Separating fact from fiction is never that easy in Norwich City's transfer planning
The Canaries need to show their intent when the summer transfer window officially opens on Friday. Paddy Davitt endeavours to assess the state of play.
"The spike in rumour and counter-rumour over recent days testifies to the heightened sense of anticipation."
Alex Neil said it best last season. He estimated two out of every three names touted with transfers to Norwich City were pure fantasy.
File Bolton’s Zach Clough into that category ahead of the official opening of the latest round of summer madness tomorrow. Clough was supposedly heading to Norwich on Tuesday for a medical after the Canaries’ had a £1.5m bid accepted for the highly-rated 21-year-old. Fiction.
City may be looking at attacking midfield reinforcements but the Trotters’ youth product will not be heading to Carrow Road.
The spike in rumour and counter-rumour over recent days testifies to the heightened sense of anticipation. Neil’s squad, minus the international contingent, have returned to Colney to begin their preparations for the Championship promotion push.
Nathan Redmond has departed for a club record fee. Robbie Brady’s probable exit is likely to top that figure. Inevitably there will be a percentage of Norwich fans who will feel harder bargains could have been driven in the current climate of price inflation fuelled by that new Premier League broadcast deal. That is a matter of conjecture.
What is not in doubt, should Brady follow the same path back to the top flight as Redmond, is Norwich have funds to replenish a squad to mount a genuine assault on the top end of the division. Add the parachute money to cushion the landing following Premier League demotion, which under new guidelines this summer will see the first scheduled tranche arrive in July - a month earlier than previous campaigns - and Neil has an enviable kitty compared to the vast majority of City’s Championship rivals. How he spends it and in what areas will become clear once the starting gun is fired.
You can be sure Neil and the club’s top brass have spent the intervening period since the last ball was kicked at Everton in May honing their scouting systems and drawing up a target list. The phoney war is fast drawing to a close and Norwich fans, quite rightly, expect swift action and clear signals City will avoid the errors of last summer’s laboured recruitment policy.
Even allowing for the wastage Neil rightly has alluded to in separating fact from fiction when dissecting the gossip columns and social media campaigns it would appear the City boss is narrowing his focus on the top end of the pitch. Names like Steven Fletcher, Liverpool’s Sergi Canos or Charlton’s Johann Berg Gudmundsson are potential additions which hint at goals and creative threat. Given Kyle Lafferty has publicly revealed he expects to leave this summer, since returning from Euro 2016, and Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s future appears similarly up for discussion, Norwich must find the goals to supplement Cameron Jerome’s output. The youthful Carlton Morris is the only other viable option to lead the line at this early stage of pre-season.
That will change. Inevitably. The column inches already devoted to a possible deal for Reading’s young midfielder Aaron Tshibola is another sign youth will again feature highly on Neil’s checklist.
One thing is certain. The Norwich manager can expect every media briefing he provides between now and September 1 to carry a transfer dimension.
It is not just the hunt for points but fresh blood that will concern his supporters over these next two months or so.