Doncaster defends decision timing

STEVE DOWNES The “emergency” board meeting that decided Nigel Worthington's fate had been scheduled before Norwich City's thrashing by Burnley, it was revealed yesterday.


The “emergency” board meeting that decided Nigel Worthington's fate had been scheduled before Norwich City's thrashing by Burnley, it was revealed yesterday.

Chief executive Neil Doncaster also said that the board had met during the week before the pivotal Carrow Road clash to debate the long-serving City boss's future.

The revelations suggest the winds of change were blowing through the boardroom before Burnley's 4-1 defeat sealed Worthington's fate - which was rubberstamped during a two-and-a-half hour meeting straight after the game.

Speaking during and after a Carrow Road press conference, where he sat alongside joint majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones, Doncaster defended the timing of the decision.

He denied that the Canaries' friendly image had led to Worthington being retained beyond his sell-by date.

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He said: “Football is a professional game and it's always been based on professionalism, rather than friendship. The decision to retain Nigel was a professional decision, and the decision to terminate his contract was a professional decision.

“Five games into the season when we were second in the table, would you have said it was time for us to do it then? You can only make decisions at the time that you make them.

“Nigel impressed us with his ambition, and made changes by bringing in Martin Hunter. The early signs this season were that those things had had an effect.”

Doncaster paid warm tribute to Worthington - saying he was “one of the great figures in Norwich's history”.

He said: “He is an excellent professional and the dignity he showed on Sunday night came as no surprise to me and reflected very well on him as a man.

“I think that showed the measure of the man, and the way he dealt with a difficult situation with the courage we would have expected of him.

He added: “I think everyone who was present on Sunday realised that a decision needed to be taken. I think Nigel reflected that in one of his comments. He said a fresh face for the football club and a fresh challenge for him would be good for both parties.

“I think after all we have been through together the board has backed him to the hilt. Sunday was the day when a decision needed to be made, and it was made.”

Doncaster also revealed how the sacking had affected people at the club.

He said: “No parting is ever easy. At the end of the day, Nigel's a human being. Lots of senior staff shed tears yesterday and it's never a nice thing to do. The board did what needed to be done. Football's a tough game.”

He would not be drawn on the cost of terminating Worthington's 12-month rolling contract - though it is expected to be in six figures.

And he attempted to rally the club and the supporters for the battles ahead.

“What the club needs to do know is look forward. We need to get back to the unity that got us to the play-off final in 2002 - which got us promoted in 2004.

“I hope sincerely that the whole city, county, club unites in the short term behind Martin Hunter and the squad - and in the longer term whoever the new manager should be. And that together we go back to where we were in terms of the unity, sense of purpose and direction that we had, the momentum that we had that took us to Cardiff - and took us up as champions.”