Good guy deserves fitting farewell
RICK WAGHORN One or two cards on the table right from the start. Robert Green is a bright lad, a thoroughly decent lad and I wish him all the luck in the world as and when he departs this parish for pastures new.
One or two cards on the table right from the start. Robert Green is a bright lad, a thoroughly decent lad and I wish him all the luck in the world as and when he departs this parish for pastures new.
At least if we are, indeed, about to call time on his 13-year association with the Norfolk club he left Carrow Road to a standing ovation - albeit on a stretcher.
And that was only fitting. For if the 25-year-old duly becomes Harry Redknapp's 57th Fratton Park signing next week, Green ought to be long remembered not only for a wealth of fabulous saves, but also for the not-so small matter of signing a new contract in the summer of 2004 when he could all too easily have walked for nothing, Andy Marshall-style in the summer of 2005.
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At over 24 years old, Green could have left Carrow Road last summer on a free transfer. Walked out of the door without the club that had long nurtured his talents receiving a penny.
Instead, he agreed a new, four-year package that all-but guaranteed Norwich a significant transfer fee as and when the time to move came. Green would go, but in his wake he would leave the cash to fund two or three new players - something Marshall opted not to do.
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It's easy to over-egg the chivalry. Robert Green is not a charity. After all, in the summer of 2004 the Canaries were flying into the Premiership's promised land and his signature would have brought large financial rewards - he wasn't exactly committing himself to a life of poverty by signing that new Canary deal.
But it did a create minefield. In what is a very limited goalkeeper market, in which free transfer signings are all-too often all the rage, Green arguably priced himself out of a summer move as the likes of West Ham United snapped up Roy Carroll on a free transfer as opposed to slapping £2.5 million in Norwich's palm and then sitting down with the player to discuss his Premiership-style wage packet.
In short, he became a less-attractive proposition than his actual talents would suggest; talents that, fingers crossed, could yet find him boarding the plane for Germany this summer and a place in England's World Cup thinking now that his Premiership platform looks about to be secured.
Because that's what lies near the heart of Green's exit - the fairly sure and certain knowledge that, for all his talk, Sven Goran-Eriksson would struggle to take a Championship player seriously. He doesn't do the Championship - as Green was all too painfully aware.
He had to get himself a level playing field with which to take Chris Kirkland on. Which again is why his exit should come with a greater degree of understanding and gratitude than some.
What also makes Green's likely exit all the more palatable is, in fairness, the text-book manner - as far as you ever get text-book when Redknapp, Mandaric and Co are concerned - that both the player and the agent have handled themselves.
Because in this day and age, transfers of this ilk are invariably messy. Everyone is pulling tricks. That's the very nature of the modern-day beast. Particularly once you get to a certain level noughts-wise, the world and his wife are looking for a slice. Throw in the feeding frenzy that both the media and the message-boards enjoy in these circumstances and it is rare that all parties emerge with their dignity or their popularity intact.
Green, in fairness, hasn't played it bad. He simply withdraws into a polite 'Not speaking…' mode, changes his mobile phone number and let's his agent do the rest.
Hence the lack of any comment this week as to how he felt after his unscheduled trip to the Norfolk and Norwich; Green wasn't doing calls - not even to the club's own PR team.
In the meantime, it was his agent putting the calls in. And given that it's 'Arry we're talking about, you always know that the other end of the deal is going to be 'talkative' - whether that's on or off the record.
So the two big pieces that suggest Green's exit - in the Daily Star and the Daily Mail - are 'sourced' from either the Pompey end or Green's agent. If I had to guess, given that the Star's Danny Fullbrook has been around the block, I'd suspect that was a Redknapp touch; the piece in The Mail is intriguing and smacks far more of Green's man Andy Evans doing his work.
It's just the whole tone of the middle paragraphs in respect as to whether Portsmouth should go Green, Mark Schwarzer or Carlo Cudicini. The justification for the younger, cheaper man is pure agent-talk.
“Green could prove a more realistic target given the salaries Schwarzer and Cudicini earn - about £40,000 a week - compared to the England reserve goalkeeper's £15,000. That makes him a more attractive proposition…”
Which is fascinating given that Carrow Road sources would insist that, given City's divisional payment structure, Green is nowhere near on £15,000 a week.
That, you might suggest, might merely be the numbers that the City No1 would be prepared to be on if the Portsmouth switch happened. It is also as good a way as any of telling the Wigans and Charltons of this world that that's the level they'd need to look at if they opted for an eleventh hour move to steal Pompey's thunder.
Once again, the next paragraph is cute. “Green is thought to be interested in a move to Portsmouth. Aware that his place in the England squad for the summer's World Cup is by no means guaranteed, he knows he needs to be playing in the Premiership to remain in Sven-Goran Eriksson's thoughts…”
But that's the reporter talking, albeit probably via Mr Evans. Come the next morning and Mr Evans sticks his neck above the parapet even further on Sky Sports - “We are flattered by Portsmouth's interest,” said Mr Evans. “And if the two clubs can agree a fee we would be happy to talk and explore a move back to the Premiership.
“Robert still has very big England ambitions and wants to play at the highest level.”
And, at all times, Robert's nowhere near a quote. It's his agent playing the “flattered” card; at all times playing the “England World Cup card” to explain to Green's Norfolk audience why he might be about to break 13 years of mutual affection.
Which, so far as these things ever are, is about as smooth as it gets. Where - as we all discovered with our old pal Damien - it gets very messy is when Norwich dare to drag their feet and believe that they are getting the smelly end of the deal transfer-fee wise.
In fairness to Mr Evans, he's not gone down the Tony Finnigan route of announcing that 'Damien has set his heart on a move to Portsmouth…' but if they are the only show in town and, as a result, start to say in true Harry fashion: 'Ooh, we'll only give you a £1 million…' that's when the brown stuff really starts to fly.
Green may, like Damo before him, have fallen in love with Southsea Castle and HMS Victory, but that's no reason for Norwich to miss out on the better part of a £1 million just to keep their keeper in international clover. They play hard ball fee-wise, not let Francis go for Portsmouth's original £750,000 offer and, according to the text-book, that's when agent turns up the heat on Norwich by getting his client to really start throwing his toys out of the pram. That's when Francis no-shows at Colchester United this summer. That's when your reputation really starts to suffer; when 13 good years goes down the pan courtesy of playing transfer games.
Hopefully, that won't happen. It would be a shame. Robert Green is one of the good guys. At least he has Saturday's injury to cover a multitude of possible Home Park sins should his name be missing this afternoon.
But these deals do have a habit of turning very nasty. And for all the above, you could insert Dean Ashton, his uncle and a sudden love affair with jellied eels and the sound of Bow Bells.
You have been warned.