Doncaster: We will sign new players

DAVID CUFFLEY Chief executive Neil Doncaster today insisted Norwich City would not be left behind in the race to snap up summer signings when he said: “We do need more players, we have a budget to spend and we will deliver those players.


Chief executive Neil Doncaster today insisted Norwich City would not be left behind in the race to snap up summer signings when he said: “We do need more players, we have a budget to spend and we will deliver those players.”

More than nine weeks after the end of last season, supporters are still waiting for the Canaries to unveil their first new capture for 2006-07.

But, flatly rejecting suggestions that City were dragging their heels in the transfer market, Doncaster said manager Nigel Worthington had put in “a huge amount of work” to try to strengthen the squad, even if his pursuit of targets such as Rob Hulse, Luke Chadwick, Steve Howard and Izale McLeod had so far drawn a blank.

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Doncaster, just appointed as a club director and also to the Football League board, said: “I think the important thing is not to get confused between players arriving and the huge amount of work that has gone on. There may be a perception in some quarters that telephones aren't on and nothing's being done and the reality couldn't be further from that.

“The reality is that me and Nigel have had our phones on all summer. Even at times when we've been away from the club, our phones are always on. That is Nigel's policy and my policy because transfers are a very time consuming business.

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“I think the perception of transfers is that you send a fax with an offer and someone sends a fax back saying yes or no and you move quickly to announce a player is being unveiled at a Press conference. That may have been the case 20 years ago. The reality is that, these days, if you send off a fax offer, all that happens is that is used to try to market the player to other clubs and drive his price up.

“So, increasingly, transfer business is done very informally on the phone. We have made some approaches for a number of players and, as you'd expect, the clubs involved have either tried to position themselves to avoid having to sell the player or, if they are resigned to selling him, trying to get the best possible price, and that would generally involve trying to create an auction in the market.

“We also haven't been assisted by the amount of changes there have been elsewhere at other clubs within the division. If you look at Stoke for example, when we first made an inquiry about Luke Chadwick, they didn't have a chairman and they didn't have a manager. In that situation, when you're dealing with the chief executive, you can't expect him to make a decision on a player when he hasn't got a chairman of the board or a manager. So for many reasons we have been frustrated by factors largely beyond our control.

“You can't force the issue as a buying club. It's very difficult to do.”

Echoing comments made by City chairman Roger Munby, Doncaster said he was very conscious of fans' anxiety over the lack of transfer activity, but asked them to be patient.

He said: “I'm sure people would prefer that we brought in players that we believe in. There's no point in buying a player in purely

for the sake of it to appease the view that we need some more players. We do need more players, we have a budget to spend and we will deliver those players but if you try and force the issue, you will end up overspending, possibly on players that you don't necessarily want, and that isn't in anyone's best interests.

“We've got a net debt approaching £20m, so making any money available out of our cash flow for players is difficult. That said, money is available and we will continue to try to use it to its best effect.

“I would simply ask our supporters to be patient, to let things unfold. There will be new faces, but we will all have to be patient to get the right result for the club.

“As a club, we've been as ambitious as we can be over the last few years. We've invested very heavily in players.”

But Doncaster admitted City could not afford to spend huge sums on players.

He said: “There's certainly not an enormous pot of cash. We are in competition in this division with a number of teams that are enormously more wealthy than us. Some of them had share issues this summer. Some of them have very wealthy benefactors. West Brom, for example, have come down without any net debt. We came down with nearly £20m of debt.”

Financial matters will also dominate the agenda in Doncaster's three-year appointment to the Football League board, where Ipswich chairman David Sheepshanks and Hull chairman Adam Pearson are the other Championship representatives.

Said Doncaster: “The one big issue is the increase in polarisation of income between the two leagues. This year the bottom club in Premier League will have earned about £20m from TV. The top club in the Championship, just one place behind, will have earned just over £1m. With the new TV deal, not this season but the following season, it's likely to be a similar figure in the Championship and maybe £30m or £35m in the Premier League. You've got a gap that's widening and the challenge for the Football League is to try to shrink that gap. Can it really be right that the team one place above the top Championship club gets 35 times as much? That distortion can only be bad for the game as a whole.

“It's very difficult to thrive as a business in the Championhip and we are very fortunate with the passionate loyalty of our supporters with just under 20,000 season tickets sold, but let's not kid ourselves, the gap financially between the Premier League and Football League is a massive one.”

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