Why relegation is not an option

PUBLISHED: 08:28 27 February 2009 | UPDATED: 16:06 10 September 2010

David Powles

There's an interesting debate currently doing the rounds - and that centres upon whether relegation to Division One would be such a disaster after all.

There's an interesting debate currently doing the rounds - and that centres upon whether relegation to Division One would be such a disaster after all.

Some supporters believe that, while they would rather we stayed up, a spell in the third tier of English football could be what we need, giving us a chance to clear out the dead wood, win some games for a change and start afresh.

But others want to avoid relegation like the plague, fearing it could be the start of a decline on and off the pitch, the like of which we might never recover from.

For those in the first category the argument is that dropping down could act as a year zero - a chance to take stock and make major changes where needed.

A spell in Division One, so the argument goes, would allow the club to rid itself of players lacking passion for the cause, cash in on our few saleable assets and use the money to build up the squad once more.

This would allow for a re-evaluation of the wage structure and financial side of the club and possibly stand us in better stead for the long-term future.

Some even believe relegation would kick-start a change in ownership, with a potential investor (and a certain Peter Cullum obviously comes to mind here) able to buy the club on the cheap before pumping more cash into the playing side, hopefully propelling us back up the leagues.

Meanwhile on the field, the claim is that in Division One City would win more matches, giving long-suffering fans the opportunity to enjoy a season where a battle for promotion, rather than relegation, is what we find ourselves engaged in.

These people cite the example of Leicester City as proof the drop should not be feared.

I've mulled over these points - but I just can't bring myself to reason that a second relegation in less than five years would be anything other than a disaster for Norwich City Football Club.

And there's a whole host of reasons why.

Firstly, the impact on the playing squad. Maybe a “year zero” to re-evaluate is just what we need to build for the future - but that doesn't necessarily have to take place in Division One.

When I look at the current squad and consider who would stay and who could go if we were relegated, the resources we could be left with sends a shudder down the spine.

Our current first-team squad is made up of 37 players, but just 31 if you take away the youngest academy members.

By my reckoning, were we to go down, it's conceivable just twelve of the 31 players would still be here for the opening game of 2008/09.

To start with you can take our seven loanees out of the equation, as I'm sure players of the calibre of Jonathon Grounds and Ryan Bertrand are not going to be satisfied with playing third-tier football.

Of the players soon to be out of contract, Carl Cort has played well so far for City, but will he want to drop down another level at this stage of his career and the future of Mark Fotheringham remains up in the air.

Hopefully they won't get a chance to prove me wrong, but you wonder whether David Marshall, Lee Croft, Sammy Clingan, Wes Hoolahan and Darel Russell would be prepared to stay. And if they are, it might be that the club wants to cash in on them anyway.

Potentially that leaves us with Stuart Nelson (if kept on), Jon Otsemobor, Gary Doherty, Dejan Stefanovic (if he recovers from his injury), Adam Drury, Michael Spillane (if he signs a new contract), Simon Lappin (if he stays), Matthew Pattison, Robert Eagle (if not released), Jamie Cureton, Cody McDonald, Chris Martin and a handful of youngsters.

And that's before considering relegation could also mean another managerial clear-out to boot.

For me a shake-up of such an extent would greatly diminish the chances of automatic promotion and could set us back many more than the one season some supporters seem to think it would take for us to get back to the Championship.

Remember that for every Leicester, there's a Leeds, a Bradford and a Luton.

It is surely much better then to keep Marshall, Croft, Clingan and co and try to improve the squad around them whilst remaining in the Championship.

Off the field I have no doubt that City's fantastic 20,000-plus fanbase would remain loyal - but for how long is another question.

A bad start to the season, or failure to win promotion straight away, and that might soon change.

Whilst I won't even try to pretend I know the exact ins and outs of Norwich's finances - with the lost TV money and potentially smaller gate receipts there's no guarantee that a clear out and rethinking of wages would improve the finances greatly and put us on a sounder financial footing.

And in the current financial climate there's also no guarantee that a drop in divisions is going to make us anymore attractive to any investors.

Which is why for me it's a no brainer, not just for the reasons stated above, but because I just can't bring myself to in any way consider it acceptable that Norwich's plight could worsen - especially when in my mind relegation is still much less of a certainty than many doom-mongers believe it to be.

What a second difference six months makes

I couldn't help but chuckle at City's programme on Saturday which included a new team photo in the centre spread.

Such are the comings and goings from the club it is now necessary to have a team photo not only at the start of the season - but in the middle too.

While I can see the logic behind having a new photo as a bonding exercise designed to make new players feel part of the squad, I couldn't help but think it's a real sign of the times at Carrow Road.

It simply highlighted once more just how ridiculous the transfer and loan dealings within the club have become.

Since the first photo was taken in August, six players and at least five backroom staff have departed, while six players and four backroom staff joined the club in time for the second.

And that's without taking into consideration Jason Shackell, who of course left the club, only to return just in time to make the new team photo.

Traditionally, City's best seasons have coincided with us having a settled squad, combined with a bit of luck with injuries.

However, when you consider that so far this season 27 players have appeared in the yellow and green, and in the last three seasons this figure has been 34, 36 and 33, it is no wonder Norwich have been so inconsistent.

It's been said before, but no matter who is in charge next season, and what division we are in, it is vital for the future of the club that someone finds a way to bring to a halt Carrow Road's revolving door.

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