Almost a week since the departure of Alex Neil, Norwich City’s search for a new manager is, hopefully, well underway. With Wigan and Derby both sacking their managers and Nottingham Forest confirming the appointment of Mark Warburton on Tuesday, it has been a hectic week on the Championship managerial merry-go-round. Warburton, who hugely impressed in his first managerial job at Brentford and left Rangers just last month, was one of those touted with the City job in the immediate aftermath of Neil’s departure, whilst the other heavily mentioned name, Gary Rowett, was snapped up by Derby earlier in the week. So, with two potential options now out of the equation, who else could – or should – the City board be looking at?
Due to his close friendship with Delia Smith and other members of the City board, Roy Hodgson is one who’s name is always branded about when we are in search of a manager. Whilst his reputation was tainted by England’s failure at Euro 2016, there is no denying that (Liverpool aside) his record in domestic English football is very good. At two clubs of a similar stature to Norwich – Fulham and West Brom – he worked wonders, taking the former to the Europa League final in 2010 before guiding the latter to their highest league finish in 30 years in 2012. There are some questions to be asked, however. At 69-years-old, does he still have the hunger and appetite to undertake what will be a very demanding job at Norwich? Hodgson has a history of never staying with clubs for a sustained period and, with this in mind, it is questionable whether appointing him would be in the best long-term interests of the club. Yes, he may conduct a successful squad overhaul, imprint his philosophy on the club and get us promoted back into the Premier League but if he then abandons ship, leaving us in the lurch, is it really worth it?
My personal preference. Having joined Barnsley as interim manager in February 2016 with the Tykes positioned 12th in League One, Heckingbottom led Barnsley to 6th before overcoming Walsall and Millwall in the play-offs to earn promotion to the Championship. The 3-1 defeat of Millwall at Wembley was Barnsley and Heckingbottom’s second victory at the National Stadium in the space of two months, as he also guided them to a 3-2 Johnston Paint’s Trophy Final victory over Oxford. Despite working within the constraints of one of the Championship’s smallest budgets, Heckingbottom’s Barnsley side hugely impressed in the opening half of the season and were on course to be an outside shout for the top six before the vultures came calling for their star players in January. Even so, the anticipated capitulation following the departure of the likes of captain Conor Hourihane never materialised and their current position of 11th – 3 points above big spending Villa and just a point behind big spending Derby – still represents a hugely impressive achievement. Perhaps most interestingly for City fans, all of this was achieved whilst playing an expansive and attacking brand of football. Yes, his lack of experience means that it is a gamble but, for me, it is a gamble more than worth taking – if it pays off, the rewards could be immense.
So, we’ve got the hugely experienced option, we’ve got the ‘up and coming’ option, what about the option from left field? Well, a random name that City have reportedly held “informal discussions” with in recent days is New Zealand’s national coach Anthony Hudson. At just 36-years-old, Hudson is another to file under the ‘inexperienced’ category but by all accounts he would make for a very interesting appointment. Whilst his experience within management extends little further than New Zealand, Bahrain and Bahrain Under-23s, he is supposedly highly-regarded within footballing circles and in 2012 became the youngest coach to earn the UEFA Pro License. Furthermore, Hudson also impressed during a coaching spell at Tottenham Hotspur working under the watch of Harry Redknapp – such was Harry’s awe that he has since described Hudson as a “young Jose Mourinho”. If Hudson can be half as successful as the Portuguese then he may just be a wise appointment!