Off with his head! they are screaming on the Norwich City football forums, like the Queen Of Hearts in Alice In Wonderland, following an embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Middlesborough last night. As the blistering start to the season fades and gives way to the grit and slog of a 46-match campaign in the SkyBet Championship, more and more people are starting to espouse the view that manager Neil Adams should be let go. The fools!
I have said before that Adams was not my first choice as a permanent manager, following relegation from the Premier League at the end of last season. I stand by that. But he's there now – and, at this stage, sacking him will almost certainly do more harm than good.
Far too many football fans see sacking the manager as a 'silver bullet' – an instant solution which will wipe away all the problems of a struggling club, as if they were never there. It isn't. It never has been, and it never will be.
(It is worth pointing out, at this stage, that Norwich are not a 'struggling club'. We are seventh in the Championship, as things stand, and only four points off the top two clubs. It is easy to throw around 'soundbite statistics' like only two wins in the last ten games; it's just as easy to express the same statistic as only three losses in the last ten games – either way, it's relatively meaningless. It cannot be said firmly enough: this is not a crisis.)
Sacking the manager is, in many respects, the easy bit. You tell him you don't want him any more, and he's gone – and, in doing so, you slake the disgruntled fans' baying for blood. The tricky part is what happens next. You have to appoint a new manager. Who?
Who is there who's available, and not already at a club? Who is there who's going to want to come and manage a Championship side like Norwich? Who is there who's going to be a guaranteed step up from Adams (if the guy you get in next isn't going to be a guaranteed step up, what was the point of sacking the last guy, if the new one's not going to be any better?!)?
Nobody has any answers to these questions. People don't consider the 'afterwards' – just as those who call for revolution don't have any coherent plan for what will replace the ancien régime. All wrongs will be righted, 'come the revolution'. How? Nobody knows. Managerial changes are messy, tumultuous upheavals, which have huge affects on a club; if you're going to put the club through that turmoil again, there had better be a bloody good plan for 'afterwards'!
As I have written before, the way to become an established Premier League club (which is, after all, the aim) is to have a long-term plan. It is also worth stating, at this juncture, that stability is more important than timescale; that is to say, if promotion this season meant relegation again next season, whilst waiting for promotion until the season after next would more likely yield a prolonged stay in the Premier League, I would choose the latter every time – I want long-term success, not to become a 'yo-yo club'. A managerial 'merry-go-round' is the opposite of all of this – it is a quick fix; it is short-term thinking; and it is very, very stupid.