The issues facing Norwich City ahead of another campaign back in the Championship
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
The final whistle at Goodison Park couldn't come quickly enough at the end of a week that saw Norwich's relegation confirmed, chief executive David McNally depart and Alex Neil appear to question his own future in charge.
The fallout from a record-equalling fourth Premier League relegation will continue long into the summer. Now, with four relegations and four promotions in the last 13 seasons, Norwich have become the archetypal yo-yo club, capable of repeatedly reaching the top flight, but unable to make that transition into an established elite club.
Changes are inevitable following any relegation. While the exit of McNally has divided opinion among the fanbase, with the riches on offer next season we are reminded more than ever that football is a multi-million pound business. As in any large organisation, somebody has to take the fall when it fails to meet its main objective.
Supporters may have different opinions on who is culpable for not succeeding this season, but there is no debating the club are in a far healthier state than when McNally took over in 2009.
Three promotions and four Premier League campaigns later, Norwich City is almost unrecognisable in terms of its finances. Yet, just as McNally deserves much credit for the many successes in his tenure, he too must accept responsibility for the failings. In particular, not learning from mistakes made two years ago.
More than once, the Norwich board have been accused of plumping for the cheap option that hasn't reaped rewards. The managerial appointments of Bryan Gunn and Neil Adams were obvious examples. When the unknown Alex Neil was unveiled, many believed it was another appointment that would fall into the same category. As it turned out, McNally's decision to gamble on a young, inexperienced manager who he felt might just be capable of achieving promotion in half a season was nothing less than brilliant. It wasn't so much the cheap option as the inspired one.
Yet Neil's own admission that City's chances of survival were hampered by a failure to strengthen enough is a factor too crucial to just gloss over. Competing with a squad that lacked strength in depth at this level shouldn't be readily accepted. Questions have to be asked as to why we found ourselves in that situation.
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Why were we unable to attract quality signings when other newly-promoted clubs were? Why did the players brought in fail to sufficiently improve the team? These are issues that go far deeper than a footballer's unwillingness to live in East Anglia and must be addressed by the incoming chief executive.
It wasn't as though the club didn't have the money – January's flurry of activity in the transfer window tells you that we did. While a balance has to be struck to make sure we spend within our means it should never have been at the expense of assembling a squad without the necessary quality to survive.
Neil has hinted there could be several departures over the summer. If we are able to keep the nucleus of the squad together, though, and he's given the funds to bring in signings to improve it, a playing staff overhaul doesn't have to be a negative exercise.
As uncertainty remains over the vacant chief executive role, it's important Norwich maintain a degree of stability going into the Championship next season. Title-winning Burnley and play-off chasing Hull have proved that promotion bids are more than achievable when you stick by your manager.
Neil has already achieved promotion from the second tier with another manager's squad. There is no reason why he cannot do the same with his own, helped by the backing of a Carrow Road crowd so loyal that it garnered national attention last week. On the ball, City.