Canaries consider future after Grant departure

October 12, 2007
By Robert Romans, Norwich Correspondent
(Archive)

Loftus Road hasn't been the happiest of away trips for Norwich City in recent times. In October 2005, following a 3-0 defeat, the first murmurs of discontent surrounding then manager Nigel Worthington began to develop. Roughly a year later, Norwich returned to Loftus Road two weeks after Worthington's dismissal and got a 3-3 draw. Sitting in the stands that afternoon was his successor Peter Grant. A year later, Grant's reign came to a halt following another pathetic performance at the same ground.

Peter Grant
Empics / AdamDavyPeter Grant: Manager parted company with Norwich City

I have a fair amount of respect for Peter Grant; his passion and desire could never be doubted, and equally his desire to do well at Norwich City meant a lot of supporters warmed to him. Grant talked a good game and his management and attitude, at first, was to the appetite of some people. During pre-season, Grant appeared to have done a decent job in removing some of the poorer players from the ranks and replacing them with his own signings. In particular David Marshall from Celtic was a coup and Jon Otsemobor has proved to be a shrewd acquisition. It's just a shame that the others he signed are yet to convince anyone.

In recent times, when things went wrong, Grant would blame certain people and often, everyone except himself. It had become obvious that Grant's methods were not working and that he had lost the dressing room; a team doesn't go on an impotent run in front of goal and fail to score in 9 hours of football if things are fine.

In fairness, following the 1-0 loss at QPR on Monday night, Grant admitted that he was considering his position. 'I want to take this club forward but I have to ask myself if I am the right man to take it forward.' He said. 'The same people who gave me the job will be the ones who get rid of me. That's fine - I understand that but I've had no indication and no one will need to tell me.'

Grant did the honourable thing by resigning - it's a shame that his predecessor was arrogant enough to believe he was untouchable. Nigel Worthington stated that he wasn't going to resign, even during the post-match interview following his final game in charge. Further, he still believed that he was the right man to turn things around. Grant's honesty was one thing I found refreshing.

Last September, following a pathetic 3-1 defeat at Plymouth, the Norwich board released a statement demanding an instant improvement. They didn't get it. Worthington should have gone eleven months before that forgettable afternoon in Devon. Following the 2-0 defeat to Wolves at Molineux on the 22nd of September, the Norwich Chief Executive Neil Doncaster released a statement to the press that the board was monitoring the progress of the first team and, similar to the statement the board released after the Plymouth fiasco, demanded an improvement.

Why the board never took such action with Nigel Worthington when it was obvious that he'd taken the club as far as he could (November 2005) baffled many. Frankly, it's to be expected of a board that lack knowledge of how to run a football club.

Considering the way the football club has been run, from a football point of view, something is seriously wrong. Following our promotion to the Premiership in 2004, a lot of clubs viewed Norwich City as the club to emulate; this is no longer the case. If the recent decline of Norwich City football club is considered, the appointment of Peter Grant was the latest in a line of errors made by the board.

Mike Walker had a forgettable and unsuccessful second spell as Norwich City manager, but was sacked after two successive 5-0 victories. Next up was Delia Smith's ill-fated 'dream team' of Bruce Rioch and Bryan Hamilton, which, unsurprisingly, became the 'nightmare team': Rioch walked out in frustration in 2000 and was replaced by the hapless Bryan Hamilton. Hamilton lasted until November that year when he resigned following a dreadful start to the season and losing the support of the players (sound familiar?).

The board had made a succession of bad managerial appointments; therefore, it came as no surprise that no one wanted Nigel Worthington to replace Hamilton. Worthington steadied the ship, kept the club in the Championship and got the club promoted to the Premiership within three years before things went wrong.

When the club was promoted, Delia Smith basically said that the club was there for the ride - so what about the ambition, or the determination to stay up? Or did that go down the drain with the rest of the board's decision making when the fixture list for the 2004/05 season was posted on the boardroom wall? Delia's comments had the club relegated before a ball had been kicked.

The following March, when Norwich were drawing 2-2 with Manchester City having been 2-0 up, Delia walked onto the pitch at half-time and gave that infamous 'lets be 'aving you!' speech. Whilst it is nice to see the Premiership isn't a soulless wasteland void of passion, Delia's comments were embarrassing and compounded the mess the club had made of the Premiership season, from the boardroom down to Worthington's dug out. By this point, Norwich were marooned in the bottom three of the league and had shown barely any signs of attempting to mount a fight for survival; taking until November to win the first game tells you everything you need to know.

April came and a surprise 2-0 over Manchester United sufficed and Norwich went on a run, thus taking their battle for survival to the final day of the season, only for the club to inflict one last humiliation on the fans: a 6-0 defeat at Fulham which confirmed relegation to the Championship. When talking to the Match of the Day cameras following the game, Delia stated that we should take heart from the fact that West Bromwich Albion stayed up because it could give us hope. No Delia, what would have given us hope is if the club had showed some ambition the previous summer and not waited until April to make a proper attempt at survival.

That afternoon at Craven Cottage is where I believe the rot began and is something the club has never recovered from. The summer of 2005, following relegation, was one the fans hoped would deliver promise, but instead delivered stagnation. Players inevitably went and Worthington replaced them with the worst crop of summer signings I have witnessed. Further to this, average players brought in such as Peter Thorne, whom was a 32-year-old injury-plagued player, was given an £8,000-a-week contract. What great business, considering Thorne barely played and spent most of the time injured and never looked remotely interested when he played.

Putting average players on big contracts was one financial failing of the board; the other was allowing Nigel Worthington to splash lots of money on loan signings, who were just about as successful as the players he originally brought in, to rectify the damage. The 2005/06 season got off to a bad start and by October, following some inept performances and bad results, the fans started to turn on Nigel Worthington.

The 'Worthington out' chants began and it became obvious to the fans that he had to go. However, the board thought differently and continued to offer blind devotion to Worthington. It was this decision that has really angered fans; if Worthington had been sacked last summer, or before, like should have been a new manager could have been appointed and had a perfect opportunity to build his own team. Worthington was sacked in October 2006 and walked off with a £600,000 pay off - not bad for a failed employee, but again, another financial error by the board.

With Worthington gone, the club was in a bad position and it was obvious that an experienced manager had to be brought in. Out of all the names mentioned, Mark Bowen, former Norwich player and Blackburn Rovers assistant manager, Peter Grant and Dave Penney, the former manager of Doncaster Rovers were interviewed. Grant got the job ahead of Penney, who had dragged Doncaster Rovers from the bottom of the Conference and turned them into League One promotion contenders.

Neil Doncaster, the Norwich chief executive refused to admit that the board had made the wrong appointment when Grant parted company with the club this week.

'He had a wealth of experience as a coach and serious top level experience as a player. Very many people were excited about what he brought to the party,' remarked Doncaster.

Well, Mr Doncaster, Grant may have had these attributes, but did he have the necessary qualities the club needed? No. Grant may have been a good coach, but was he the experienced manager the fans were crying out for? No. With the benefit of hindsight, the board made the wrong appointment.

A palpable sense of decline is obvious; sales of players in the summer, which in one case, was to be expected and outbursts from Darren Huckerby about various things ranging from player sales to the ability of his team-mates creates unrest. The board must take the blame for this.

When Nigel Worthington needed a striker following the sale of Dean Ashton, the board agreed, out of sheer desperation, to insert a clause in Robert Earnshaw's contract so that not only would he join us, he could leave for a bargain price. Secondly, the manner in which Dickson Etuhu left the club, which was similar to Earnshaw's departure, left a bad taste in the mouths of the fans and left many wondering if the board could conduct transfer negotiations with an ounce of intelligence.

I backed Peter Grant - like the board - but I learnt over time that he was the wrong choice. I pay my money to watch to the team and I have expectations too, as do the board. The board claim to be Norwich fans and very well might be, but they have to get decisions right and do what is best for the football club. Given what has happened over the last three years, a lot of questions have to be asked of the board and their ability to run a football club.

With Grant gone, the board now have to appoint a proven manager or risk further malaise. Norwich City football club is in a lot of trouble and radical steps have to be taken to avoid further decline. Following the defeat at Wolves, Neil Doncaster said the fans deserved better than having to watch performances like that (a performance seen by many as the worst in the history of the club).

The fans also deserve to see the club make the right decisions and appoint someone who knows what they are doing and is a proven manager. It's either that or League One.


• If you have comments on this article then email the author Robert Romans

• Read more from all Soccernet Correspondents here.