Connor Southwell: The city’s search for a successor to Smith is unique and intriguing

Sacking a head coach isn’t an immediate silver bullet to fix a club’s woes – but Norwich City hope it brings some momentum.

Dean Smith’s departure was ultimately inevitable. After a board meeting held on Tuesday morning in the aftermath of the defeat at Luton, Stuart Webber was given the autonomy to make the decision. He did it quickly.

Football is brutal. It moves at lightning speed. The conversation had already turned away from Smith and to who was coming next.

Smith’s tenure at Norwich of more than 13 months was supposed to be a change in the narrative – it proved to be only in the end.

This leaves Norwich City with a curious decision to make – what, and precisely who, will come next?

Farke’s sacking was a concession that his ideology was not transferable to the Premier League’s ruthlessness. Unwilling to change his style to endure the difficulties in this department, the coach pushed the hierarchy to change—eventually, he abandoned his style altogether.

In this regard, the rationale behind hiring Smith was stacked. He has managed in the Premier League and helped keep the club there against all odds.

But the timing of his arrival at Norwich, just over a week after leaving Aston Villa, and the scale of the task at hand always felt hard to comprehend.

Smith faced the perfect storm in Norwich that built up until toxicity escalated – some of the reasons why this was neither his fault nor under his control. He did not benefit from the letters and foreign contacts that his predecessor had acquired over the course of four years.

He was a pragmatist determined to bring some Premier League structure to Norwich. In fact, I never felt like it fit either party.

But that leaves Norwich’s search for a head coach in a curious position.

Do they return to the ideological coach or continue the path of pragmatism? Both cases have real pros and cons that come with them.

This was perhaps the most intriguing line in Norwich’s official statement: ‘The club will now work to identify and appoint a new head coach capable of delivering the level of performance required for the challenge at the end of the league whilst implementing a consistent style of play.

This was an acknowledgment of fans’ frustrations – but also signaled a potential change of gear from the path Smith has taken.

But “consistent style” doesn’t necessarily refer to a Farke clone or a possession-based coach. Sean Dyche has consistent style. Chris Wilder has a consistent style. Russell Martin has a consistent style. However, everyone is contradictory in how they make up their teams.

Others on the list have real flaws – Scott Parker has achieved promotion from the Championship twice with Fulham and Bournemouth but has faced criticism for his lack of playing style and then the Cherries board has been publicly criticized for their lack of resources. This does not sound like someone who wants the financial constraints the Norwich position would bring.

Daichi has made no secret of his desire to give himself a window to see if a return to the Premier League is possible. No wonder the former Burnley man could be linked with the Everton job should Frank Lampard be sacked.

Ralph Hasenhuttl is well liked, but convincing him to join Norwich at this moment is complicated. Kjetil Knutsen has been dismissing suggestions he would leave Bodo/Glimt for Rangers last month, such as his commitment to the project in Norway having recently penned a new deal – in fact, switching his current role with Carrow Road seems unrealistic.

Norwich must now decide which direction they want to go – and hire a coach to deliver that plan.

There may have been a misconception that Norwich fans craved a brand of possession-based football – but in reality, it’s just a coherent plan and something they believe in.

The names of the hikers for a moment, the profile of the coach to be targeted will be interesting to watch the days and weeks ahead.

The Pink Un: Norwich City are looking for a successor to Dean Smith after he was sacked on Tuesday.Norwich City are looking for a successor to Dean Smith after he was sacked on Tuesday. (Photo: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited)

A shortlist has already been drawn up – but several complicating factors make the search more difficult.

The first is financial.

Norwich would struggle to pay any compensation to a head coach working in this country without some creative economics or a nudge from director Mark Attanasio.

However, clubs often find a way to complete deals if they want to, so although it seems tricky at this point, it shouldn’t be completely ruled out as a possible avenue.

Norwich could potentially look abroad, where compensation fees and coaches’ wages are usually lower, and coaches out of work – thus removing that complication entirely.

Another factor to watch out for is the change in regulations brought about by Brexit which means that, in theory, Norwich will not be able to field a manager with similar credentials to FARC.

Indeed, under the existing rules, Norwich were unable to bring Fark to Norwich. It limits their options in the European market, but opens up others in South America and Asia, as they have been faced with recruiting their own players.

But such appointments would come with a higher threshold of risk – with Stuart Webber maintaining that hope remains of a return to the Premier League, it will be about appointing someone who can make an immediate and lasting impact. There are success stories, see Ange Postecoglou at Celtic who arrived from Japan, but it’s a market that English clubs have been somewhat unexplored.

This is a big period for the sporting director at Norwich. It was the decision to dismiss Farek. Hiring Smith and moving away from the approach that had proven successful for four years, in terms of playing style rather than individuality, was his calling.

There is pressure on his shoulders after questionable hiring decisions and accusations of severing contact between the fans and those at the club’s top spot.

For these reasons, this is an appointment he should get right. For Norwich City but also for his own career.

The stakes are high – the options are, in a sense, limited, and the choices for the next boss feel seismic.

It is not just the improvement on the field that the new head coach will have to oversee, it is the task of a complete overhaul of the relationship with the supporters. There will be some who consider it a risk not worth taking.

But, make no mistake, a Norwich job at this level remains, in any way, an attractive proposition. The onus is now on ensuring that the process ends with the right person in charge.

It’s a complex and curious search – the pressure is on and the clock is ticking.


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