Runners and Riders

Posted by on May 31, 2012 in General | 2 comments

So our lonely eyes turn to a new man. Unknown for now, but hopefully our search for the man to fill Lambert’s shoes won’t run on as long as the interminable searches conducted by Liverpool and Villa. There are plenty of names being thrown about, some serious contenders, some jokers, some outlandish suggestions. Analysis and thoughts of all await…

Malky Mackay

The bookies favourite, the nominative front-runner, the former Carrow Road legend. An appointment that would provide consistency of style; dour Scot replaces dour Scot. Malky has had an impressive start to his managerial career, beginning with Watford before moving on to Cardiff. At the Hornets he imposed a stylish brand of football on a team with precious few resources, continued their tradition of trusting and promoting youth, and got a team many felt were destined for relegation to be comfortable in the Championship. It wasn’t long before he was touted for a move (including to us when Lambert was making eyes at Burnley), but it was to Cardiff he went, where he has again done well. The team was haemorrhaging players and he rebuilt on a budget, with some key free signings and shrewd moves. Cardiff made a good fist of it under his first season, doing better than many expected by landing in the playoffs, but here they were completely uninspiring in defeat to West Ham.

In Mackay’s favour he’s got connections to Norwich, likes to play good football (though this was notably lacking in the playoffs), is young, hungry and possesses all the qualities we would normally look for in a player. He’s got a lot to prove. The problem is, he hasn’t actually proved a lot so far. Solid but not spectacular jobs at Watford and Cardiff do not a Premier League manager make, and it remains to be seen whether he’s got enough about him to make the step up. It is fair to say he is the main front runner on the basis of his Norwich connections – CV wise, he is just part of the pack.

Chris Hughton

In a similarly strong position with both bookies and fans, Hughton has proved more in his short managerial career than Malky but may cost more to attain. He was notably high on WBA’s managerial shortlist but they seemed to baulk at the reported £2m compensation that Birmingham would require. It remains to be seen whether this would be a stumbling block to Norwich.

Hughton’s shown his ability to get teams promoted from the Championship, sending Newcastle up at the first attempt and managing them fine in the Premier League before his unceremonious sacking. He landed at Birmingham where he not only turned them around in style, but landed them in the playoffs in a season where they had an incredible turnover of players and well over 60 games due to their Europa League commitments. He handles himself with class and dignity, has clearly learned a lot over the years and is taking his chance now he has it. Probably more prepared for top flight football than Malky, but as stated, more costly to attain.

Steve Bruce

Don’t even get me started. A manager of choice for clubs who are happy to potter about mid-table playing crap football. Bruce has as many loyalty issues as Lambert and is only even this high up the reckoning because of his Norwich connections. Not a serious contender in anyone’s eyes but bookmakers who will make plenty of money from fools who bet on him.

Lee Clark

An interesting shout – laid the foundations of a successful Huddersfield team before being sacked earlier in the season, allowing Simon Grayson to come in and finish the job. Clarke has experience at Carrow Road after his stint as Roeder’s number two, and looks a talented young manager, but again this switch may be too early. He is still yet to prove anything, has only managed at League One, spent a lot of money to just miss out on promotion, and for all the plaudits that came his way for their undefeated streak, there were plenty of Huddersfield fans who pointed at his acceptance of drawing games rather than risking all to win as key to them not going up. I’m unsure whether such an approach would sit well at Carrow Road.

Gus Poyet

Another up and coming young manager who’s done well down at Brighton, taking them up from League One and flirting with the Championship playoffs. At the Seagulls he has instituted an interesting brand of football – attacking with the ball, petulant and dirty without. Brighton have become renowned over the last few seasons for their red cards, their antics on the pitch and the problems they have had with referees. Teams are often build in the image of their manager, and personally it isn’t a style I want to see.

Ian Holloway

Not for me. He’s doing great at Blackpool and has made some shrewd signings to show his ability to work within a tight budget, but his centre-of-attention style, love of a press conference and microphone and tendency to embarrass himself make him someone I like at other clubs but would not like at our own. On top of this, his style of football is a recipe for disaster at this level. Our problems with defending were evident last year but it would be a step back to go to a manager with even less care for the art.

Ian Culverhouse

Likely to go with Lambert to Villa along with Gary Karsa. An interesting shout if he’s willing to be considered, and he’s spoken of his willingness to get into management himself in the future. He’s known as the tactical genius of the duo and would likely be the appointment that breeds the most consistency. Unlikely, though. Swears a lot too.

Roberto Di Matteo

Could we replace one Champions League winner with another? No, probably not. He also didn’t do very well in the Premier League with West Brom, didn’t do very well in the league with Chelsea and won a couple of admittedly hard to win cups. Not belittling his achievements, and I think he deserves a shot with Chelsea longer term, but I wonder about his ability in the trench war that is a relegation fight.

Alan Shearer

Fuck off.

Mick McCarthy

Another journeyman lower half bog standard stuck in the past boss. Honest, good bloke, but not the sort I would want Norwich to go for. Too much of a throwback to the past, completely lost the dressing room in his last weeks at Wolves, looked unable to motivate. A perennial relegation battler.

Paolo di Canio

Would probably upset Simeon Jackson or Leon Barnett.

Alan Curbishley

Believes his own hype after doing well with Charlton for so long. Hopefully Delia will have long forgotten her Charlton-model quote because Alan has been out of management for a few years, turning down perfectly good jobs at home and abroad and waiting for just the right one that he thinks is good enough for him. Did averagely at West Ham. Uninspiring.

Rafa Benitez

Wants a project – where better? He wants back in England, he wants to get back in the game, and we’re now a Premier League club with a large fanbase and room to grow. It’s the sort of project that should make the sly old viper lick his lips with relish. Currently around 16/1.

Andres Villas-Boas

Last year he suggested that Paul Lambert had a good imagination. If only we knew the depths of Lambert’s imaginarium… claret and blue wallpapered castles, gold lions, relics of silverware from glorious days long gone. The decaying days… anyway. Villas-Boas, who clearly has no imagination but makes up for it with his groin of steel, still has a lot to prove after failing pretty miserably at Chelsea. Without any old guard desperately clinging onto their jobs at Carrow Road (apart from Delia) he would have free reign to mould a team into his own dour, humourless image.

Pep Guardiola

Some might say he’s a natural successor to Lambert – tactically astute, able to get the best from players, a supreme motivator. Understood that he wants to take a couple of months out before getting back into the game with a new challenge, and upping sticks to the Catalonia of England, Norfolk, could be just the ticket to reinvigorate his love for football. The chance to see his use of Holt as a ‘false nine’, to use the supremely talented Wessi instead of Messi, all of this would appeal to the Spaniard. I know it.

Ray Wilkins

My word.


  1. So it’s down to two in your view, Malky and Hughton. I see Hughton also shades it in the voting on the Pink’Un site, and your review makes a strong case for him. If we get 1 million for Lambert (interesting how even McNally couldn’t get PL off a rolling contract that allows him to walk away damn nearly for free), that’s 1 million more to get Hughton. Not a lot, considering what’s at stake.

    I saw Culverhouse also as the vote for continuity, but was struck by your last comment of ‘swears a lot too’, since that had also crossed my mind as being the downside of him – meaning really that I am not sure he has the sophistication that the role of a Premier League manager requires to deal with the high profile of the position. It seems more likely he will follow Lambert again, at least once more.

    See Lennon’s name in the frame too this morning. Not sure where that comes from. Hughton would be reassuring. We don’t have the team yet that we need for next season either, so we need a replacement – the right one – soon too

  2. Don’t panic! Or, to paraphrase a locally popular slogan, ‘Keep Calm and Cash in on Grant Holt’. Funny old business football – it’s all about managing change, and the key figure in all of this is the master change-manager and Norwich CEO David McNally.

    As you’ve already said elsewhere, he is the most important person for NCFC to hang onto. Don’t forget that he recruited Lambert, and in both football and business terms he has not put a foot wrong since the necessarily ruthless, similarly controversial sacking of Bryan Gunn. In McNally We Should Trust! For the moment anyway… you can’t really trust anyone in football, after journalism the most cynical industry in the history of the world.

    It’s easy to say this now, but I actually suspect the Lambert regime may have gone about as far as it was going to at Norwich. He himself has aged incredibly in 3 years (look at the photos); by all accounts his personal life has not thrived. He quite clearly doesn’t like the Premier-thingy hoo-haa, fan hysteria and media hype (and I wonder how he’ll cope with it at a ‘bigger club’). Without big transfer/salary money he was never going to take NC onto ‘the next level’.

    There were just a few games this season, especially towards the end, where the fabled motivational skills and tactical astuteness looked like they might be running dry. As it is, he leaves behind a strong if cost-effectively assembled squad of players, who have learned as much as he has from a season in the Premier League. It’s still them who do ‘the business’ on the pitch… I just hope Lambert doesn’t splash Randy Lerner’s dollars on Howson and the Bennetts!

    There’s also a really good financial argument (spelt out very well by ‘savvy monkey’ on Vital Norwich) for letting Lambert go. This includes the critical point, which I hadn’t realized, that NCFC’s ‘external debt’ of £10m-plus must be cleared this year, thereby reducing this summer’s transfer funds to a few million but making the club ‘debt-free’ for the first time in many many years. This is not a bad position for the club (if not Paul Lambert) to be in, especially in times of austerity. Compare to newly relegated Bolton, over £100m in debt, and surely in strict business terms (not that these seem to apply to football, weirdly) bankrupt.

    It also compares well to Mr. Lambert’s new club, which also owes over £100m, with a Yankee owner fast losing patience (and just possibly credit-worthiness). The fact of the matter is that Lambert has been told he can spend more of other people’s money at Villa than he can at Norwich, but I do wonder whether those ‘promises’ will turn out to be quite so solid. On that basis alone it seems a strange career choice. PL’s ‘ambition’ may well turn out better for NCFC than for him! There are reasons ‘sleeping giants’ go to sleep!

    While I’m at it, I would also argue that it makes good business sense to cash in on Grant Holt, who has just had what will prove to be the best season of his career. How about a straight swap for the so far under-performing Ipswich old boy Conor Wickham at Sunderland, or even the disaffected Charles N’Zogbia at Villa? Swap Chris Martin and Vaughan plus a couple of million for Klyne and Zaha at Palace and it starts to look really exciting! A nice bright young team for Malky Mackay to push towards the top six (and wouldn’t it be nice to finish above Villa?)

    As Bob Dylan said a long time ago, ‘Don’t Look Back’ (before proceeding to spend the rest of his career doing just that!) We’ve had a great three years with Lambert and Culverhouse (I’m not so bothered about his swearing, but number twos very rarely make good managers) and Karza – but it’s time to move on!

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