All around the world they’ll be looking for you... or, getting Norwich City out of a jam

PUBLISHED: 12:22 18 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:22 18 March 2017

Gary Rowett, then with Birmingham, shares a touchline with Alex Neil. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd.

Gary Rowett, then with Birmingham, shares a touchline with Alex Neil. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd.

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The past week has been largely spent chasing wild geese. I say wild, but some of them were positively furious.

Football scout John Denniss.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY Football scout John Denniss. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

They shifted from Glasgow, London, New Zealand and various corners of Europe.

I refer, of course, to the Great Norwich City Manager Hunt. It’s a pastime which befalls us every 18 months or so, given the record of the past decade. In that time the club has looked for replacements for: Peter Grant, Glenn Roeder, Bryan Gunn, Paul Lambert, Chris Hughton, Neil Adams and now Alex Neil.

Finding them must be the worst job in football because you just do not know how it will work out. A manager’s CV might be outstanding, but if he isn’t the ‘right fit’ it won’t work. Why is it working at Brighton for Hughton, but never took off at Norwich? Why did Lambert do so well here but failed at Aston Villa and Blackburn and is currently struggling at Wolves (might just be an ownership issue)?

The current speculation following Neil’s departure is very interesting, although you wonder if they missed a bit of a PR trick by not jumping in and grabbing Gary Rowett.

Rowett, you see, began his footballing career in Norfolk. Thetford’s Mundford Road ground, to be exact.

I am indebted to former Norwich City scout John Denniss for the details.

“It was the last eight or last 16 of a cup competition for, I think, under-16s, and Rowett was playing for the Isle of Wight against Norfolk,” he recalled.

“I went along with (former City chief executive) Gordon Bennett – he paid in fact – and I was impressed with Rowett. I remember a ball from the left and he chested it down and volleyed it all in one motion. He was a strong lad and I was impressed.

“I recommended him to Cambridge United – either Gary Johnson or John Beck – and he trained with their seniors and his career went on from there.”

Rowett worked his way through to the Cambridge youth system and the rest, as they say is history.

We don’t get many Norfolk-born footballing superstars, so Rowett might have been the closest we got (it’s called journalistic licence if you were wondering).

On a more serious note, while many fancied the idea of Rowett at Carrow Road, I do rather think he may be like some of the footballers who are in the cold but somehow gain a glowing reputation that is probably over-egged. Remember how Kyle Lafferty was once regarded by some as ‘the answer’, even if no one really knew the question.

I think Rowett gathered an inflated reputation, so was pleased City didn’t jump.

Derby, I am informed, did jump: Neil was sacked here, so Derby cut their losses with Steve McClaren two days later and with quite undue haste, brought in Rowett before City acted (whether they wanted Rowett or not is hardly relevant). Yes, Rowett is a former Derby player, but put two and two together and in this case you make four.

Mark Warburton was snapped up by Nottingham Forest a few hours later on Tuesday – you can draw your own conclusions.

With the season petering out and an international break coming after this afternoon’s game against Barnsley, City have a bit of time on their side.

There are some usual suspects in the betting, as always, but perhaps more will become clear when the club announces its restructuring plans. Then it might be a bit more obvious what they want.

Until then, it is a fascinating exercise, with fors and against for many.

I was intrigued by the name of Anthony Hudson, who coaches New Zealand. Never heard of him, but read his CV and it makes sense. How good would it be for City to pluck an ‘unknown’ and find they have uncovered a diamond?

Opinion is split on Alan Pardew (there’s a surprise), but I sort of like the idea of someone with some clanking great cojones coming in and laying down the law. I do think it may be what City need: a firm hand.

Even if it is not Norfolk-bred ...

At some stage, football might need to work out whether it exists as a form of entertainment or is just 100pc all about business.

This week I witnessed two decisions on a football field which made my heart sink.

The first was the red card shown to Manchester United’s Ander Herrera against Chelsea last weekend. Herrera was shown a second yellow by ref Michael Oliver for an innocuous tackle on Eden Hazard.

The ref and Chelsea were getting royally cheesed off at United’s clear targeting of Hazard. Oliver warned the next offence would mean trouble – but how can you do that when the next offence is, well, a nothing foul?

Then there was Jamie Vardy’s sack of spuds reaction to touching foreheads with Samir Nasri in Leicester’s Champions League win over Sevilla.

It was disgraceful by Vardy and ruined the game. Vardy cheated to gain an advantage; Oliver messed up. Two games affected. And all because the stakes are so high.

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