Norwich City's new model brings no guarantee of success
PUBLISHED: 12:00 29 March 2017
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Everton legend Kevin Ratcliffe knows what it takes to be successful in English football. Alan Irvine's ex-team mate tells PADDY DAVITT why he is sceptical about City's bid to embrace a modern-day football model.
Kevin Ratcliffe led one of the best English club sides over the past 30 years. You can forgive the decorated former Everton captain for not being sold on Norwich City’s new footballing structure.
City’s quest to appoint a sporting director and a head coach with clearly-defined spheres of influence is a world away from the Toffees’ dynasty erected by the late, great Howard Kendall.
Ratcliffe lifted two First Division titles, appeared in three FA Cup finals and was part of the Everton side who conquered Europe by lifting the Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup. But that continental flavour is now permeating the top of the English game.
“If you have a non-football person who doesn’t really have a clue about the game bringing in players then you have a problem,” he said. “These people seem to get away with a lot of things scot free because when mistakes are made it is the manager’s fault, not the person who maybe brought them in. What are the foreign coaches doing that is different to the British coaches? Absolutely nothing in my opinion. There is a lot of focus on teams who press high at the moment, all the top teams do it, your Barcelonas and Real Madrids, but Manchester United were doing that in the past when they won the league. All top teams work hard to close sides down. British managers have been doing that for years but when it becomes the flavour of the month then it is painted as some sort of revolution. They might have brought a few ideas in how to play but certainly at Championship level it is very difficult to go down that path.”
Huddersfield’s Stuart Webber has emerged as the front-runner for the sporting director post after forging an impressive partnership with David Wagner.
“It is not about training the players, with a 46-game workload, it is about keeping them fit,” said Ratcliffe. “The continental managers come over from leagues that play far fewer games and start complaining about the lack of a winter break. We don’t have one because we have 46 games in the Championship, they already play Saturday, Tuesday a lot of the time. You need a squad to compete but once players are fit at the start of the season it is about keeping your nucleus free of injury, so you get that consistency with the back four, midfield and a couple of lads up front who can score you 30 goals. It is not rocket science but it seems to be made into that.
“When a side wins a league the rest want to know what they did differently. It might be a bit of luck in the odd game, staying free of injury and building confidence. Training pitches are a lot better now than the ones we played on. You can do a lot more now tactically-wise but the higher up you go players coach themselves. You just give them the framework. It’s at the lower end where you have to work at things and it takes longer for players to get what you want.”
Ratcliffe’s former Everton team mate, Alan Irvine, will remain in charge for the foreseeable future, and the Welshman insists Norwich still have a real chance to force their way into this season’s promotion shake up.
“If you look in the past there is always a runner from the back who comes in and usually that team carries it on into the play-offs,” he said. “I saw it with Blackpool one year, I think Nottingham Forest or Derby did something similar. It is that momentum and once it kicks in you never know. I was surprised they were not right up there with the type of football they wanted to play and the squad and how difficult a place Carrow Road can be. This league is so fickle. You look at the top and the bottom and there is not much space between the sides. Those bottom six could easily be pushing for the top six with a good run.
“I follow Cardiff and look at their season. They changed the manager and zoomed up the table. All of a sudden there is a feelgood factor and that can carry you into the following season. Look at the Premier League and my team Everton. They went on a run when they won one in 11 before Christmas, and since then they have only lost one in 11. The three points makes a massive difference, if you are winning and the sides around you are drawing or losing.”