Who is running Canaries' show now?
PUBLISHED: 11:17 18 May 2009 | UPDATED: 13:56 03 July 2010
So. What happens now? As the dust settles on a pretty momentous week at Carrow Road, just where are we at? Well, Neil Doncaster's out. Roger Munby's out.
So. What happens now? As the dust settles on a pretty momentous week at Carrow Road, just where are we at? Well, Neil Doncaster's out. Roger Munby's out. David Marshall's out. Lee Croft's nearly out. Others are on their way.
Bryan Gunn is in.
So at least we know who's running the playing side of things, even if it's not to everybody's liking.
But just who is running the football club? And how?
The departures of chief executive Doncaster and chairman Munby leaves a board of directors that numbers just four - Delia Smith, her husband and joint majority shareholder Michael Wynn Jones, Michael Foulger and, for the time being, Munby. It's sufficient to function, but Munby is simply making up the numbers - he wasn't there for Bryan Gunn's press conference on Wednesday so, effectively, it's a three-man board without a chairman.
So who's running the place? According to Wynn Jones, they are all “working together, coming to decisions” and it's not a problem.
But memories of the failures of recent seasons and the managerial appointments that went horribly wrong won't go away and every fan is entitled to want answers to some important questions.
Perhaps the people best qualified to provide them have departed on the back of extreme pressure and extreme criticism - and with a confidentiality clause in their release papers.
Doncaster, aka Doomcaster to many fans, was the mouthpiece of Norwich City Football Club. Invariably, when board members attended public meetings with fans, he was there, ready to take the flak or answer the more difficult questions. Before games he was often seen with a clipboard walking around the ground, checking everything was shipshape and Bristol fashion, answering fans' questions, sometimes facing up to their vitriol. He answered emails, although in hindsight it might not have been a good move: as one close observer said: “When you're being paid £100 an hour you shouldn't be having an online argument with Angry Yellow from Swaffham.”
He wasn't particularly liked by many fans, who saw him as officious and too straight: on the back window of his car after the defeat at Charlton someone had left some flowers and an “in memoriam” card. It wasn't clear how sinister the message really was, but what is certain is that many blame Doncaster for City's demise.
So who is Neil Doncaster and why did he become public enemy number one?
Born in Devon, but brought up in Croydon, he studied law at Bristol University, watched Bristol City, and remained in the west country, working as a company commercial solicitor with Burges Salmon and advising on the flotation of Bolton Wanderers.
In November, 1997, he joined Norwich City as company secretary and solicitor, two years later was appointed head of operations and, in 2001, chief executive.
Doncaster worked under seven permanent managers, from Mike Walker, through Bruce Rioch, Bryan Hamilton, Nigel Worthington, Peter Grant, Glenn Roeder and Bryan Gunn.
One, still mulling over a transfer deal that almost went wrong because of lack of funds, once said Doncaster slept with a violin on his pillow.
But his tenure in the hot seat coincided with City's fall from grace, and for that the fans were unforgiving.
From the astute loan deals that brought in Darren Huckerby and Peter Crouch, City have lurched to relegation on the back of a staggering 17 temporary deals - and now, far too late, a vow never to repeat the exercise in such huge numbers.
The money from promotion and the sale of players like Robert Green and Dean Ashton was largely spent on salaries for players whose wages were rapidly rising. One of Doncaster's regular tasks was to try and convince disbelieving fans that the money wasn't being frittered away - and that despite other clubs apparently operating on shoestring budgets or bringing in big-name investors, City were still trying their hardest to improve the financial side. Doncaster was instrumental in steering the club through the collapse of the ITV Digital deal and raising money through the securitisation deal which enabled major and necessary redevelopment of Carrow Road. Nice ground, shame about the team.
The impression was that City were being left behind, that the core value of finding success on the field was being sacrificed for soft seats and appetising menus - and that it was all being reflected in the increasingly lowly league position. The truth may be that City didn't take the enormous gambles that some others have taken. Doing a Leeds was not on the agenda, nor was administration. Did Birmingham win promotion via “prudence with ambition”? Of course not. Had they failed, it might have been disastrous.
The answer that “there isn't a queue of people with money waiting to invest in football” didn't sit well with many.
But it's a long way from the heady heights of the summer of 2004, when City were preparing for the Premier League having romped to the old First Division summit, to the bottom rungs of the Championship and the invitation letter to League One.
And it's the manner of that journey which led to Doncaster's departure.
Doncaster never lost his temper in public - “when you're trained in law you are trained to stand up to criticism” - but two major events of the past year tested his personal resources.
The first came last summer when insurance tycoon Peter Cullum offered the club £20m in return for becoming the majority shareholder. The offer was rejected, leaving fans furious that a club that desperately needed investment was looking a gift horse in the mouth.
But Doncaster steadfastly maintained that no one has ever offered to buy the club from Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones and, privately, shakes his head at the effects of the Cullum Affair. Publicly he won't talk about it - his legal brain no doubt conscious of the side-effects. But it rankles.
Then there was relegation - and the reaction of the fans which was as effective as the words P45 written on a wall.
The angry reception he faced at the fans' forum a day after the drop was confirmed clearly hurt. It's hard to think of anyone who would have felt otherwise.
But Doncaster already knew what was coming - someone had to pay for relegation and he was one of the two most obvious candidates.
The fact that he fronted up on a day when he could so easily have taken himself out of the firing line is commendable. The same applies to Munby.
It was the last sighting of both of them. City had failed the fans - and for that they had to go.
And that brings us back to the top - who's running the show?
None of the remaining directors has ever shown a willingness to lead from the front and with seats to be filled around the boardroom table the assumption is that new faces will be charged with stepping into the firing line.
And that's when we might start getting some answers.
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