the difference? The money got Sunderland up, not Keane. I see Gunn as an ambitious man with the drive to be successful at Norwich.

No more changes. The club needs to appoint Gunn and build for the future with a 'Norwich' state of mind.

It's vitally important to keep Clingan. His League One experience and position at the heart of our midfield must be utilized and a team built around him. If we can keep one player it needs to be him. The 3 million we would receive from suitors like Fulham is nothing compared to his value to us now. Hoolahan would also be a player who would excel in League One, whether or not he fancies the drop and cares enough remains to be seen. After all, many players now have a clause allowing them to leave if their club is relegated. They sure know how to show loyalty right? And all of the moving about gives Mr ten percent another fee.

One thing is for sure. We now have a chance to put things right under Gunn. To fix 3 years of bad football and terrible decisions. To build a foundation and a team with a heart that beats in Norwich and not Newcastle or somewhere else. With home-grown players and players like Cody McDonald and Alan Lee, players grateful to play in the yellow and green and to fight for such a great club.

I just hope that this weeks board meetings inspire the right appointment and do not bring another mistake down the A11 with more change. That would be unforgivable.



The Fan's Attic said...

what did you do to Woodstock you sick bastard?

Precious Roy said...

So What went wrong that a team like Norwich can slip from the Premier League to League One in 4 years?Or Charlton, or Southampton.

Autoglass said...

Best you've ever written, Bigus. I don't agree with all of it, but your passion and cogency are needed by your fellow supporters right now. Up the City!

Mike Georger said...

I felt so bad for them watching the Reading game. I always enjoy when they make their way back into the EPL in Fifa, which seems to happen every second year.

Hopefully they'll pop back up, and Charlton will burn in hell forever.

what did you do to Woodstock you sick bastard?... I've got a woodstock tattoo

EbullientFatalist said...

Pretty bird, pretty bird.

jjf3 said...

I woke up about 10 minutes before HT, and when I saw the score at that point it pretty much ruined my morning. I can't imagine what it was like for you, BD, or any other City fan.
I'm with you on most of what you've written here, and I saw some quotes from some board member (don't remember who) who admitted they'd gone in the wrong direction with managerial decisions outside of the NC "family". I hope the entire board is as cognizant of this, and decide to go with what has worked for the club in the past...

BentPav said...

Troy Archibald-Henville wasnt good enough for the Championship but helped get Exeter promoted. One for Spurs future. Maybe he can help your lot this year. You deserve better

Bigus Dickus said...

We never got to see him. Roeder called him 'raw' and chose to let him rot in the reserves while he played left backs and right backs in Henvilles CB position.

dave200 said...

What a shame a team like norwich has gone down. What happened to those glory days!

a great new site i've found on footy! I think some of the norwich team needs to have a look at it!