Cory Varney doesn't quite see where things are going long term for Norwich City. As such he has some fun hypothesising about potential visions for the future.
Norwich City Football Club are stuck between a rock and a hard place. An ageing squad, wavering in their abilities, taking home chunky salaries and proving difficult to offload, added to a manager who seems to have gradually lost his way following the 6-2 defeat to Newcastle last season. A growing majority of fans and local media alike believe he should no longer be in employment and if anything, events on the pitch seem as if they’re just going to get worse before it gets better. City are struggling to put together any sort of run of results and the play-offs are steadily disappearing over the horizon, going the way of the top two
Off the pitch, we have a board approaching this football club in a seemingly idealistic manner, admirable though ultimately foolish considering the modern-day way of football and rapidly losing the trust of their supporters.
It’s January and things may look rosier by the end of the window, but after that wretched run, a trio of false dawns have come and gone and it’s difficult for supporters to keep the faith. So, with that in mind, where the hell do Norwich go next?
The rock and the hard place. The rock is this season. If you apply pure, raw logic to things; you change the manager, take sentiment and idealism out of it, and think a new man may be able to rejuvenate a play-off charge. It doesn’t always work like that of course but by the same token, for Alex Neil to galvanise this pack of pretenders into an upwardly mobile side after the past few months would be quite some feat. Instead, we find ourselves having to sell to buy this transfer window, allied to a board quiet as a mouse though seemingly sticking with their man, and a growing number of supporters questioning whether they really want to renew their season ticket. Not a happy place.
The hard place is the future. Laying all cards on the table and trying to look long-term, is going up this season the answer? In terms of a long-term project, it’s potentially not the best outcome. Obviously the financial rewards of the Premier League and Norwich’s lack of financial clout mean promotion (promotion, promotion) is an absolute necessity. However, if the club truly want to sustain themselves at the top level without the backing of a filthy rich businessman, the need to build is key. Whether Alex Neil deserves to oversee the revamp or not is another discussion, but regardless, it needs to start now.
If Norwich go up with this group of players (unlikely but still possible), they will come straight back down again. We need something different. We need something more.
By all accounts there’s a whole host of players out of contract soon, so this summer appears an ideal opportunity to cut our losses and try to rebuild. Players will jump ship, some deservedly, some less so, but that’s football.
We need to look to younger, hungrier players and hopefully blend them with some quality and experience – as you’d hope we won’t quite lose everyone – but nonetheless, we need to build long-term and there are encouraging signs from the results of our U23’s. Don’t get me wrong, promotion this season would be fantastic, who wouldn’t love another day at Wembley with Alex Neil stood before the Canary faithful triumphant and heroic once more. But if we’re trying to be patient, trying to really consider what can bring sustainability for Norwich City, then it’s the long game.
If the board are keeping faith with Alex Neil, that’s possibly how they’re seeing it too. That’s not to say it’s the right way to go about things, nor that Alex Neil should still be in a job – but it might just be their rationale.
The only issue however, is that it’s difficult to trust that Norwich have the right people at the club to oversee an effective rebuild. The current recruitment set-up, although changing face regularly recently, hasn’t yielded anywhere near the kind of players required. Ricky Martin stinks of a little old Norwich appointment, whereas you’d suspect a club with more ambition would look externally and try to properly address the seemingly obvious concerns. Maybe Ricky will prove to be the answer, but it’s a gamble and possibly not a calculated one.
Instead we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place, fans losing hope, a board and manager losing support and a future which while, admittedly is still uncertain, really doesn’t feel like one to get excited about.