Root and branch reform needed at Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 10:08 24 December 2016
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Huddersfield’s performance at Carrow Road was the ultimate indictment of Norwich City’s failure to get value for money from the financial benefits of four Premier League seasons and two funded by parachute payments since Paul Lambert took them up in 2011.
The Terriers have not had the luxury of splashing out large sums on transfer fees and wages, having spent eight of the last 12 seasons in League One, yet their team of relative unknowns put the bigger names in yellow and green to shame.
Huddersfield’s low key recruitment policy has been marvellously effective, allowing David Wagner to build a team that impressed everyone at Carrow Road with their passing, movement and self belief, that crucial factor of which City currently appear to be totally devoid.
They served to prove that the upper reaches of the Championship can be reached even with very limited resources, but only if a committed squad of players can be combined with an innovative manager who can inspire and motivate them and persuade them to buy fully into his philosophy. Clearly Wagner has done that.
Whilst the argument that recruitment is always going to be an inexact science and that all clubs make bad signings as well as good is perfectly valid, the fact is that when a recruitment team is constantly undergoing change, as City’s has, the risks of getting more wrong than right tend to proliferate.
Some weeks ago I commented on the revolving door that has seen Ewan Chester, Barry Simmonds, Tony Spearing, Lee Darnbrough and now Ricky Martin appointed to senior player recruitment roles in the last five years and while it would be nice to believe there has been a continuity of approach throughout these changes (and a crucial two-month period in the summer of 2014 where no one was in post) I think that would strain credibility rather too far.
During that period significant sums have been spent without cementing a Premier League place and last Friday City had somewhere in the region of £30m worth of signings either warming the bench or out of the squad.
While I fully accept these players are not in the side because the manager considers them to be currently inferior to those that are starting, it demonstrates a remarkable profligacy that such sums could be expended only for Alex Neil, having approved their acquisition, to return to those whom they were presumably bought to replace. Nothing could illustrate the long-term inefficiency of the club’s recruitment system more clearly.
Huddersfield are blossoming while City are stagnating and with a board that seems to be slipping into inertia without the hard-headed business approach of Alan Bowkett and David McNally these are worrying times for fans who just a year ago were celebrating a win at Old Trafford.
Inevitably, and justifiably, there is now a deafening call for Neil’s head, but there is a very real danger that may merely be the equivalent of applying a sticking plaster to a wound requiring stitches.
That’s not to argue a change of manager isn’t needed but it should go hand in hand with a root and branch reform of anything at the club which appears unfit for purpose.
That must surely start with a playing squad which contains too many individuals who have been involved in too many embarrassing displays over too many seasons and now surely has to undergo major reconstruction, but it shouldn’t end there.
Whilst I don’t believe for a moment the board or owners want anything other than the best for the club, genuine affection doesn’t insulate them against making poor decisions and currently they seem to be staking everything on a gamble that Neil will somehow come good despite all the evidence to the contrary.