Let’s look closer to home: The hunt for Norwich City’s head coach

Stuart Webber is in the building and has already cast the Canary faithful under his spell with an impressive first batch of interviews, detailing his vision for Norwich, his views on recruitment and the head coach.

The latter, obviously, is what we’re all waiting for now – though a few more demolitions like the 7-1 annihilation of Reading yesterday will make the weeks until May all the more enjoyable. Recently, I put forward a few names looking past these waters, further afield – left-field to be precise – and while it wouldn’t surprise me to see Webber go outside the box with this critical appointment, it’d be remiss not to have a look at some of the potential candidates plying their trade in the UK.

Uwe Rösler

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On the face of it, Uwe Rösler appears to be the safe bet for the man Stuart Webber wants to help deliver his Norwich City vision.

The German has actually managed the Canaries before, in the shape of Lillestrøm in Norway. Spells at Viking and Molde followed, before he arrived in England with Brentford. After a 9th placed finish in his first season, he was involved in a dramatic 2012/13 campaign – it’s a game you may recall. Brentford were minutes from automatic promotion to the Championship, only to miss a penalty against Doncaster who then countered and scored the winner, winning the league title. Brentford ultimately lost in the play-off final to Yeovil.

Stuart Webber has already spoken of the giving the club a bit of identity and direction on the pitch, therefore it’s with particular interest we eye a quote from Kevin O’Connor. After the disappointment of that play-off final defeat, Rösler over hauled his squad to set the Bees up for automatic promotion. He didn’t see the job through, after 7 wins in 8 games, the German was poached by Wigan with the Bees eventually achieving promotion under former Sporting Director, Mark Warburton. O’Connor paid tribute to Rösler at the end of the season, stating: “Uwe got the ball rolling. We were a bang average League One side, but Uwe changed the mentality. Everything he did was all Premier League standard. He did amazing, so we’ll be saying thank you to him.”

After leading Wigan to the play-off semi-final and FA Cup semi-final, a difficult second season saw Rösler sacked. A spell at Leeds was to follow, ultimately a short spell. However, having landed at Fleetwood – with just a week until the first game of the league – the German has overseen quite the season, with the Fishermen in third and still in with a shot of catching Bolton though, more than likely, they’ll find themselves in the play-offs.

As for his style, the German described his approach when appointed at Leeds. “It’s very much influenced on the German way – transition football which is very quick into attack from defence. I’m very interested in having a lot of quick attempts on goal and it is very important for me where you win the ball. I play a high pressing game to force the opposition into mistakes and playing the ball into areas where we can attack quick. We also need a plan when we play against established defences, it’ll be a slower build up. I like very powerful, quick football. Jurgen Klopp says ‘heavy metal’, so that sort of football.”

Moreover, Rösler is a big fan of the Sporting Director model.

I think stability in English football is key and that comes with [having] people between the owners and the coaches. I’m a big fan of the role of the sporting director or the director of football, whatever you want to call it, as long as he has a major influence – he needs to suggest the coach to the board, because he has to work with the coach 24/7. For example, I speak to Gretar Steinsson, the technical director at Fleetwood, more than I speak to my wife, and that was the same when I worked with Mark Warburton at Brentford.

There must be absolute chemistry between those two positions, to build the short-, medium- and long-term future for the club. When you don’t have that person in between, the coach is just firefighting. So in England, in the Championship, you see good people, good coaches, losing their jobs. And that happens in other countries nowhere near as much. When you look at, say, Serie B or the second Bundesliga, before the season there are three or four clubs who have realistic things in place to go up. In the Championship, apart from six clubs, everyone says: ‘We want to go into the play-offs, we want to win promotion.’ And it’s completely unrealistic. So English football is fantastic – wow. But you also have a dark side.

Darrell Clarke

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Clarke pledged his loyalty to Bristol Rovers in March on the back of reported interest from Norwich, though there’s no doubt he’s making a name for himself.

After Rovers slipped out of the Football League during his first months as manager, having replaced John Ward – who he was assistant to and moved upstairs into a Director of Football role – Clarke has masterminded a resurgence. Rovers now lie 8th in League One, four points off the top six with four to play.

As this excellent breakdown on Clarke details, he’s tactically flexible and has devised a team greater than the sum of its parts. They play attractive, passing football but can mix it up. He can play a 4-4-2 diamond, a 4-3-3 with a lone frontman sandwiched between wingers, a 3-5-2 with wing-backs or your bog standard, Mike Bassett, 4-4-2.

His loyalty to Rovers could be a stumbling block but there’s no doubting that Clarke has plenty about him, and looks set for a big future in the game.

Nathan Jones

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If we drop down a division, we find Webber’s fellow countryman Nathan Jones, at Luton Town.

As with Clarke at Bristol Rovers, Luton is Jones’s first managerial job after joining from Brighton, where he’d worked under former City boss Chris Hughton, in January 2016. With Town in 15th and looking nervously over their shoulders, Jones led them to an 11th-placed finish, winning 11 out of 21 games. During his first full campaign, Jones has Luton 4th, eight points off the automatic promotion places and six clear of 8th-placed Blackpool.

In early March, Jones explained to SkySports how his different experiences have influenced his coaching set-up, with an improved attitude and style credited as sparking an upturn in fortunes during his first season.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects when it comes to Jones is the addition of a video analyst to the coaching staff, in the shape of Joaquin Gonzalez. Alongside former Nottingham Forest boss Paul Hart, Jones feels he has a good blend of ideas at his disposal.

Joaquin is my first-team coach but he is also a top end video analyst so he has a dual role here as well. He is such a worker and he’s very innovative. He sees things differently to how I do. It’s a real good mix between the three of us. Paul has the experience and has done things his way for a long period of time. I see a lot of things the same way as he does, whereas Joaquin is a little bit different and will look at it from another angle along with Jared Roberts-Smith who I also worked with at Charlton.

A number of people are doing it [using a video analyst] but we think the way we are doing it is different as well. I learnt a lot when I was at Charlton, and especially Brighton, about video analysis, how to use it and how to get the best out of it. Obviously, Joaquin was fundamental in that. I don’t know if everyone uses it at this level but we do and the way we do it is a little bit different

Gary Neville

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For a brief time, there was talk that Ryan Giggs could be the man in the Carrow Road dugout next season. Yet, if City are to look at someone from the Class of 92 to lead them forwards, Gary Neville would seem the suitable choice.

Yep, he had a rocky spell at Valencia but on the face of it, that seemed an immensely difficult job to take on – especially for your first role in management. He’s got plenty of playing experience as well as coaching expertise during his time with England under Roy Hodgson.

Neville is clearly sharp. He’s intelligent. He knows what he’s talking about. He knows the game. Whereas Giggs doesn’t strike me as someone who could inspire, Neville does. Fair enough, it’s television but as a pundit he’s been a breath of fresh air. He speaks. We listen.

I’d still feel, if he wants it, there’s a future in a managerial capacity for Neville. It was tough going at Valencia but under this new set-up at Carrow Road, who’s to say the former United stalwart couldn’t flourish?

Chris Wilder

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Chris Wilder has made it back-to-back promotions, having led Northampton to the League Two title last season and now overseeing Sheffield United’s return to the Championship – sealed yesterday.

Like Clarke, Wilder’s loyalty to his boyhood club could well be a stumbling block but there’s certainly an appeal to the 49-year old, as a recent Telegraph feature detailed. With Webber undoubtedly looking for someone to take the bull by the horns as Norwich look to mount a promotion challenge next season, Wilder’s words on arriving at a new club certainly strike a chord.

“You have to lead. The early days are important. There’s your opportunity, as soon as you walk in, to stamp your mark on the club. Some, hopefully, will be with you. Some people will want to go in their own direction, and they fall by the wayside.”

Furthermore, Wilder oversaw an overhaul of the United squad – something a good number of City fans wouldn’t mind seeing this summer, despite yesterday’s Reading romp – with almost two dozen players leaving the club.

He’s never managed in the top two divisions, though after impressive seasons with Northampton and Sheffield United, Wilder could well be worth a look.

After all, City don’t need a name. Together with Steve Stone and Stuart Webber, Norwich need their third appointment to form part of a well-oiled machine to take the club onward.

Michael O’Neill

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Despite Kyle Lafferty and Michael McGovern not really setting the world alight for the Canary faithful, perhaps Norwich could make it third time lucky with another Northern Irish recruit.

Michael O’Neill has overseen a mightily impressive job, leading Northern Ireland to Euro 2016 with the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia a real possibility too. After spells in charge of Brechin City and Shamrock Rovers, O’Neill has really made a name for himself in charge of his country.

Despite a sparse talent pool, Northern Ireland are very much greater than the sum of their parts and a team. A real team. That’s something Norwich have failed to look like once too often this campaign.

The prospect of a gruelling Championship season doesn’t daunt O’Neill either, as he told The Telegraph.

The transition from club management into international is more difficult than from international to club because this is the group of players you have. At club level, you might get in a job and say, ‘I don’t want these 10, I want another 10’. I don’t have that luxury. The skills you learn at international level are very transferable and extremely useful if and when you go back into a club.

People say, ‘We want someone with experience of the Championship’ as if it’s so different at international level. You play Saturday-Tuesday. In international football, you play Friday-Tuesday and you have to travel to the other side of the world. The idea that in the Championship preparing for Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday is an amazing challenge, I don’t see it as that.

And, as well as that, O’Neill accepts in the same article his best chance of managing in the Premier League would come from taking a side there. Norwich could well fit the bill, however the lure of managing at the FIFA World Cup could prove too much.

The hunt is on

We know that Alan Irvine is in charge until May but won’t be considered for the Head Coach role, so really it’s a case of sitting back, relaxing over these final five games, wrecking a few seasons before the hard work can begin in earnest.

Will it be Uwe Rösler and his Obi-Wan Kenobi beard propping up at Carrow Road in a month a bit? Who else will be on Webber’s radar?

It’s anyone’s guess until then but following that 7-1 win and Webber’s impressive introduction, it’s hard not to feel a little brighter about all things yellow and green.

 

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