Paddy Davitt: Don't look back in anger. Jonny Howson deserves a Carrow Road roar
PUBLISHED: 12:05 31 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:00 31 January 2018
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Every pound, shilling and penny counts at Norwich City now. That message has been routinely rammed home by the club's top brass at various points this season.
Such prudence is stamped right through two transfer wiNdows engineered by Stuart Webber, since his appointment as the Canaries’ sporting director.
When the deadline passes at 11pm on Wednesday night there will be another transfer surplus in the Carrow Road coffers; a lowering of the wage bill and a re-modelled squad minus the likes of Alex Pritchard, Cameron Jerome and Harry Toffolo. Plus a series of loanees.
Falling out of the Premier League means declining revenue streams, and the pending end of parachute payments will continue to impinge on Daniel Farke’s attempt to mould a group that can be competitive at the right end of the Championship.
That is the template for the foreseeable. Scouring for gems in the lower leagues and, at present, the German markets to unearth more unheralded talent.
Webber adopted the same approach last summer when Jacob Murphy and a certain all-action midfielder by the name of Jonny Howson were headline exits, and a free agent called Tom Trybull came the other way.
Howson is poised for his first return this weekend with a Middlesbrough side under different management since Garry Monk’s replacement by the experienced Tony Pulis.
The events leading up to Howson’s summer move north hardly need further examination.
Suffice to say, it suited all three parties.
There were certainly no lingering recriminations at the Riverside, after City’s counter-attacking thrust and defensive resolve had anchored a 1-0 Championship win against the pre-season title favourites back in September.
Farke strode onto the turf that night to savour the moment on the final whistle with his players, after tHey had bravely repelled all that Boro could muster.
Howson made a point of waiting for the impromptu huddle to disperse before embracing the German.
It was a classy touch from a figure who deserves a fitting reception in these parts.
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Howson was a January transfer window signing in the good times, during Norwich’s first season back in the top flight under Paul Lambert.
In a more sobering financial era he represents the type of value-for-money Webber seeks from every new arrival.
Howson re-paid his transfer fee, and then some, in a five-year spell that brought a play-off promotion to the Premier League, player-of-the-year accolades, and some thrilling goal-scoring exploits.
City cashed in for considerably more than they deposited in Leeds United’s bank account in 2012.
Every Norwich manager who worked with the 29-year-old highlighted his technical ability and also his character.
Howson was a low maintenance, high quality operator; kind to wildlife and fond of the sort of souped-up American cars that hinted at hidden depths to the unassuming Morley-bred midfielder.
Others may have offered more headline-grabbing soundbites in their media dealings, but there was an honesty to Howson’s words and deeds that should last long beyond any bitterness from the nature of his sour summer parting.
Football moves on. Loyalty is in short supply.
The longevity of his former team mate, Wes Hoolahan, increasingly a rare commodity.
That thumping 5-1 Championship home win over Nottingham Forest last year was notable for a thrilling goal-of-the-season joust between the two in the space of a few breathtaking first half minutes.
Such spell-binding precision has been in short supply at Carrow Road since.
Farke has spoken recently about the need to get more runners from deep to support Nelson Oliveira, in a bid to inject some variety into Norwich’s fitful productivity in the final third.
Howson was a natural at that perfectly-timed late run.
Norwich fans will turn up on Saturday desperate to see Farke’s new attacking signings embellish the toil and the sweat that is routinely harvesting points away from home.
There can be no sentimentality displayed towards Howson, once the whistle blows.
But in the same manner Grant Holt was heralded for his service to the cause, Howson deserves a similar reception.
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