Just how long do we have to wait for change at Norwich City?
PUBLISHED: 08:34 21 January 2017
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As this train wreck of a season has lurched from one new low to another, I think that most of us had believed that the increasingly petulant interviews given by Alex Neil were a sign of a man under intense pressure.
However, after another embarrassing performance at Rotherham proved insufficient for the board to act, another conclusion presents itself; that this is a man who knows himself to be fireproof.
Ironically, it fell to Pat Murphy, the highly respected BBC sports writer, to break the news via Twitter this week that the owners’ belief that Neil is a good manager who can turn things around, respect for his achievement in winning promotion and fear that a change might not work, means that he will remain in post as the good ship Norwich City sinks around him.
Murphy reported that the board feel that managerial stability is needed, and linked with the assertion by the chief executive at last week’s supporter groups meeting that the club “is in a tight spot” and that there is a desire to lower the age, and cost, of the squad it seems likely that we will see an increasing reliance on youth as high earners are shipped out.
Clearly the acquisition of the likes of Louis Thompson, Conor McGrandles, Ben Godfrey, James Maddison and, most recently, Iceland Under-17 international Agust Hlynsson over the last few seasons has been part of a long-term strategy and some fans will see youthful enthusiasm as a welcome antidote to some of the phoned-in performances that have been produced by an increasingly stale senior squad.
However, my worry is that Neil’s increasing unwillingness to take any blame for his side’s deficiencies will not be conducive to developing young players who will inevitably make plenty of mistakes as they learn their trade.
To persevere with a manager who has underperformed so badly flies in the face of the way in which modern football works.
Neil now carries the baggage of starting his City career with great success only to suffer a long and apparently terminal decline. How long can the club afford to wait for a turnaround that may well never come?
The more cynical among us might also reflect that had there been more stability in the club’s recruitment structure over the last few years it might not find itself in such a tight spot now.
Despite the assertion by a senior club official after last week’s meeting that the board don’t believe that there is a growing rift between them and the fans, this week’s freezing of season ticket prices suggests that there is now real concern at Carrow Road that the renewal process may well throw up further problems.
This season ticket renewal window is a classic Catch 22 for fans. On the one hand we have been served up some utter garbage on the pitch this season, particularly away from home, but we love our club with a passion, and what else would we want to do on a Saturday afternoon?
However, this is also a chance for people to vote with their feet and register a protest.
The problem with that, of course, is that a significant drop in season ticket income would serve only to make the club’s financial position worse, with presumably an even more drastic knock-on effect to the quality on offer on the pitch.
The tired mantra that we are lucky to have directors who are fans was trotted out again at the meeting, but ultimately I think that most fans just want directors who will make the right decisions to drive the football club onwards and upwards, whereas currently it appears to be stuck in reverse.
Ultimately the decision to stick with Alex Neil may prove inspired, but currently it simply looks desperate.