Coach move saga reaches conclusion

CHRIS LAKEY Norwich City have been criticised for their role in the Paul Stephenson's protracted move from the north-east club to Carrow Road as first team coach.


Norwich City have been criticised for their role in the Paul Stephenson's protracted move from the north-east club to Carrow Road as first team coach.

The League One side gave City permission to speak to Stephenson three weeks ago, but refused to allow him to leave when their compensation demands were not met.

The 39-year-old's move was officially confirmed by Hartlepool yesterday, although it seemed that still neither club could sing from the same hymn sheet, with Norwich reluctant to make an official announcement until some remaining loose ends were cleared up.

But Hartlepool's confirmation that it was finally a done deal came complete with a stinging rebuke from their chairman, Ken Hodcroft.

“The move has not gone as smoothly as both parties would have liked, but Norwich refused to accept that Paul had a contract with a long notice period with this club,” he said.

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“Due legal process dictates that such notice period has to be adhered to or negotiated. Once Norwich realised that HUFC just don't give up their assets for 'nothing' they entered into discussions with the club.

“The position has now been resolved to everyone's satisfaction and we certainly wish Paul every success for the future.

“Paul was a very dedicated employee during his time at the club and I am sure he will bring the same dedication and enthusiasm to Norwich and I'm sure he will go onto a very promising future in football management.”

Stephenson's move became farcical - he was in the City director's box, wearing a club tie, for the home win over Coventry; he was taking training sessions with the first team at Colney and has been in the dug-out for the last two games, at Blackpool and Stoke.

City manager Glenn Roeder had clearly tired of the situation and made no secret of Stephenson's involvement in day-to-day life at Norwich City, despite the on-going saga behind the scenes - and yesterday allowed Stephenson to be interviewed by the local media, before the deal had been completely finalised.

“There are still one or two little things that need to get brushed up and sorted, but hopefully the two clubs can sort them out in the next couple of days and we can crack on with the job in hand and get up that table,” said Stephenson, who admitted he hadn't wasted his time on “gardening leave” while the situation between the clubs was resolved.

“I have still been getting my teeth into the job anyway,” he added. “It's been great taking the players. It's a good level of player to take and obviously a step up from what I've been doing, but it's a great challenge for me to really push these lads and get them up to the standard we require to get them up the table. It is a tough job, but we have to make sure we push for really high standards all the time.”

Stephenson, who had a spell on loan at Gillingham when Roeder was in charge, had a brief spell as Hartlepool manager at the end of the 2005-06 season, and admitted it had whetted his appetite.

“I had a sniff of management with Hartlepool - obviously it was really difficult circumstances, but it gave me a look inside to what it is all about and I really enjoyed my time there.

“I was really into the development of players when I was youth team coach and we did develop quite a few and obviously there are quite a few there who are doing really well now. But it just gives you a real taste of what it is like at the next level. I knew coming here would be that same challenge I was looking for.”

Roeder has described Stephenson as wearing a permanent smile, but the new arrival says fun on the training ground must result in improved performances.

“I think it does help,” said Stephenson who, after wins over Coventry and Blackpool, saw City lose at Stoke on Saturday. “You are either a fun person or not - I know Lee (Clark) and Glenn are and I certainly am, but it is not just about fun, it's about high standards as well. We are trying to instil all that.

“It's like anybody who goes to their job - if they enjoy their job they are going to do it better and that is what we are trying to get, that emphasis on the players.

“We know that we have got to probably add a few more in January, but we know we have the lads bubbling again and we have to keep them on the boil. Obviously it was a disappointment on Saturday to lose so late, but we are going to put that behind us.

“We have got to look forward, we can't look behind. We have to make sure we look forward to the next game.”

City get a quick opportunity to put things right, with Plymouth at Carrow Road tonight, followed by the visit of Sheffield United at the weekend.

“We have said if we can win two out of three games or pick up five points from nine, every three, we have a chance of moving up the table so that's what we have to do,” he said. “That's the requirement, to start moving in the right direction.”