Norwich City boss Chris Hughton has the best of both worlds

Norwich City midfielder Jonny Howson was one of two permanent recruits signed by the club in the last January window. Norwich City midfielder Jonny Howson was one of two permanent recruits signed by the club in the last January window.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012
5:40 PM

Norwich City’s Premier League renaissance is not only good news on the pitch. It carries a fringe benefit in the looming January transfer window.

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Reading’s Brian McDermott casts an increasingly haunted figure in every fresh post-match interview, with the Royals now propping up the rest as Harry Redknapp gets down to business at QPR.

No question McDermott has an honest group of players. Norwich may have beaten the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal on their top flight club record 10-match unbeaten burst but Reading proved an immovable object in their goalless draw at the Madjeski last month.

City’s visit came a week after Reading’s only league win against Everton since storming to the Championship title, but Arsenal’s romp on Monday night was a brutal illustration the Berkshire club need reinforcements to stave off the increasingly inevitable prospect of an instant Football League return. And plenty of them, judging by the ease with which the Gunners’ cruised to victory.

And therein lies a seemingly intractable conundrum. In order to attract enough quality to alter the decline Reading must spend big – both in terms of salaries and transfer fees – yet any top flight commodity worth his salt will have no interest in joining a club that looks destined to drop out of the Premier League.

Furthermore, the type of player who may be available in the annual New Year scramble is also going to interest many of their other better-placed league rivals.

Like Norwich, for instance. The beauty of City’s unbeaten run is not simply the insurance of a double digit points gap to those in greatest peril – it is in the pressure-releasing approach Chris Hughton can adopt when the madness begins in earnest.

Norwich have never settled for the status quo ever since chief executive David McNally arrived at the club. City have been active in every transfer market folowing the plunge into League One. Treading water then would not have dragged them out of the third tier. Standing still now at Premier League level across every facet of the business means you get left behind. McNally and Hughton will attempt to be proactive, but they only need revision not revolution to a squad bolstered by seven permanent arrivals in the summer, allied to season-long loan deals for Javier Garrido and Harry Kane.

Hughton has had to field the inevitable January questions in recent weeks. Do not expect him to comment on the mounting column inches of speculation linking City with an A to Z of potential new recruits, but read between the lines and it is obvious Norwich will not embark on a panic-driven, desperation-fuelled spending spree.

Hughton has an extensive scouting network headed up by Ewan Chester that operates windows in advance. A January hiatus only promotes short-termism and ill-concieved purchasing policies rather than detailed, forensic due diligence.

Clubs like Reading almost have no choice – unless their hierarchy accept the curve may have to bend downwards before they rise again.

City’s opponents this weekend, West Brom, were portrayed as the original ‘yo-yo’ club in times past; going down and re-investing that Premier League wealth to return ever stronger. Rest assured, other top flight rivals will adopt an alternative business model next month due, in part, to those inflated fresh broadcasting deals on the horizon.

Norwich have a choice. They can be bystanders to the potential carnage. By all means ready to puruse a selected target or two. Flexible enough to react should an unforseen opportunity present itself. But if not, Hughton has the personnel already in the building and the league points already on the board to maintain the Canaries’ serene progress.

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