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Irvine – and the slings and arrows of misfortune

PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 March 2017

You had to feel for both Alan Irvine and Alex Pritchard, both pretty much out of luck against Blackburn. 
Picture: Matthew Usher/Focus Images Ltd

You had to feel for both Alan Irvine and Alex Pritchard, both pretty much out of luck against Blackburn. Picture: Matthew Usher/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222

In this turbulent Carrow Road season other things have increasingly tended to get in the way of the football for those of us writing about the club.

Certainly, Saturday’s game seemed almost incidental to the need for sections of the crowd to vent their pent-up frustrations which still boiled over despite Alex Neil’s sacking on Friday evening.

It didn’t help that events on the pitch were pretty mundane after the departure of Mitchell Dijks and even a typical Simon Hooper performance only occasionally distracted the Barclay and Snake Pit from channelling their anger at targets closer to home.

The two people I felt for most on Saturday were Alex Pritchard, who must wonder what he has to do to get a run in City colours, and Alan Irvine, who had the unenviable task of stepping in less than 24 hours before the game to work with Neil’s team and tactical plan, only to find his side down to 10 after 18 minutes and himself subject to a chant of “You don’t know what you’re doing”.

If anyone deserved the fury of the fans it was Dijks for an awful and totally unnecessary challenge which sold his team-mates down the river, because it seemed to me that the player to be sacrificed to reshape the defence had to be either Pritchard, Wes Hoolahan or Josh Murphy, but I suspect that whichever Irvine had chosen the verbal barrage would have been the same.

The only thing that surprises me about Hooper is that he isn’t a Premier League regular. After all, he has the full skill set; overbearing arrogance, total inconsistency of decision-making and a swaggering need to make sure that the spotlight is always on him, usually for all the wrong reasons.

In fact, about the only thing he got right all afternoon was the red card for Dijks. For all his crowd-pleasing power, the Dutchman’s short fuse has made him a sending off waiting to happen, and if his ambition is to play in the Premier League he needs to control that as well as looking at his tackling technique.

Talking of technique, how many times have we seen an opponent arriving at the far post either unmarked or with his marker static under the ball and unable to match his leap? Ivo Pinto was the culprit on Saturday, but this is clearly an area that any new defensive coach will need to prioritise because it’s happened too many times on both sides of the defence.

However, footballing issues must now take a back seat as we await the results of the club’s strategic review, which should provide at least a short-term diversion from the speculation about the identity of Neil’s replacement.

Although I have no particularly strong feelings about who might come in I do think it’s sensible that the board take some time to try to ensure that they pick the right man rather than simply grabbing someone because he’s available.

I’ve seen City fans praising Derby County’s board for their “decisiveness” in appointing Gary Rowett so quickly. In fact, so decisive are they that this is their fifth managerial appointment in 13 months whereas Nottingham Forest are on their fourth. Speed of appointment isn’t a guarantee of success any more than extended consideration is a guarantee of failure.

The same, of course, applies to the strategic review. I have no issues with the board taking their time if it means that they come up with the right structure to drive the club forward.

Personally, I would like to see two “chief executive” type positions with financial management and operational issues separated, although I’d prefer the latter role based on scouting and recruitment rather than an elder statesman looking over the shoulder of a younger manager, but whatever its eventual form, the board will be aware that they simply must get it right this time.

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