Are the ghosts of 2013 still haunting Norwich City?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Much has been made of our apparent inability to strengthen in key areas over the summer. This week, the combination of Hooper being loaned to Sheffield Wednesday and Halloween got me wondering whether we are somehow still paying for the horror show that was the 2013 transfer window.
Stick with me.
I don’t want to go over the whole sorry saga again, the long and short of it is that we made an absolute hash of spending a record level of investment. On the face of it, we made exciting signings but the reality was anything but. Different folk blame different people for that but irrespective of who was to blame, the hard and fast was that we weakened our squad instead of strengthening it and we were relegated as a result.
Now, all the players were on divisional contracts, RVW, Hooper, Redmond, Olsson and Fer included. Fer quickly negotiated his way to another relegation, Olsson tried his damnedest to get away too but, following his second relegation couldn’t find a way out, while nobody wanted RVW (us included). Nathan Redmond still looked a long term investment and Gary Hooper, well, I’m not really sure what we thought there; perhaps he was happy enough with his remuneration? Anyway...
What was immediately apparent was that Neil Adams didn’t fancy RVW or, to a lesser extent, Hooper as he signed Grabban, Lafferty and Jerome. This had to represent a further significant investment given the wage liabilities that we retained from the Premier League and also a calculated gamble on our ability to regain top-flight status at the first attempt. We managed to negate some of that expenditure by loaning the Wolf to St Etienne but it has to be a matter of contention as to what percentage of his wages that they were actually picking up. The problem was that the strikers that weren’t good enough to keep us up, also looked like they wouldn’t be good enough to get us back up so we had to spend the money twice.
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In the end of course, we won the Wembley final, we earned that promotion and landed that gamble. In doing so, the players that were retained by the club would have re-activated the divisional clauses in their contracts and seen their wages inflated to previous, if not higher, levels.
So, now we have Grabban, Jerome, Hooper, Van Wolfswinkel all on Premier wages and with, realistically, only Jerome and perhaps Grabban likely to play a significant part in the Premier League campaign. Hooper and the Wolf have a reduced incentive to move given that they are highly unlikely (given their respective records since joining) to match their deals elsewhere.
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The club obviously has a wage structure and a budget that it has to adhere to. The fact that we had what had essentially become non-playing staff on high wages had to limit the availability of funds to entice new signings to the club.
I have it on good authority that we bid eight figure sums for two defenders over the summer only to see the players themselves reject the moves and the fact that the only supplement to our attack came in the form of a loan in Mbokani indicates that the available funds were earmarked to strengthen our defence.
Ultimately, we’ve managed to loan Wolfswinkel to Betis which will improve his tan but given his lack of playing time will do nothing for his residual value and this week we’ve offloaded Hooper to Sheffield Wednesday until January. Presumably, this will ease the wage burden that hangs over us from two years ago and I would expect – as long as he’s successful – for the Hooper move to become permanent in the next window if Wednesday are in a position to challenge.
If that is the case, perhaps in January we’ll be able to offer the packages that will persuade the type of players we were bidding for in the summer to join us. Whether that will be in the form of strikers or defenders remains to be seen, one of each wouldn’t go amiss.
What we can surely be certain of is that the club will retain an element of caution about who they pay big money for and who they pay it to. The Premier League provides big sums of money but you only get it once. As we showed the last time we spent large swathes of it, if you waste it, you might as well spend nothing and go with what you’ve got. Another season of Holt or £8.5m + wages on RVW? In hindsight we know which option would have had more chance of keeping us up.
That spend in 2013 might still be hurting us now.
• Blog post written by Duncan Edwards