Opening Day Blues

Tim Howard had a busy start to the season.

Tim Howard had a busy start to the season.

After reading about Norwich City’s opening day 7-1 defeat to Colchester last weekend, I have to say I had a lot of sympathy for the Canaries. As fans there is little more exciting than the beginning of a fresh campaign when the possibilities are limitless and the season could unfold in any number of different ways over the coming months. Everyone wants to get off to a winning start but at the very least, we want some sign of promise, of good things to come.

Still, a 7-1 opening day defeat is no reason to sack a manager, and the decision by the Canaries’ board to get rid of Bryan Gunn was nothing short of ridiculous. While a 7-1 defeat on the opening day of the season is no ones ideal start, sacking a manager a week in is stupid, because it severely limits the possibilities for the next man for the job. Plus, one game doesn’t make a season, and as an Everton fan having just witnessed absolute disaster at Goodison in our first game of the season, that thought is all that is keeping me from suicide.

I’m going to try and avoid saying too much about the Everton game, largely because I;m trying to convince myself that it never actually happened. We started OK, and for the first 20 minutes could even have been called the better side, but once we went a goal down we were simply terrible. No defensive discipline, no tracking players, no marking and nowhere near enough passion. Some players tried very hard – Baines, Pienaar and even Lescott were the most noticeable, but the team just didn’t click as a cohesive unit at all.

Yet I wouldn’t consider, even for a million years, sacking David Moyes. Of course you could easily argue that the difference between sacking David Moyes after one bad game and sacking Bryan Gunn after one bad game is immense given the different situations of each manager and each club, but I don’t think that really stands up. Moyes has been absolutely amazing for Everton over the past seven years, while Gunn couldn’t keep Norwich in the Championship last season.

That’s not the point though. The point is that going into the ’09/’10 season the Norwich City board must have felt that Bryan Gunn was the right man for the job of managing their club. Possibly not the ideal man (Fabio Cappello is taken after all), but a man that they had confidence could do the job. Likewise, Bill Kenwright, going into the start of the season, believed that David Moyes was the right man for the job, and is in fact also the ideal man for the job at Everton.

Which is why he won’t be sacked. Because Moyes’ objective for this season is to push as hard as he possibly can for a top four place. While a 1-6 opening day defeat isn’t going to aid that cause, it’s not made it impossible either. Likewise, Gunn’s aim as manager of Norwich was doubtless to gain them promotion back to the Championship and while a heavy defeat first up isn’t the ideal start, a season is not decided on the first day and he still had plenty of time to sort his side out.

So to sack Gunn after just two games (the second being a comprehensive victory in the Carling Cup) is ridiculous. If they felt that Gunn was incapable of doing the job they should have replaced him earlier in the Summer and given his replacement time to come in and mould his squad before the season began. If they felt Gunn was the man for the job then they should not have sacked him after one poor result in the League. It’s as simple as that.

Of course, I can understand the board’s frustration. I’m going to have a shit week now because Everton got thrashed yesterday, they were fucking hopeless and now spend the first week of the season bottom of the table. It doesn’t feel good, and I can’t blame the Norwich board for being pissed off at their start to the season. But the fact is that it doesn’t matter. Being bottom for the first week is a bit shit but doesn’t mean anything. There’s little point looking at the table until October, that’s when things will start to become clear and I remain confident that come October, Everton will be in the top half.

Likewise I feel sure that while Bryan Gunn had an absolutely shit Saturday night last week, he would have gone to bed knowing that he would turn it around, and that he would still lead them to a promotion challenge. However, due to the ridiculous, slap-dash nature of the board’s decision they’ve not only all but disgraced the name of their former manager, they’ve also sabotaged their own hopes of promotion, because bringing in a new manager will bring upheaval and take time to settle down.

So as an Everton fan, I’m distraught about what happened at Goodison yesterday. However, I’m delighted that Bill Kenwright isn’t a fool, and that he appreciates the value of stability and patience in football. As a football fan, I’m distraught at the treatment of Bryan Gunn, because it is simply not on. However, I’m secretly delighted because I feel quite confident that Norwich now won’t be promoted, and they will not be able to blame it on any manager, because it will be all their fault.

So while we fans look forward to the start of a new season more than anything else, we have to remember that first impressions count for very little. We all know that when we meet people first impressions often turn out, in the long run, to be very inaccurate (just look at Hull last season). Which means that I remain optimistic for Everton’s season. I’m embarrassed by how we played yesterday, but I still think we’ll have a great season, despite an abject start. The same possibly can’t be said for Norwich fans though, and they only have their own board to blame.

Fun fact: It’s a strange coincidence that Everton and Norwich are the two teams involved in this article about heavy defeats, because the first match that I ever attended at Goodison was an FA Cup game between Everton and Norwich in which Everton triumphed 5-0. From that point on, I was hooked.

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