Notes for the New Season - Part Eight: Norwich City
Wednesday, 6th Aug 2014 13:00 by HarryFromBath
In the final instalment of a series of pre-season reports, HarryFromBath assesses the mood around the Championship clubs by delving into their forums. Norwich City are under the spotlight in today's notes.
"There does seem to be a strong whiff of a threat of us royally screwing up our best chance to get back up", "It doesn't feel right, does it? I'm really not convinced about the set-up we've put in place and I still cannot believe we've appointed Neil Adams. It's got the feeling of a disaster."
City's pre-season has seen the appointment of a highly inexperienced - albeit committed - first-team manager, a restructuring of the club's football management, including the appointment (and swift departure) of a football consultant, and a European tour which descended on occasion into farce.
Unfinished transfer business is a huge worry. The Canaries have made a number of signings this summer, but feel completely vulnerable to their squad being picked apart by Premier League clubs late in the transfer window, giving them little or no time to bring in adequate replacements and bed them in.
The first major decision made in the pre-season was the appointment of youth team coach Neil Adams as full-time manager on a three-year contract on May 22nd, a choice which deeply angered many Canaries. Many were baffled that Neil Lennon or former player Malky Mackay were not appointed.
"We are all trying to feel positive and not to judge Adams before a ball is kicked, but there is a nagging doubt inside us that wrong decisions have again been made. I'm not going to make negative statements or criticisms, but I can't change what I feel inside."
"I trust Adams. He seems genuine, honest and has Norwich's best interests at heart. Do I believe he will succeed? No, I don't. I still cannot believe he got the job on a full-time basis. I see Bryan Gunn all over again", "He is still effectively learning his trade."
"I think Adams will fall into the trap that many rookie managers have fallen into before. He will play an attacking style of football to get the players and supporters on his side. Doing this with defenders who lack pace is self-destructive."
"Our inexperienced management team will cost us 10 points", "Adams hasn't managed a first team for half-a-dozen games, let alone a full season. I fear he may be out-thought by many wily and canny opposition coaches over the weeks to come. David McNally will rue not attracting an exciting and tested alternative."
The club's chief executive officer has his staunch supporters. "Who helped get Paul Lambert? Who helped get his signings? Who helped keep us in the Premiership for three seasons? Who helped clear our crippling debts?"
However, many Canaries feel that McNally started to lose his touch when Paul Lambert left the club for Aston Villa, some supporters blaming him for Lambert's departure. "We would have flown up the Premier League had Lambert not been forced out by McNally."
McNally is blamed for the appointment of Chris Hughton along with last summer's poor signings. "The club is going backwards and it's like a slow-motion car crash. It started with the appointment of Hughton and it has been a succession of idiotic decisions ever since."
"This is the CEO who said we'd definitely stay up when appointing a youth team manager as first team manager with five games to go", "He's the man who took ages to appoint Adams after relegation, and then told us they had scoured Europe and that he was the best candidate."
"McNally has to ensure he's got it right this season. The club has to hit the ground running. If it does not, the finger is going to be pointed again. If Adams gets it wrong, I suspect McNally will be moved on and wished well."
The Footballing Executive Board
The establishment of a 'footballing executive board', reporting to the main club board, hasn't done a great deal to reassure Canaries. The board consists of Adams, McNally, Ricky Martin (ex-academy manager and now technical director) and Barry Simmonds (head of scouting and recruitment).
"The club has created this whole 'board of football' which is only going to end badly. No manager likes having minimal input in their team", "I could never see Lambert putting up with this interference. If this was happening to that lot down the road, we'd be wetting ourselves."
"All these different roles remind me of the kind of corporate restructuring nonsense I have seen at many companies. People have ill-defined jobs with abstract unmeasurable goals. Six months later someone else comes in, lays everyone off at eye-watering expense and the process starts again."
The credibility of the new board was damaged by the appointment of former ITFC manager Joe Royle as 'football consultant' (although he was not on this new board) in early June, only for him to resign weeks later to take on a youth development role at Everton.
"I came, I saw, I invoiced", "One less cook to spoil the broth", "The situation seems to get more and more confusing by the minute", "Seeing Royle jump ship after one pre-season friendly makes it look as if we were making things up as we go along", "Who do we get now to give Neil Adams the help he has openly admitted to needing?"
"This really is a minor event." Many Canaries are not fussed about the loss of Royle's input. "I'm not concerned about losing Royle, but I am concerned about the shambles this new football board appears to have become."
Royle wasn't the first abortive appointment of the new regime, Town academy coach Steve Foley, who previously worked at Carrow Road under Nigel Worthington, having initially been lined-up to come in as first-team coach before a swift U-turn saw him remain at Playford Road.
Norwich in Europe
"Italy seems a reasonable choice, I suppose." The Canaries' pre-season preparations on the pitch have no less dull. Two opponents on their pre-season tour, Livorno and Novara, cancelled pre-arranged fixtures. "It seems like these Italian clubs don't know they're meant to be playing us."
"Some Italian Blokes 0, Norwich City 13", "So basically, we rounded up a load of lads who were having a kick about at the local park and challenged them to a game. Jumpers for goalposts", "Oh, Lordy, f***ing Lordy!"
The club had to apologise to Italian Serie D side Saint-Christophe Vallee d'Aoste who they claimed to have played and beaten handsomely in a game arranged to replace the Novara fixture. City changed their opponents' name to an "Aosta Regional Select Side" on their website after realising the error.
"I dislike the 'little old Norwich' thing, but this surely smells of very poor back-room work", "This is the biggest pre-season in years and it's a complete shambles. The initial selection of opposition was questionable, but now it's a farce. If this was Ipswich, we would be laughing at them."
Some have seen the funny side. "I've been told by an old codger in the queue today that last night we beat a 'Nice Invitational' side rather than the genuine club side."
City beat a poor OGC Nice team 5-1 since getting back from Italy. "How many people since the 13-0 thing are going to bring this up?"
Five new faces have either appeared or reappeared in the first team squad this summer. Two players loaned out last season, 23-year-old goalkeeper Declan Rudd (at Preston) and 27-year-old central midfielder Andrew Surman (at Bournemouth) have returned.
Two strikers have been signed, 26-year-old Lewis Grabban (from Bournemouth) and 26-year-old Northern Ireland international Kyle Lafferty (from Palermo), while 31-year-old former QPR midfielder Gary O'Neil (who was sent off in QPR's play-off final win against Derby) has arrived on a two-year deal.
Canaries feel that their back four needs strengthening the most. "I would like to see a ball-playing centre-half", "We are desperate to strengthen our defence. We need two centre-backs and cover in right-back."
"I'm all for playing open attacking football, but I'm getting increasingly concerned that our defensive organisation will suffer", "I'm not calling for a return to 'Hughton-ball', but I'm not sure we're placing adequate emphasis on the defensive side of the game."
Three loan signings have departed, defender Joseph Yobo (back to Fenerbahce), striker Johan Elmander (to new club Brondby), and winger Jonas Gutierrez (returning to Newcastle). Midfielder Robert Snodgrass (pictured below) has also joined Hull on a three-year contract for a fee of over £6 million.
"The Snodgrass transfer is an excellent deal. If he played for us, we'd have had to put him on the right wing, and watch him endlessly cut inside."
Canaries were very happy with this deal, but the concern is more about those players who could yet depart.
"I've got this uneasy feeling that once one of our bigger players goes, others will follow", "All we need now is to sell Fer and my fears will start to come true. Who after this? Who after that?", "James McCarthy would have been playing Championship football last season but for a last minute bid from Everton."
Speculative press reports have linked many established players with moves away, recent examples including Alexander Tettey (to Sunderland), Leroy Fer (to Southampton), Gary Hooper (to Villa), Nathan Redmond (to Stoke or Southampton), John Ruddy (to Arsenal) and Martin Olsson (to West Brom).
This is taking its toll. "So much depends on who is still here on September 1st. I have this horrible feeling that we will lose Fer, Hooper, Van Wolfswinkel, Olsson and Ruddy by then", "Our squad could be a lot weaker than it currently is. It's too soon to be counting chickens."
"The next few weeks will be tough. Right now, we have a quality squad that should push hard for automatic promotion with the right mental strength. I should be excited for the season, but we could end up with a very average squad, given the attention our players are attracting."
One player likely to depart is defender Sebastian Bassong. "He's surely not in the frame to stay. It's a shame, but I understand why", "He's not a bad player, but he doesn't have the guts for the fight", "He should never have been considered as captain material."
Ricky Van Wolfswinkel
"I like Ricky. He's a clever player who had a bad season adjusting to an unfamiliar league, and in a team in which everyone struggled for goals", "We need to hold on to Ricky. The guy didn't stand a chance under Hughton", "If Adams gets rid of RvW now, there'll be a riot. There's so much goodwill towards him."
"I have faith that Fer and RvW will both prove to be world class in three years. It would be great to see that happen in a Norwich Jersey", "I'd have loved him to stay and come good, but that's a romantic view. I can't see him coming out on top in a physically more demanding, rough and tough Championship season."
A good number of Canaries want to hold on to a striker who "came to symbolise all that was wrong last season". "Never, in the history of NCFC, has a player cost so much, provided so little, and yet is yearned for by so many", "I cannot think of another Norwich player who has so divided opinion."
Some are more brutal in their assessment. "For Christ's sake, RvW is one of the worst players we've ever had and probably the worst in terms of money spent. Ship him out ASAP", "The bloke has been nothing short of a disaster and has cost us a fortune."
A loan deal for the Dutch striker move to St Etienne was confirmed last night, which not everyone agrees is the best move. "A loan is good but a (£4.75 million) buy-out clause is bad. If he flops in France, he will come back worth almost nothing."
Others feel his departure can help strengthen the squad as a whole: "If letting Ricky go on loan allows Norwich to bring in another defender, then it's probably for the best."
Balance on the Pitch
We will have a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the first XI after their first few league games, but there were some pointers from City's 2-2 draw again against a decent Celta Vigo side. "It was a refreshing change from last season, as City moved the ball forward quickly and attacked with pace."
"We were a bit too lightweight (with Hoolahan and Surman) in midfield, and supply to the strikers dried up as the Spaniards became more dominant", "Celta Vigo walked through the midfield on several occasions in a manner similar to what we saw last season, leaving our defence completely exposed."
"We left open spaces in front of the 18-yard box and let the opposition have time and space on the ball there. It was the hallmark of how we defended last year, allowing teams to shoot on the edge of the box or thread passed through to untracked runners."
"We need more pace in defence. Our new attacking policy is attractive and efficient, but we essentially have the same defence as last year minus Bassong and Yobo."
"We need to be careful we don't get caught with our pants down if these players are to leave. We need to have deals in place for replacements before we sell", "There's a month until the transfer window closes and this could change our expectations plenty."
"We'll make the top six if we keep our players, but finish mid-table if we don't", "Everything comes back to keeping our best players", "Adams seems to be waiting to see the size of the rump that's left once the Premier League boys have taken their bite. Is this how football by committee works?"
"How dark is the heart that beats at Carrow Road." One senses that there is a great deal of unfinished business, and that this goes beyond City's vulnerability in the transfer market. Given the events of the past year, patience could snap if the Canaries fail to make a strong start to the season.
"The main problem will be the first five to 10 games. Many fans aren't happy about last season and aren't particularly inspired with Adams becoming manager. A couple of narrow 1-0 defeats to the likes of Wolves, Ipswich or Bournemouth will see groans of despair and revolt."
There are two busy Norwich City message boards. The Pink 'Un has longer running threads and more in-depth discussion. The brightly coloured Wrath of the Barclay operates in thread mode with a new page created every day.
On Friday, the first set of matchday notes will look at Fulham, our first opponents of the new season.
Photo: Action Images
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