Chris Goreham: Norwich City still living with the cost of going for broke in the Premier League
- Credit: Nick Butcher
The financial concern brewing at Carrow Road was clear to anyone who was at last week’s AGM.
After seeing Norwich City fail to win any of their last eight matches and slump to 16th in The Championship, adding the caveat ‘unless promotion is achieved this season’ to the warnings about losing around £30m of parachute payments is starting to feel like a waste of words.
The headlines will tell you that going for broke on Premier League survival in January 2016 has saddled the club with a wage bill that was unsustainable beyond a season in The Championship and, to paraphrase sporting director Stuart Webber for a family newspaper, amounted to peeing a lottery win up the wall.
The arguments about whether City were right to splash the cash on players like Steven Naismith, Timm Klose and Matt Jarvis in that window will go on with the benefit of hindsight.
Not buying anyone at that point would have brought howls of derision from supporters but while it’s clear that millions of pounds has been wasted on big money signings like Ricky van Wolfswinkel and co in recent years, that is just the tip of the iceberg hidden within the drain that City have willingly poured their Premier League profits into.
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During my preparation for the Cardiff commentary I was going through some previous meetings between the two clubs.
When the Canaries won in Wales in September 2014 their starting central defenders were Michael Turner and Jos Hooiveld.
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I have to admit the latter fell into the ‘I’d forgotten he played for us’ category which just underlined the amount of transfer activity the club has binged on in recent years in a desperate bid to either battle for promotion or beat off the threat of relegation.
Hooiveld was officially on loan with the Canaries from September 2014 to January 2015 from Southampton. He played six matches in that time so whatever he cost in fees and wages I don’t think Norwich got their money’s worth.
It inspired me to have a look at who else has been through the revolving Carrow Road door since the summer of 2014 when City were relegated from the Premier League initially.
Kyle Lafferty is an obvious high profile flop, scoring just two league goals in three years with the club.
The enigmatic Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe started four league games before going on to score against Real Madrid in the Champions League for Legia Warsaw while Carlos Cuellar, with eight league starts, almost deserves a testimonial when compared to Sergi Canos, Ignasi Miquel, Tony Andreu and Conor McGrandles who managed one league start between them.
Some of those players have hard luck stories to tell with injuries and some were brought in as cover rather than first choice starters and it’s impossible to have a 100pc success rate with signings. Even Sir Alex Ferguson endured some high profile failures (Eric Djemba Djemba anyone?) but the money spent on players who City fans have not seen anything like the best of and, in some cases, not seen at all is alarming.
It would be interesting to know how much the players who have joined Norwich City over the past three years have each cost in fees and wages per league appearance.
Stuart Webber reassured shareholders last week that the recruitment system at Carrow Road has been totally overhauled and it certainly needs to start delivering because there isn’t going to be much cash to waste in years to come assuming, and I might as well say it more out of hope than expectation, Norwich City are not promoted this season.
The only Englishman in the room...
Football can throw up some awkward situations, not least my arrival at The Cardiff City Stadium on Friday evening.
It was a relief to be able to catch-up with the Norwich City great and fellow columnist Iwan Roberts along with a few of his colleagues from BBC Radio Wales in the Press Room at the end of that long journey. It soon became apparent that the TVs were all showing the rolling news coverage of the World Cup draw which had just been made in Russia.
It was like being the only Englishman at a Max Boyce concert as various murmurings spread round the room about how lucky England had been to get drawn alongside Panama, Tunisia and Belgium. “Here we go, now we’ll have months of ‘England are going to win the World Cup’ from the English,” complained one man who had, until that point, been very affable.
Poor old Wales failed to qualify for Russia and, while they haven’t been to a World Cup since 1958, this time they had fallen into the old football trap of allowing themselves some hope. The wonderful run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 had been a memorable adventure for Iwan and his colleagues as their team, inspired by Gareth Bale and the management of Chris Coleman, showed us English what it is like to actually enjoy seeing your country compete properly at a major tournament.
Remember 1996 when Baddiel and Skinner sung optimistically about ending ‘30 years of hurt’? Well, we’re now up to 52 years of hurt and that’s before we even get started on the extra pain caused by watching Norwich City in that time.
I have always felt kindly disposed towards Wales. It can be no coincidence that some of Norwich City’s most successful players have been Welsh. Norfolk and Wales are united by the fact that we both stick out onto the side of England and are proud of our own identity.
A room full of Welsh sports journalists in Cardiff on Friday night was neither the time nor the place to vocalise this theory. They were more interested in Newport County than Nelson’s County. To them I was the only Englishman in the room and probably a heartbeat away from raising both arms above my head and chanting “In-ger-land, In-ger Land, Ing-ger-land” at the top of my voice.
I took the proper Englishman’s way out by making an apologetic quip about probably losing in the quarter finals on penalties and went to get some fresh air inside the stadium itself until the coverage of the World Cup draw had finished.