Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Built-In Crap Detectors

All red-blooded males like Playboy magazine. It's full of very pretty and very alluring girls artfully posing with little or no clothes on. How could you be against that?

What is not so well-know is that Playboy, in the early days at least, was a leader in journalism. The Playboy Interviews featured such luminaries as Malcolm X, John Lennon, Ayn Rand, Bill Gates and Sir Paul McCartney – to name just a few.

One of my favourite interviews was with Ernest Hemingway, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature – and one-time cub reporter on the Kansas City Star. In the course of the interview, Papa Hemingway was asked a very serious question – something like “what is the most important quality you need to be a great writer?”.

Hemingway's reply has stuck with me for at least forty years. He simply replied, “a built-in, foolproof, crap detector.” Sounds injudiciously flippant for a Noble laureate but think about it. What he meant is that you need to be able to cut through all the nonsense and get right to what is important. Pretty good advice in anybody's game.

Which brings us neatly to the crisis at Norwich City Football Club. Peter Grant, erstwhile saviour and all-round Scots twit had gone. The results have gone completely pear-shaped. In their televised game against bottom side QPR Norwich were worse than dreadful. The gossip lines are full of the fans frustrations and remedies. A lot of nonsense is being peddled as gospel when, listen to Hemingway, the truth is actually staring fans, board and journalists in the face. Fact is: NCFC are not very good and not likely to be very good for the foreseeable future. The question is: why?

Only one journalist has adopted the Hemingway approach. Applying his “built-in, foolproof crap detector” he concluded that the Board leave a lot to be desired. In particular, he questioned whether the whole-hearted and well-meaning support of the majority shareholders, St Delia and Sir Michael, is sufficient to take the club forward. His thesis: it's not good enough being passionate and committed – you also have to be good at the job.

This makes sense. Lots of people are passionate in their support for the local football team, but not many of them would make good members of the board, managers or chief executives. Passion and hard work can only take you so far – then you need to be good at the job. No-one could doubt the passion Gruntie Grantie brought to the manager's desk. problem was – he just wasn't good enough. It's not a crime. It's just the truth.

Now, the board should adopt the same approach. They should ask themselves whether their avowed and heart-felt passion for the club is really going to turn things around – or is it just not enough. Already, we have stories erupting telling us that Delia might sell. How the idiots who think she is better than sliced bread can square that circle is quite beyond me.

If the board are honest they would get rid of Numptie Neil Doncaster and fall on their own swords. What the fans want is a winning team. They are not interested in “prudence” - whatever that means. If NCFC are going to sink – they might as well go out in a blaze of debt. At least it will be interesting!

It is, after all, the board's “prudence” that is the cause of the present predicament. After trousering the 25 million for achieving Premiership status, they refused to spend bit money on players whilst the parachute payments were in place. Now, having wasted the two years and run out of money from lucrative land deals, they have only themselves to blame.

Norwich need to ditch Delia and get a major shareholder with real ambition and real cash. How about another one of the Glazers? Worked well enough for Man Utd. If I were Delia, I'd advertise. Football Club for sale. Lots of potential. Massive crowds every week despite terrible results. Solvent. Apply Carrow Road.

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