Norwich City were relegated yesterday, falling into the third tier of English football for the first time in almost 50 years. It was a sad day for supporters of the club but the match itself was just a formality. The club has been heading for relegation for months and our fate was sealed by the loss to Reading a week ago. So now, in front of the largest crowds in League One, we join the promotion race, right? Probably not. The sad reality is that even this woeful squad, bereft of talent, inspiration and guts, is too expensive for us. A season of rebuilding is coming.
Sack the board? It's understandable that many of the 3,500 fans who made the trip to Charlton yesterday called for the board to be sacked but it isn't the answer. Without Michael Wynn Jones and Delia Smith the club would be in a much worse situation. We would certainly have gone into administration without the millions they have pumped in.
Michael and Delia and the directors have done their best to keep the club financially stable in an era when most clubs have been pushing themselves to the brink of extinction to chase success. As Delia said yesterday: "There is one, big rich league and the rest of us have to scrabble around doing whatever we can - in any way that we can - and until someone sits up and understands that, this is going to be the sad story of great football clubs like Norwich City and Charlton."
However, with an average attendance of almost 25,000 Norwich should be competing in the upper reaches of the Championship or perhaps the bottom of the Premier League. With increased ground capacity, City might one day be able to live the dream of being a mid-table Premier League side, acting as cannon fodder for the Big Four's Champions League bids. Ah, the beautiful game.
Finding a leader Still, we're a long way from such mediocre heights and the board must shoulder the blame. Though their financial stewardship has been solid, they remain unable to pick a decent manager. Even their most successful selection, Nigel Worthington, was exposed as woefully out of his depth once he took the club to the Premier League.
His successor, Peter Grant, took the club from an underperforming mid-table side to the brink of relegation. It required Glenn Roeder's arrival to rescue us last year but it was just a temporary stay of execution. Relegation this year was Roeder's fault. Arguably, he sealed our fate by releasing Darren Huckerby, our most creative player, and failing to find a replacement.
Delia said yesterday: "I would defy anybody sitting in this room now to sit round a table with a team of applicants to be the manager of a fotball club and to know which one is right."
I've no doubt that it's a tough decision and the board has shown continually that they lack the ability to make the correct one. The key question for the next few weeks is how the board can make better decisions because a big one is looming: do they give caretaker manager Bryan Gunn the job or seek yet another new appointment?
Sack the boss? I would have backed Gunn for the job until yesterday. However, I can't be confident in a manager who sends a team out in a must-win game and sees them three goals down within 30 minutes. Ultimately, the responsibility for that lies with the players but it raises concerns about Gunn's ability to prepare and motivate his team.
Furthermore, as Nich Starling argues, Gunn made several questionable decisions in his team selection. Gunn is a hero for Norwich fans, myself included, and he has done a lot for the club. In his games in charge he averaged around a point a game. Poor, but no worse than Glenn Roeder's record over the first two-thirds of the season. I don't think it's enough to suggest that he is the man to take Norwich back to the Championship.
If he isn't, who is? And who would want the job? There is no money to spend and there are no quality players at the club. Can we even afford a proven manager? If we're faced with another gamble we may as well stick with Gunn.
And that's what I suspect the board will do. It's the safe option. They might get lucky. Gunn may blossom into a wonderful manager. He may even take us straight back up. I really hope so.
But recent experience gives me no cause for optimism.