Under starters orders for Norwich City's head coach quest
PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 March 2017 | UPDATED: 09:38 22 March 2017
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Out with the old. In with the new. Norwich City have made it clear the new look football structure marks a radical departure. Paddy Davitt assesses who could fit the bill for the key post of head coach.
Ed Balls spoke for the rest of the board when he reiterated they have an ‘open mind’ over the identity of the club’s proposed head coach. Young or old, British or international. Less about the passport, more the potential to drive through real change after a turbulent spell at Carrow Road. City’s incoming sporting director will drive the recruitment process, but who is likely to make the short list?
Barnsley’s astute 39-year-old head coach has worked wonders at Oakwell. The Reds were promoted via the League One play-offs at Wembley last season, their second successful visit of the campaign after also lifting the Football League Trophy.
Any predictions they would struggle in the Championship proved unfounded in a vibrant, cohesive, high tempo, high pressing style of football that showcased Heckingbottom’s ability to extract the maximum from his resources and to ensure Barnsley have punched above their collective weight.
Norwich were on the wrong end of that at Oakwell prior to Christmas. Saturday’s home win may have evened up the score, but Barnsley’s lack of a cutting edge should not disguise the confidence of their general play.
All this minus influential captain Conor Hourihane, James Bree and goalscoring threat Sam Winnall who sealed big-money January moves to Championship rivals. Heckingbottom’s albeit brief connection to Norwich in a loan spell as a player should not be dismissed lightly. He knows the club and the fanbase and, you suspect, the potential.
If City fancy going the high-profile route then you would struggle to top Manchester United icon Ryan Giggs.
The Welshman has already been touted with the Carrow Road vacancy. Given Balls made it clear at the weekend that part of the process is in its infancy you should treat those headlines with suspicion.
Nevertheless, Giggs’ standing in the game and his pedigree would command instant respect inside the Norwich City dressing room.
A prolonged coaching stint under Louis van Gaal exposed him to the pressures and demands of a coaching role beyond the theory and the process of accumulating the right coaching badges.
The decorated 43-year-old already has a managerial win over Norwich on his early CV, taking charge of United’s 4-0 Old Trafford win back in April 2014 following David Moyes’ departure.
Given Alex Neil was labelled as a ‘leftfield’ appointment by David McNally when he arrived from unfashionable Hamilton do not rule out City springing a surprise again. Hudson would certainly fall into that category.
New Zealand’s London-born head coach has apparently appeared on the radar of a number of English clubs. Derby County were mooted as one such destination for a man who appears well-connected. Stranger things have happened and Balls has made it clear an overseas appointment is one option.
Back in the job market after opting to bail out of Middlesbrough’s Premier League survival fight. Karanka missed out to Norwich City in the 2015 Championship play-off final but embellished his coaching credentials by overcoming such massive disappointment to go up again automatically the following season.
Karanka certainly knows what it takes in the second tier and has friends in high places having worked under Jose Mourinho not to mention vast experience of the continental coaching model now seemingly favoured by the Canaries’ top brass.
The 43-year-old will not be short of offers you suspect in the summer. Whether he wants to dive straight back into the mad work of football straight away is another matter after his bruising stint on Teesside.
Norwich’s assured interim chief cannot be discounted. Not only is he the man in possession at present but a strong finish to the campaign on the pitch would make a compelling case. Irvine has also worked in a similar set-up at West Brom.
The Scot admitted last week coaching players on the training field is where he gets his biggest buzz and the outline of City’s new blueprint underlines there will be a clear separation from the all-encompassing duties of the old style manager.
Irvine, you sense, has the respect of the current playing squad but that transition from being the good cop to fostering a degree of detachment, from ‘Alan’ to the ‘gaffer’ essentially, would be one of the biggest challenges to overcome.