End of an era for Norwich City; football’s sin bins and a bit of Mr Nasty, aka Ilie Nastase
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There is something of an end-of-an-era feel ahead of tomorrow's game at Carrow Road.
The season finale is nothing to shout about: its been a rough campaign all-round, reflected by a finish that is so far off the pace it is hard to believe City were among the promotion favourites nine months ago.
Aside from saying goodbye to players whose services are no longer needed, it is also the end of the managerial era. After much waiting, this will be the last game before the new sporting director/head coach model officially kicks in. Plus, we will start next season without a chief executive, for the first time since they were invented.
All in all, it looks like the start of something new and exciting. And it will be, as long as results are good, because some things never change in football. Our expectancy levels for one: it matters not a jot what the system is, it is still a results-driven business. Despite Stuart Webber's request for time to get it working, fans will tire of the SD/HC system if City drift back to the old ways.
It is because expectancy and impatience go hand in hand, whether being experienced by fans or owners And no matter how often new staff plead for it, patience doesn't come easily to supporters.
Interesting reading this week came via Michael Calvin's excellent book 'Living on The Volcano'. How timely that up should pop a chapter dominated by Alan Irvine, followed closely by some sage words from Chris Hughton. Two men who have conducted themselves with exceptional good character this season. Hughton because he has taken his Brighton team into the Premier League, Irvine because he has taken over the reins of the bucking horse that is Norwich City and brought some semblance of control to it, some signs that it can be tamed and trained to behave.
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Irvine had a tough job, tainted, if you like, by association with the failed Alex Neil era. He has conducted himself with great dignity, extracted some good performances from a team which was seeing out the season, its players not knowing what their futures held.
Whatever happens to either man next season, their employment will depend on one thing: success. And quick about it too. If Hughton fails, he will go the same way as Claudio Ranieri: out of the door.
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Hughton has been around long enough to know the score but, interestingly, took a course in corporate management after his exit from Carrow Road just over three years ago.
Here's why: 'The decision to dismiss a manager was once a club issue, a board decision. You felt it was almost done reluctantly. Now individuals are used to getting rid of people, again and again if necessary. It is part of working life for them. That means, inevitably, you will begin to see a different type of manager…. He doesn't concern himself with the development of young players, because he thinks, I might not be here next year. I have to win today.'
And Irvine? The requirements of management were brought home to him when he got his first job, at Preston in November, 2007, despite 14 years in the coaching backrooms at Blackburn, Preston, Newcastle and Everton.
'I thought I knew what being a manager was, but I had no idea. Until you do the job you really don't know what it is like. The responsibility is huge and you just have to cope. Suddenly, everybody wants you. Everybody looks at you whenever there is a problem to be solved. You can't actually tell people what you really think, whether that is players, fans, media or even club directors, because you're managing things delicately all the time.'
The message is clear: managers don't get enough time to do the job properly. They need time to implement their plans and put their footprint on all aspects of football at their club, from the youth set-up to coaching methods to scouting... and much more.
We know that, because we are part of the situation. We have helped create the monster that is football, 2017 – the managers are just the casualties.
Sin bin plans
Nigel Owens is a top, top rugby union referee - when he speaks, players listen.
Owens has backed the FA's decision to trial 'temporary dismissals' in local league football next season. Players shown a yellow card for dissent will leave the field for 10 minutes – as they have in rugby union since 2000.
'I think football needs it. It will cut out the dissent, or certainly will help cut it out,' said Owens.
Thing is, Owens deals with rugby players who have a culture of listening to the match official. Footballers do not.
Frankly, some of them show such a blatant disregard for the game that it is a surprise that any of them can last the full 90 minutes.
Three young players, Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane and Leroy Sane, have all this week been guilty of cheating to win penalties.
Changing that disgraceful attitude among players is going to be an awful lot more difficult than making the sin bin system work.
Mr Nasty is unhappy
Ilie Nastase is unhappy that he won't be allowed into the royal box at Wimbledon this summer as investigations continue into some of his recent comments.
Nastase was heard asking if Serena Williams' unborn child would be 'chocolate with milk' and he also insulted British player Johanna Konta and captain Anne Keothavong.
Nastase wasn't nicknamed Nasty for nothing during his halycon years in the 70s when he was a terrific player to watch, but one with a volatile nature which madee him a maverick, a lovable rogue.
When told of his royal box ban, Nastase accused organisers of treating Romanians like 'morons'.
It was nothing to do with his nationality. It was to do with the fact that he has acted like a moron. I don't give a chuff about the royal box and the people who sit in it: Nastase should be banned from the whole tournament.
That's where Wimbledon organisers have got it wrong.