New City manager relishing chance
CHRIS LAKEY “It's great to be back home.” It was short and it was sweet - and guaranteed to make Peter Grant's working relationship with all things Norwich City go that bit smoother.
By CHRIS LAKEY
“It's great to be back home.”
It was short and it was sweet - and guaranteed to make Peter Grant's working relationship with all things Norwich City go that bit smoother.
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All he needs now is for the players to buy into his dream - that will be the hard bit because Grant has the unenviable job of restoring the fortunes of a club which have slumped so dramatically in recent weeks that it's hard to see why anyone put themselves forward for the task of resurrecting them.
But Grant is confident that he has served his apprenticeship, and it's hard to argue with him: he played more than 350 games for Glasgow Celtic and chose a coaching tutorial at Bournemouth before spending 20 months under Alan Pardew at West Ham. He's featured in four Millennium Stadium finals in the past four years. He's an ex-Norwich player. He's 41 years old. He's ready for the challenge. Sometimes you just have to make the break - and when Norwich came a calling, Grant didn't take much persuading. Pardew didn't stand in his way either - encouraging his number two to go forth and seek his fortune in the big wide world.
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The story began on Wednesday. October 4 - three days after Nigel Worthington had been sacked.
“People always say you will know when the moment is ready,” he said. “When I got the call I was up at the Celtic v Liverpool legends game and I got the call that Norwich wanted to speak to me. Obviously it was something that excited me. I must admit over the years I didn't think I was ready for that step. People questioned why I went to Bournemouth, but I learnt so much there, with the players as well. I learned there was a standard of players and a commitment to the players' training to make themselves better.”
It was something of an eye opener for a man who rubbed shoulders with the cream of Scottish football at Celtic Park.
“I never really had coaching until the likes of Tommy Burns and that came into the club - you just thought because you were a Celtic player you were a good player and never got coached,” he said. “You always said you were at Celtic, it didn't matter. I have realised the longer you went along, the more information you got, the more preparation was done the better chance you had of succeeding.
“That's why when I went to Bournemouth people questioned it - and it was the best move I ever made. I went to Bournemouth with players that were just determined to learn. We made it a learning environment, we knew we couldn't go out and spend and bring players in.”
Grant took those lessons to West Ham - and learned even more.
“It was a football club with a big tradition and I loved it at West Ham and I loved it right up until last Wednesday,” he said. “I was thoroughly enjoying every moment of it. We had difficult times, we came through difficult times, it was a great learning environment that Alan had put in place. He stood strong - that was another learning experience of how a manager copes with that pressure and expectation.
“He had a staff there that was committed to taking it forward and everyone was pushing in the right direction and that's something I want to have at this club.”
So, all the lessons learned, and for City's interviewing panel, all the boxes ticked. The job was in the bag. All it needed was for Grant to agree terms and West Ham to accept a compensation package. What the amount was City won't disclose, but transfer activity between the two clubs in the past couple of years certainly meant there was a meeting of like minds. Needless to say, West Ham didn't stand in anyone's way.
“Norwich was an opportunity that was just too good for me to knock back in any shape or form and I was so determined to come here,” he said. “When I got the interview I made that clear, and I am not embarrassed to say, that I told the chairman and the directors that I was desperate to be the manager of Norwich City Football Club, and I don't say things like that lightly.
“I have been at the club, I know the club, I knew most of the directors I had worked under before when I was here as a player, but I knew the commitment that the fans demand.”
So what can Norwich City fans expect from the man who, perhaps rather unkindly, earned the moniker Peter Pointer during his days north of the border for constant gesticulating from midfield? It seems it will be a team borne out of his image.
“Committed. They will be committed to everything we do,” he said. “In an ideal world I want to play fast attacking flowing football. Whether you have the players and personnel to do that at this moment in time - that's easy to do when you are full of confidence, but that is my ultimate aim, that people love watching Norwich but they hate playing against us.”
The personnel issue is key: with Grant insisting that home-grown talent has a place in his team - one of the accusations made against Worthington was that he didn't give youth a chance.
“When I came here first I remember there were six, seven, eight boys in the team that had all come through the system,” he said. “I know it is a little bit more difficult now but in an ideal world I would love to fill it with people from this area, because they understand what the club is all about.”
The values of Norwich City are traditionally in playing good football - and Grant wouldn't want it any other way.
“I am really looking forward to trying to build a football team to go with the traditions at this club and the clubs I have been involved with, Celtic, Bournemouth, West Ham, all those teams have had that,” he said. “It is one thing I demand - I like to go and watch football and I like to be entertained, but the bottom line is I like to win and I don't like being second.
“I am going to try and win the perfect way if possible, if not I just want to win, that's the ultimate and hopefully the confidence that brings can attract the best players to come here to come and play for Norwich City.”