IT’S BEYOND TIME, NORWICH HAVE TO BE CRUEL TO BE KIND

17/01/17

It's time. We all know it's time. But is the fact the board are failing to call last orders at the bar going to end up in Alex Neil becoming a drunken mess? Jon Punt thinks it may well do.... Alex Neil - it's time.

In among all the recent negativity surrounding the club, at Along Come Norwich we have tried to keep our powder relatively dry. Some of that is because we don't share the hard line entrenched views that everything is as terrible as is made out. OK, it is bad, but it is not Roeder bad, yet. Some of it is simply that by reaffirming the groundswell of opinion you merely feed the impending sense of doom.

It's easy to write a piece calling for someone's head on a stick or asserting the board is incompetent without providing your reasons why. It will certainly get you the desired amount of retweets, new followers or likes if that's what you're after.Potentially though, it's not all that constructive and doesn't contribute meaningfully to the wider debate. Nobody knows what really goes on behind closed doors and in the same way speculating about players who have or haven't "turned City down" when we may not have even been in for them is pointless, complaining about the supposed reasons for a lack of action without knowing the full ins and outs is equally futile.

We're beyond that now though. Forget the in or out debate, it's not relevant anymore. All reason and logic points to a timely end for Alex Neil, you won't find a girl in the pub or a guy on the street who back him. Almost no-one is left to fight his corner, well apart from the 2 or 3 obvious people.

The club's deterioration has been excruciatingly swift. It's been documented, you all know about it, in short it's not worth boring you with the cold hard reality. However, the board's remarkable failure or refusal to now act is as surprising as the fact Mark Lawrenson has successfully held down a lengthy career in broadcasting. It's about as unfunny as the man himself too.

Unfortunately the board's lack of timely action serves to perpetuate the myth they don't care, are clueless, or just interested in the money. That's clearly nonsense, but they're not exempt from criticism, far from it.

Delia, MWJ, and Moxey's pet project is spiralling out of control in front of their very eyes. It's just a shame they don't see the necessity to take a trip to the vets and do the honourable thing. Just like keeping that cat or dog you've loved for years alive, the stark reality is this loyalty, belligerence or even blindness could ultimately be painstakingly cruel on the manager himself.

When appointed in January 2014 Neil's stock was already on a sharp rise. His record at Hamilton may have been unknown to most Norwich fans but it's probable a number of clubs' chief executives across the country had him firmly on their radar. Kudos to McNally for taking the risk, a calculated gamble but one he did from an informed position.

What followed for the next 12 months was majestic. From Championship also-rans to mid table in the Premier League is no mean feat and all at the tender age of 34. It's convenient to now forget, but Neil was then correctly being lauded as one of the next big things in club management. Perhaps the trajectory was too rapid. Perhaps he wasn't ready. Perhaps it was a step too far. Perhaps we'll never know, but persisting with him helps no-one.

His terminal decline is now in the midst of the medics calling for the defibrillator while anxious faces switch from ECG monitor to clock as they prepare to call time of death. It might help if there was a sudden hospital power cut. Alex isn't the man to electroshock us back into life anymore.

What Neil has become is a manager who'll struggle to gain employment in the second tier once his time is finally called. A continuation of his tenure will prove just as hurtful to the man's career as it does to Norwich City's Premier League aspirations. His reputation to those outside Norfolk isn't in tatters yet, but prolonging the inevitable brings with it that risk.

And what of the personal damage it will do? His demeanour in post-match interviews is becoming more withdrawn with every passing match. That inner bullishness which created a wave of positivity which swept from Kings Lynn to Great Yarmouth is now gone. The players don't look as together, individual errors continue to occur and the recent lack of discipline has been alarming. Neil is an intelligent enough character to realise most of that stems from a lack of proper leadership. Once that penny drops its probable self doubt comes with it. It's quite conceivable he now knows the task is beyond him, the situation irretrievable. What good does it possibly do him to lurch from week to week, knowing his side's collective failures continue to nail his coffin?

Consider for a moment the curious case of Nigel Worthington.You know, that unassuming chap who took Norwich out of the doldrums and to the play-off final. He then presided over a dominant First Division title winning team and should have left to fanfare rather than pent up frustration. And where did it ultimately leave him? Spells at Leicester, Northern Ireland and York City were to follow but he never had the same swagger and was destined for failure once his confidence was irreversibly rugby tackled out of him indirectly by Gary Doherty. At the age of 55, when managers are considered to be in their prime years, he's exploring the North Norfolk wilderness. It would be compassionate of the board to try and ensure Alex Neil doesn't suffer the same fate, especially if Delia and MWJ are to be believed when they state their genuine affection for him.

Ultimately, the Carrow Road hierarchy have only usually taken the hard decisions after a full showing of supporter dissatisfaction at home. See Worthy, see Hughton, in some ways see Gunn (the 7-1 was the trigger). Wouldn't it be horrible if a certain Mr Lambert is the catalyst for it? Come on Norwich, it's well beyond time, you now have to be cruel to be kind.

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