Why Gunn must hit his own high standards
CHRIS LAKEY Bryan Gunn has a tough act to follow - and one with a difference.There are no boots sitting in an office, waiting to be filled as the club's liaison officer. There's no office, no extension number on a phone. Bryan Gunn is a prototype, as far as Norwich City are concerned - the act he has to follow is his own.
Bryan Gunn has a tough act to follow - and one with a difference.
There are no boots sitting in an office, waiting to be filled as the club's liaison officer. There's no office, no extension number on a phone.
Bryan Gunn is a prototype, as far as Norwich City are concerned - the act he has to follow is his own.
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Ever since Gunn pulled on the number one jersey and ran out at Carrow Road on November 4, 1986, his profile has risen and risen. How many players appear almost 500 times for their club? How many can call on Sir Alex Ferguson when they are arranging their testimonial match? And while Steven Gerrard can drive sheep through the Hutyon as a freeman of the borough, even he is unlikely to be the Sheriff of the city which made him famous.
Bryan Gunn is a special man as far as Norwich City FC is concerned, which is why so much rests on his shoulders as the club's new liaison officer. It's not an official title - unlike many that Gunn has held in the last 26 and a bit years since heading south from Aberdeen - and there isn't one to inherit; there's no precedent.
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Which is why Gunn is under enormous pressure to produce - there's no way back from this one should it goes studs up. Succeed and either Gunn or Peter Grant will be hailed as a genius. Fail and it may be the end of a beautiful relationship.
Gunn's job title may be a little hard to pin down, but, basically, he will be the man who allows Grant to get out on to the training ground more often. He has to be Grant's eyes and ears in the footballing community, making sure that he knows every single player that might one day perform a function for the club, wherever he may be. Gunn needs to know how much he earns, how long his contract is, what clauses are in it, whether or not he might be useful to the cause, whether he is on the yellow and green list or the black list. He has to know agents well enough to be kept informed of any changes that might just suit Norwich City. And he has to know managers and coaches at all clubs well enough to put his name at the top of the list when it comes down to business.
Gunn will need to live on the telephone. He will need to have the patience of a saint as he waits for managers to make decisions about possible targets - a situation that Grant admitted drove him mad during the January transfer window.
It's not just Manchester United reserves he will be looking at - Wolves and Ipswich have proved to City this season just how productive non-league football can be. There are good players who might not fit the bill for the top clubs who increasingly look overseas for fresh blood. The footballing academies of France and Spain appear to be happier hunting grounds than those of Britain - but that doesn't stop British footballers from emerging, it just means fewer of them are picked up. Enter Bryan Gunn and City chief scout Alan Wood.
There are probably a million and one other things that Gunn will have on his plate, but the crux of his appointment is that it is a non-executive team management post that enables the head honcho, Grant, to do what he should be doing: coaching Norwich City players. Gunn has the supply line of talent, Grant picks what he wants without going through all the paperwork.
The theory behind the appointment is sound enough. Now Gunn has to do his part, which might prove harder than he or anyone else envisaged. It's all very well picking up the phone to Steve Bruce and saying, “Morning, Brucie, how about this young centre-half you've got in your ressies then?” Try that with Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho or Rafa Benitez and it isn't going to work. Will it work with Darren Ferguson at Posh? Will it work with Nigel Clough at Burton? Who knows?
Which is why Bryan Gunn, the man who has sold everything that Norwich City has had to offer, from seats in the main stand to executive boxes and a Delia lunch, has to now sell himself. He's got the guts to do it, no doubt - and plenty of practice. This time, it's the biggest test of all.
And while Gunn's selling Norwich, what is Grant getting out of it?
In theory, the system should put him top of the list when it comes to players.
If, indeed, Bruce does have a centre-half Grant fancies, he should be looking on him more favourably than anyone else. That's the theory. But while Gunn is doing his stuff on the end of a telephone until the wee small hours, it gives Grant the time he craves to get out on the training pitches with his players.
To help him, he has two quality coaches in Jim Duffy and Martin Hunter.
Hunter is the interesting one of the quartet, and not just because he's the only non-Scot. Brought in by Nigel Worthington last summer at the expense of Steve Foley, Hunter went for the job that Grant got.
New manager equals new backroom team equals old backroom team out. Keith Webb was the first to go, of his own accord, swapping the role of reserve team manager for first team boss at King's Lynn. A sensible move, bearing in mind Grant's chagrin at the reserve team system in general - and the fact that the hardest part of the job was justifying it.
Doug Livermore was next, a departure that opened the door for what Grant wanted to do. Livermore has a contacts book to envy, but wasn't desk-bound. But when Grant said he wanted him to spend more time in an office and less with coaching, Livermore knew his days were numbered and departed gracefully.
Grant was able to bring in Duffy for Livermore and Gunn, effectively, for Webb - with Hunter staying as first team coach.
The thing with Hunter is that he's qualified up to the gills - you don't go nudging men like him aside for the sake of a birth certificate. Not every team in the Championship has the luxury of an assistant manager as well as a first-team coach, but Duffy and Hunter will also be taking on responsibility of reserve team matches at Carrow Road - and didn't someone once say two heads are better than one? Yes, yes, yes, they also said too many cooks spoil the broth, but Grant is entitled to have the staff his budget allows. And if that means three senior figures in the dug-out, so be it. We're always being told, by anyone who will listen, that City have a playing staff that should be second to none. Well, Grant has now set in place the system he believes will prove that.
If he doesn't, then the responsibility and the blame lies with him.
Grant has pulled few punches since moving into the hot-seat in October, so now the pressure is on. The more time he spends with the players instilling his ideas into them and teaching them good football practise, the less he can criticise them.
Soon, there will be no talk of the team he inherited. They will be his team. And he will stand or fall by them, just as his predecessor did.