No need to rush – but Norwich City shouldn’t drag their heels either
PUBLISHED: 07:53 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:34 20 March 2017
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For two consecutive Saturdays at Carrow Road, the football played second fiddle to the happenings off the pitch.
Ironic then that, for the first time in months, other results couldn’t have gone much better for City’s faint play-off hopes, with both Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham losing.
To actually achieve a top six finish we have to hope for a miraculous turnaround in both Norwich’s away form and their record against teams above them in the Championship table. While an unlikely play-off spot is the short-term aim, the restructuring process, the details of which were finally revealed on Saturday, paints the long-term vision for the club.
With Alex Neil gone, Derby parted ways with Steve McClaren and replaced him with rumoured City target Gary Rowett while Nottingham Forest swooped for Mark Warburton in the time it took Norwich to announce not a new manager, but a managing director in Steve Stone.
While the board have been criticised for failing to move anywhere near as quickly as the Rams in filling the vacant manager’s position, Derby’s managerial track record shows little to suggest their approach is an example we should be following, given Rowett is their sixth manager since City won at Wembley.
The former Birmingham boss may have been many fans’ choice to take over at Carrow Road but whether the less-than-expansive playing style he adopted at St Andrews would have been quite so well received here is another matter.
Neil’s successor needn’t have been named within a matter of days like in McClaren and Derby’s case. But for a new man to assess the current squad it’s still imperative that someone is in place with enough of the season left to get a good measure of the playing staff to ensure this summer’s sweep of the corridors at Colney is a thorough one.
While supporters form opinions of managers and players on statistics and achievements, the credentials of someone like Stone are more difficult to judge for outsiders looking in. One thing has already become abundantly clear though; he is intent on repairing the relationship between fans and the board that has taken such a dent over the last season and a half. A positive start.
Introducing a managing director, sporting director and head coach is certainly a modernisation of the hierachy at the club which Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones have so often been accused of failing to implement. Of course the recruitment of the latter two roles is still paramount, and identifying individuals happy to fit into that particular structure is now a huge consideration.
What it doesn’t change is the need for the owners’ investment, not just in the transfer budget but in all areas of the club to ensure Norwich are in the best possible shape to return to the Premier League.
In terms of City being in with a chance of doing that this season, with other results going their way after winning and keeping a rare clean sheet, suddenly that five point deficit to sixth place doesn’t appear the mission impossible it did seven days ago.
Forgive me though if a home win over Barnsley isn’t quite enough evidence to start clearing the calendar for potential play-off semi-final fixtures. Six of Norwich’s eight remaining league games are against teams level on points or above us in the table. Sides City have earned just three points from in nine previous fixtures this campaign.
Three of those games are away from home, where Norwich have lost more matches than they have won and drawn combined. It’s going to take an almighty swing in form for a side managed by anyone to change that abysmal run, and I’m not convinced a different manager in the dug-out will be enough to engineer the required transformation in a group of players who have struggled against the better sides all season.
Saturday week’s trip to an in-form Aston Villa side who have won five of their last six will be a decent indicator of whether those distant hopes are ones worth clinging to.