David Hannant: Why Alex Pritchard’s potential departure could be a blessing in disguise
PUBLISHED: 18:16 10 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:50 11 January 2018
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So January is not even a fortnight old and already silly season has well and truly arrived, to use what has become the biggest cliché of the winter transfer window.
Liverpool have already fetched the window’s first NINE figure fee for Philippe Coutinho - having already broken the world record for a defender - and who knows what will happen between now and the end of the month?
One thing, regrettably, that is looking increasingly likely to have happened is Alex Pritchard will say his Carrow Road goodbyes, whether that is to Huddersfield as expected or elsewhere.
Now, naturally any transfer away of a player of Alex’s quality is going to be a big blow, both to matters on the pitch and morale off of it. However, while I will be disappointed, I don’t see myself taking this one quite has hard as I have done in the past.
I still vividly remember the moment I found out Darren Eadie had been sold to Leicester City.
In a sign of the times, I actually found out from a bill board outside the newsagent’s on Reepham Road in Hellesdon.
I then remember a fair few tears being shed on my part.
A number of years earlier, I remember taking Chris Sutton’s sale to Blackburn so poorly that I convinced myself I was actually a Rovers fan for a while.
More recently, I’ve found myself in full on sulk mode following the departures of Darren Huckerby, Grant Holt, Bradley Johnson and Jonny Howson - to name but a few.
However, rather oddly, I don’t see myself going into meltdown mode over Alex Pritchard - if and when he flies the nest.
Obviously, Alex is exactly the kind of player I love to watch, an intelligent man with an eye for a pass and that little spark that can produce something special, so of course I will be sad to see him go. But there is just something different about this transfer to the others I have mentioned.
The most recent ones I can think of to have a similar feel are Robbie Brady and Leroy Fer.
With both of these, there was just that inevitability - always that feeling that their stays would not be forever - like they were on borrowed time at the club.
However, the main reason I’m not going to be quite as gutted is to do with the other big jewel in City’s crown at the moment - James Maddison.
It is starting to feel to me that Alex Pritchard could be James Maddison’s spirit animal - as this season alone so much of what Maddison has achieved has been connected in some way to the presumably departing Pritchard.
Had Alex not picked up his unfortunate injury at the start of the season, there is a distinct possibility Maddison’s emergence would have been further delayed - Stuart Webber has said as much.
Remarkable to think now, he could even have been sent out on yet another loan - odd to consider in hindsight, given that he is now running away with the player of the season award.
And now, with Pritch seemingly heading towards the exit, I predict we will see even more of the former Coventry star.
In recent weeks, we’ve been seeing Pritchard and Maddison almost both playing in the number 10 role. When they click, it’s scintillating, but other times we’re left wondering whether too many cooks are spoiling the broth.
Having two such brilliant, but similar players, it has put Daniel Farke in the position of having to tinker with systems to try and cater to both - knowing they are both too good to warm the bench.
If Pritchard does depart, Maddison is the obvious first choice as number 10, essentially leaving Farke with the much easier task of only having to build a system around one player.
Personally, I would love to see Farke play two out and out wingers. This would provide natural width and more balance.
With Maddison as the out-and-out play maker, he has licence to cause even more chaos, but with width either side of him.
One of City’s biggest problems this season is getting in behind the opposition back fours. So often we have seen us dominate the ball, but overcook things looking for that one pass too many.
So while it will, of course, be a great shame to lose a player of Alex Pritchard’s quality, losing him could turn out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise.
And as we have learned with all of these high profile departures, life does go on.
One final point I will offer on this is the one thing I always tell myself in these situations - for every Hucks, there’s a Hoolahan.
Darren Huckerby’s departure was one of the hardest to take in recent memory. However, what immediately followed was a decade of having the delight of watching Wes Hoolahan, who was brought in as Huckerby’s direct replacement. Life will go on.
How I would fix the FA Cup
While it is always nice to see cup upsets on paper, there is still something hollow about the FA Cup for me.
City holding the Premier League champions is a nice headline, but still the fact remains that Chelsea made nine changes to their side.
The precedent of teams resting players for the cup has been so set we even find Championship sides considering it as a chance to rest players - even if we didn’t.
It may sound pessimistic, ‘the magic of the cup’ is just a buzz phrase that is thrown around because it sounds nice and makes the event more marketable.
This week, we’ve heard talks of the FA increasing the prize money in future to try and get the ‘big clubs’ interested in it again - completely missing the point for me. Do they honestly think the prospect of a few extra quid is a viable incentive to clubs boasting already gargantuan bank balances.
The only way to get teams to take the cup more seriously for me, is a football incentive -give the fourth Champions League spot to the cup.
No two transfers are the same
I always find transfer sagas utterly hilarious - purely for reactions to transfer fees.
To start with, basically every transfer fee is undisclosed, we only have a rough idea.
And yet, we all get so hung up on individual fees - and compare every transfer.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have read something along the lines of - “we got x for blank, so y must be worth blank.”
I’m no agent, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out every transfer is different with its own unique factors.
How long a player is under contract for, whether sell-on clauses have to be paid, how the fee is paid. All of these factors come into play before you even get near to that headline-making figure.
Case and point, Ross Barkley’s move to Chelsea is a big talking point because it was “only £15m”, yet nobody mentions the fact that had he waited six months it would have been £0m.
It is very easy for us to draw comparisons, but let’s try to take every transfer on its own, individual merits.