Just like that, David McNally is gone. How did it get to this, and what’s his legacy? Jon Rogers takes a journey through the McNasty years and offers his verdict on an era which has split opinion
I remember very clearly the Chase Out protest. After a particular disappointing game, my Dad grabbed my hand and ushered me the long way round the South Stand so I couldn’t see or hear the naughty boys shouting naughty words at an actual, and metaphorical, brick wall at Carrow Road.
While the Chase Out gang threw their words and chants for an hour after a game, Mr Chase could patiently and quietly mooch off home. David McNally took that anger with him 24/7, and eventually he was brought down by the malicious and incessant chipping away of people who owned a phone and a finger.
Three of the angriest finales in Norwich City’s long timeline were Robert Chase, Glenn Roeder and the League One circus which all came to fruition by remonstrating. Anger in the ground, protest on the Carrow. McNally’s departure wasn’t a slow and hurtful passing turned sour. This one was different. The McNally Out gang lived on the internet. Prodding him with no censor.
This decision was a shock to many.
This wasn’t how it should have ended.
This was one drunken text gone too far.
The second that infamous tweet was posted, retweeted and then battered by a magnifying glass into submission by the local press and fans alike, eyebrows were raised higher than our league position.
If the big boss is kicking the fuck-it bucket, everyone gets a bit unsteady on their feet.
I’m aware all was calm after Manchester United backstage. There were a few sad glances, cynical smiles and lethargic nods I’m sure – but no doors were slammed. No one was summoned. And no one uttered the words… “Can I have a quick word? In private?”
Yet the slime that McNally received on his Twitter mentions when he looked finally reached a level. Perhaps this is when he’d had enough. After all, when we interviewed him for The Little Yellow Bird Podcast, he was noticeably angry about trolls. Do you think that after you’ve failed at your job, let down your boss and all of your customers, a nonstop train of abuse telling you should quit doesn’t affect a person?
To tweet what he did back, announcing his resignation, was really messy by McNally. I think he was a professionally and personally wounded chap looking for reassurance from his followers: ‘No don’t leave David.’ ‘We love you David,’ some replied. Then his retraction was too late. It would haunt him like the relegation-worse-than-death-line. And that was that. Statements-a-go-go.
So where were we before the Dave days?
The days under the watchful eye of Neil Doncaster, all neatly square hair-cuts and glasses. You may recall he famously wrote about his failed ‘battle’ to replace Leon McKenzie with David Cotterill.
Surely that alone shows how far we’ve come? Not only were we after him, we failed.
It’s also easy to forget how bad the Charlton games of 2009 were. One at home, and one away. That season gave us a 3rd-round FA Cup exit, relegation and a squad full of utter dross.
When we dropped down to League One, we needed a ying to Doncaster’s yang. Doncaster could get his way by boring everyone into submission with a beautifully-presented PowerPoint slides with facts, figures and graphs. McNally would loosen his tie, bang back something on the rocks and force you to agree to his ways, like a backstreet garage putting four new tyres on your car when you’d only driven in for directions.
He stalked around the club for a few weeks, made a couple of local businesses give us cheaper sausage rolls, and then went for the jugular.
His first Hulk transformation into McNasty came when Bryan Gunn was shuffled towards the great pay-off in the sky. The 7-1 lent a hand to lessen the blow, but pissing off a legend of Bryan’s stature showed two things: 1) The club comes first. 2) David had Delia and Michael’s full and absolute backing.
Was Paul Lambert’s appointment a masterstroke? In a lot of ways, yes. At that time, there weren’t many 27,000 sell-out stadiums or Champions League-winning managers in football let alone League One. Again, the 7-1 lent a hand but it all seems a perfect match and an obvious fit looking back. But it clearly was a courageous but well-researched and calculated gamble to employ Lambert. McNally went ‘all in’ so early in his new job that it changed his and his new employer’s lives forever.
It also changed his employees' lives. I have spoken to as many people in the club. One question arises is What McNally like? Each one, without fail replied the same: “He’s always nice to me.” Everyone who was connected to the club but no longer is? They seem to hate him. Surprise eh?
If he was a bastard but totally shit at his job, fair enough. But he was a bastard and effective. He knew what made other football clubs more accomplished and how they worked. He had a vision. He had experience. He had a football club at its lowest point for many decades and we needed someone to grab some scruffs. Saving £35 here and making £107 there pissed a lot of people off who were institutionalised at the club, but these decisions where made so our football club could continue to exist. So that our children could watch our team we love. It was that bad.
The way he did things were questioned and rightly mocked. The kit launch leak SWAT team bust for example. When the police kicked down the door of a teenager for showing the world a yellow and green kit 24 hours before we were meant to see it, we all deeply drew our breath in. Either he learned, or he was told, but that level of ruling didn’t happen again.
The line about relegation worst than death – the words were wrong, the sentiment rung true. Despite his wage, he cared deeply about the club. Deeply.
His wages and bonuses caused friction among others, including myself. Some of the figures were astronomical, especially when there were redundancies at the time. He’s been attacked for apparently earning that £1m bonus despite our relegation two years ago, but that’s a tad misleading. You think he was only in control of the football? All things financial and commercial were his bag and we’ve made buckets through his decisions. Yet Norwich City PLC is a multimillion pound business, and once you mix football into business – money becomes silly.
Overall, what has McNally achieved for us? Under his watch, he leaves with four years in the Premier League, a Wembley win, no more debt, more than a few multi-million international players on the books and Colney being freshened up and brought up to Premier League standard with a new Jacuzzi or two this summer. Just remember: when he started, we had Matthew Gill, banks holding £25m bill in their hands, and we were equal to teams who put burning barrels on their pitch.
But he made mistakes! Of course he made mistakes. Each roll of the dice was like playing a game of snakes and ladders. Sometimes you hit gold, sometimes you don’t. Like Gunn, like Lambert, like Ricky van Wolfswinkel, like Grant Holt, like Chris Hughton, like Timm Klose – every big decision in football is a gamble. Each bold decision, each time he signs a piece of paper, all control was removed from his hands and his fingers were crossed that it all worked out.
Among the seven-year plan, letting me witness Wembley, and the 9-2 games, there is one thing where David McNally really went really wrong. Where he had full control to the decision and didn’t use it.
He never pressed the deactivate button on Twitter, which would have silenced that little voice of the unappreciative from his life, which became his downfall.
If you want to choose misplaced quotes and tweets as his legacy, go ahead.
I know what I’ll remember.
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