Three-Year Plans

Stalin preferred five-year plans but it was unlikely that anyone would have wished to argue with him.

As for the Stuart Webber/Daniel Farke axis, I’m not sure whether any precise time-scale has been set for ‘the project’ (I’m still puzzled about when and why this term entered the football lexicon, but that’s a side-issue). If parallels can be drawn, there are perhaps two worth considering: Messrs Saunders and Worthington.

Vast swathes of Canary history can be set aside; 1975-94 was a period of unparalleled success with each incumbent – Bond, Brown, Stringer, Walker – adding to the work of his predecessor. Moreover, in the spectacular ascent of the Lambert years, the manager did have two distinct advantages: he took over a club that was well-resourced for the third tier and Bryan Gunn had signed Grant Holt. The momentum Lambert sustained over three seasons was exceptional but the circumstances of 2009 were not those of 2017.

John Deehan had nowhere to go except downwards, Martin O’Neill was the great ‘might have been, given backing, and I prefer not to think about Bryan Hamilton’s, Peter Grant’s or Glenn Roeder’s occupancy of the managerial chair. Chris Hughton and Alex Neil for another time, perhaps; the brief for both was different to that presented to Webber/Farke.

But the Saunders and Worthington eras are reasonably comparable – the inheritance of a mid-table club - and for both it was a three-year programme to build a successful team. It wasn’t always pretty, particularly from 1969-72 as Saunders steadily built a side that could out-run and out-defend the rest of Division Two. Defence came first: with Keelan, Stringer and Forbes in place, a team of journeymen and Graham Paddon developed a style and self-belief that led to a promotion season with only six games (of 42) being lost. The first season was no better than the mid-table mediocrity achieved by his predecessors, the second was little better in terms of points but a young side was undoubtedly developing. The third season took everyone by surprise – except, possibly, the manager.

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The first three full Worthington campaigns were roughly similar with the diversion of a sixth place finish at the end of the second which brought about a dramatic play-off final at Cardiff. By the next season, the three-man axis – Green, Fleming, Mackay – was firmly established and a supporting cast of decent performers (certainly better than those assembled by Saunders) was enough for another title-winning side.

So where does this leave Webber/Farke? Will two more years enable Messrs Matthews, Zimmermann, Hanley (and possibly A. N. Other) to provide a secure platform for Trybull, Hernandez, Lewis and a squad of well-drilled but generally unheralded players to give little away, but score enough goals (without Maddison and, possibly, Murphy)? If the Saunders and Worthington stories tell us anything, it is that the first year of three doesn’t always offer too many clues.

..............and now for the cricket season!

J.H. Norvic

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