'One of the most stressful days of my professional life' - Balls on Maddison injury scare

James Maddison of Norwich has to leave the match early on through injury during the Sky Bet Champion

James Maddison receives treatment for a knee injury that nearly scuppered his move to Leicester City.

Ed Balls has described the moment James Maddison limped out of the Canaries fixture against Sheffield Wednesday as one of the most stressful days in his professional career.

The former Labour politician served as Norwich City's chairman between December 2015 and December 2018, overseeing the restructuring of the club that saw current sporting director Stuart Webber and head coach Daniel Farke. 

Another key task for Balls was navigating the club through the financial crisis after falling from the Premier League cliff edge and seeing their revenue significantly drop. 

"At the end of that season, it was the end of the parachute payments and this was a very precarious time for the club. It is the case that this was partly due to the legacy from the Naismith transfer, but the fundamental fact is that we weren't in the Premier League," Balls told the Along Come Norwich podcast.

"By not going up in those two years, we were in a financially difficult situation. This was a conversation the board were having for hours. It was a reality that Daniel had been brought into. 

"He was brought in by Stuart knowing the financial difficulties we would face if we didn't go up in the first two years. He was also told that we would back him because he had a transformative plan. Of course, he was frustrated to lose Maddison, Murphys and Brady along the way but these were decisions that had to be taken. We didn't have any choice."

James Maddison was a breakthrough star in Farke's first season at the club, developing from a young player who had been on loan to Aberdeen into a £20million plus player. 

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His move to Leicester City was integral in ensuring both the short and long-term stability of the football club, but that was plunged into doubt when he limped off during the first half of City's heavy defeat to the Owls.

"That final game of the season at Sheffield Wednesday was, in retrospect, one of the most stressful days of my professional life. 

"Everyone knew Maddison was going to leave. Stuart was confident but not sure it would be done. A third of the way through the first-half, he came off. We assumed this was a clever bit of game management from Maddison because he had a very good agent at the time.

"Stuart came back at half-time as white as a sheet to say that it was bad. It was a serious injury, possibly an ACL and might need an operation. We all met in Nottinghamshire the following week, there was a club away day with Stuart and Daniel where we had an afternoon meeting and then some dinner in the evening. 

"At that time, we didn't know what the Maddison prognosis was going to be. It was slightly better that day but it wasn't definite that he wouldn't have to have an operation. If he did, then that would have been it for that transfer window. Even if there was no operation, he was out for the whole pre-season and this would be a very hard deal to do.

James Maddison of Norwich waves to the traveling Norwich fans at the end of the Sky Bet Championship

James Maddison reemerged on the pitch to wave to the City supporters. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

"In order to keep the club solvent and to be able to pay the players and the staff given our income, we had to sit down that afternoon and talk through the players we would need to put on the market that summer knowing that it wasn't good financial trading. 

"Stuart had been very skilled in his communication saying that we didn't need to sell Maddison. Daniel was in those meetings and knew what would happen if we didn't get that deal. 

"A few days later the good news came through, but even then, the deal that Stuart did to move Maddison on to Leicester was hugely important.  If Maddison would have been injured, then it would have been hard to gain promotion. Given what we would have had to do to the squad, it was a great relief."

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