Canaries yellow and green with envy

Ipswich Town unveil a top manager to go with their big-name chief executive, while Norwich City teeter on the brink of their lowest point for more than 40 years.

Ipswich Town unveil a top manager to go with their big-name chief executive, while Norwich City teeter on the brink of their lowest point for more than 40 years. STEVE DOWNES asks why the Canaries have fallen short of their bitter rivals.

There's nothing like being kicked while you're down.

Norwich City fans are still coming to terms with a derby defeat at Portman Road that pushed them to the edge of League One.

But as they tried to pick themselves up from the floor, a hefty boot in the ribs came in the shape of the Tractor Boys appointing former British Olympic Association boss Simon Clegg as their new chief executive.

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Then, yesterday morning, came a brutal kick in the teeth as Ipswich announced the replacement for sacked manager Jim Magilton - the legendary Roy Keane.

The appointment is bound to be backed by many millions of mysterious owner Marcus Evans' pounds, which will pay for a new team of relative superstars - in contrast to Norwich's hired hands and freebies.

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And it is bound to mean Ipswich will be eyeing the Premier League in future seasons.

Former Manchester United midfielder and Sunderland manager Keane certainly thinks so.

He said: “I truly believe I am joining a club that has the potential, ambition and infrastructure to once again be a Premier League side.”

How many Canaries fans are feeling sick as parrots?

After all, these are the very words that should be spoken by managers of Norwich City.

The club has the potential - just look at the number of fans who flock to home matches week after week, despite successive years of mediocrity.

It also has the infrastructure. The stadium and training facilities are magnificent.

But what about the ambition? This year's ambition is to stay in the Championship. Next year's ambition will probably be the same, unless next week's events mean the club has to spend a season or 10 trying to get back there.

Why aren't Norwich the ones making national headlines by appointing big names with big ambitions?

With no offence meant to City manager Bryan Gunn and his backroom team of Canaries legends, who have done nothing to get the club into this mess and are doing their best to get out of it, how did it come to the point of gambling the club's future with a sentimental roll of the dice?

The fact is, City had run out of options. If they had knocked on Keane's door when Glenn Roeder was sacked, he would probably have sent his pet Rottweiler to answer the door.

For while Ipswich have Marcus Evans' deep pockets, City have a cumbersome debt and no immediate hope of a sugar daddy to finance their wildest dreams.

Regardless of whether or not Norwich escape relegation, the fans have every right to feel betrayed.

Clubs with much more modest support bases - including Cardiff City and Preston North End - are battling for promotion, while relatively tiny clubs like Doncaster Rovers and Blackpool are out of danger.

And the board of Norwich City can only watch helplessly as the club they built (or should that be demolished?) prepares to go where it hasn't been since the early days of The Beatles.

Perhaps the grand plan is for City to invoke the spirit of 1959 by launching another heroic cup run from the third flight. Or perhaps there is no plan, save for the board members to cross their fingers and hope.

No matter how many times the fans are given a clever explanation for the club's pitiful plight, it is still hard to understand how taking a club from the Premier League to League One in four seasons can be called anything other than a total boardroom bodge.

What makes a bitter pill even harder to swallow is the fact that Ipswich's good fortune has been built on the remains of so many small businesses that were sacrificed in order to keep the club in business as its debts spiralled out of control a few years ago.

Town were one of the last clubs to enter administration before the Football League saw sense and imposed points deductions. And local businesses got the princely sum of 5p for every pound owed to them.

No such morally bankrupt route is open to the Canaries - at least not without a debilitating points deduction.

So, short of Peter Cullum changing his mind or a Middle East sheikh sticking his pin in Norwich when he chooses a football club to play with, City are facing a future so dark you've got to wear night-vision goggles.

And it is all made so much worse by looking down the A140 and seeing the bitter rivals savouring the sweet smell of expected success.

Their fans are dreaming of a golden future with Keane and Clegg. City are more likely to end up being led by Compo and Clegg from Last of the Summer Wine.

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