No ambition West Brom? At least have some class.

Published: Monday, 14 December 2020

Norwich City arrived in the PL the season before last with zero ambition. None. Zilch. There was no plan to survive. No plan flourish. No intent to do either. They came with little more than hope.

I had them down to finish bottom. Finish bottom they did. There was the odd game here and there - the win over City - that occasionally had their fans believing - but they were never doing anything more than making up the numbers.

The owners knew it. Senior management knew it. Daniel Farke knew it. Sadly their fans didn’t. I often wonder how it is clubs feel they can ask supporters to part with hard earned cash when they’re selling a con?

I suppose there’s always the argument that you might get away with it. After all - Sheffield United pulled it off. They weren’t lucky - but they over achieved and survived their first season back. Sadly that won’t happen this season. They’re down. They won’t get out of this one.

Now. Let me re-dress the balance a bit for Delia and Co. They were realistic. They knew survival was going to be near impossible - without a massive spend. But that doesn’t guarantee anything. Look at what Fulham did when they got back under Slavisa Jokanovic. A £300m spend later they were on their way back to the Championship.

Norwich have already won twice as many games this season as they did last. They’re top again. Pukki is scoring goals again. It’s fun again. They’re going up again. I say ‘fair play’ to them. They know what they are - too good for one league but not good enough for the next - and they’re happy with that. What they lack in ambition they make up for in realism and morality.

They didn’t blame Farke for last season's failure. They expected it. They backed their manager and showed commendable strength. They knew he was the right man to get them up again. Just as Burnley knew Sean Dyche would get them back after his first failed season in the PL. And now look.

West Brom are this season’s Norwich. They came up with no ambition. Yes - they would prefer to stay, but what chance has Slaven Bilic really got? They’ve spent diddly squat. They’re not good enough. Surely everybody at the club knows that? They’ve got to. So don’t blame Bilic. Give your man the time he deserves and needs. He’s principled. He’s the best you’ll find. He got you up last season and the chances are he’ll do it again next season. Don’t con your fans by pretending someone else can pull off a miracle now and sack the fella. Show some class. Do the right thing.

The same applies to Sheffield United - although I know that Chris Wilder had a few quid last to summer. I don’t think he spent it well mind you. There’s a reason Aaron Ramsdale went down with Bournemouth. He’s not very good. And Rhian Brewster isn’t ready for the job they want him to do - but I do think he’ll bang in enough goals next season to get them back. No ambition? Show some class at least if you’re one of the strugglers. I get it - you don’t want to bankrupt your club chasing wild dreams but be realistic.

As I write news has broken that we’ve lost another good football man. Gerard Houllier has left us. He probably wasn’t ever on Robbie Fowler’s Christmas card list - but I can only speak as I found.

When Gerard was first ill we were at Anfield to cover a game v Villa. It was a special evening for me - although as time has passed, like a lot of other things from my time at Sky - I’ve forgotten why. But the point is - Gerard had heard why and arranged for a cake and champagne - in his office - for the guys front of house after the match. It was a really nice touch. I’d never met the guy - but this had class written all over it.

The next time our paths crossed was when I got ill. I didn’t realise at the time - but the issues with my heart were exactly the same as Gerard had been through. The only difference was that I got lucky - by about two days. Gerard suffered an aortic tear and should’ve died. Thank goodness he didn’t and that there was plenty of time left in him. I only know this because he called me - out of the blue - and told me. He was kind. He was also inspirational. And we kept in touch. I’m so sad that he’s left us. He was a genuinely good guy who made a mark. He left a legacy and no-one can change it now. You can’t ask for much more. Thank you Gerard.