Ian Clarke: I’m okay with Norwich City being a yo-yo club
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
I said it before the season started and I’m sticking with my prediction - Norwich City will go straight back up to the Premier League.
In many ways Tuesday evening’s stalemate with Millwall was massively disappointing.
Despite having 27 shots (six on target), the Canaries couldn’t find the net.
Ultimately the 61pc possession didn’t count for anything as the ball simply wouldn’t go into ex-Ipswich keeper Bartosz Bialkowski’s net.
I can imagine if Carrow Road had been full under the lights, it would have been one of those nights where there would have been a few groans at the final whistle and a real split in opinion as we left the ground and made our way home.
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For me the match confirmed why I believe Daniel Farke’s men will get one of the two automatic places.
And the game, coupled with the release of the club’s annual report and accounts, sums up why the Canaries are set to maintain their status as a yo-yo club.
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On the surface of it, the Millwall game was two points lost, especially taking into account those statistics above.
However, at the end of the night we were sitting in third place, just four points off the top and a single point behind Swansea, who come to Carrow Road for the undoubted Championship match of the weekend on Saturday.
No-one is running away with the league - and remember that on Tuesday night none of the other contenders got a win in.
City have been a long way from being invincible but are very much in the mix and have secured 14 points from the last 18.
If the Canaries can outgun the Swans, we’ll go into the next enforced break in a very decent position.
From what I’ve seen so far in the first 10 games, the Canaries have enough quality, depth and experience to go back up.
I’m looking a long, long way ahead and asking would we have the basis to stay in the top flight next time? We simply don’t know - but I’m beginning to think that we’re going to continually get used to a promotion campaign followed by a relegation fight and press repeat.
So is that a problem?
Of course we want to be an established Premier League club, win cups and have the best players in the land at NR1.
There will be some who will be yelling: “If the club spent big after promotion it could happen.”
And those of you with that view could be right,
You could though, be wrong.
What about if the gamble went wrong and the club was left in the financial dire straits we’ve seen before and the team drifts into second tier mediocrity or worse?
That brings me to the annual accounts.
They show incredibly starkly the massive gulf between the riches of football’s top table and the relative slim pickings of the Championship.
Throw in the multi-million pound loss from Covid-19 so far (which will continue to rise sharply every week) and it’s easy to see why a self financing club like Norwich has to rely on shrewdness, bringing through youth and selling some of the prized assets.
City had budgeted for a £14m profit last year, which turned into a £2m profit due to the pandemic. That was in comparison to a £39m loss the previous year.
Income from broadcasting was £90m in the Premier League, up from just £9m in tier two.
Who knows what the medium term will bring, but there’s no expectation of fans back at games until at least next March. I think it will be longer than that.
This is part of what chief operating officer Ben Kensell said when he unveiled the accounts.
“It is a challenging period for the club but we have got a really robust business model which has been worked on for the last three years. This is not a fluke. We are reliant on that resilience we have had as a result of building up that business model and strengths we had across our financial pillars.”
It’s not a new message. Over the years we’ve heard a lot about ambition with prudence.
More than ever, the way the club is being run seems to be the only realistic option for the Canaries.
We want every player who pulls on the beloved shirt to be robust and resilient.
Things are very tough at the moment - and won’t get any easier any time soon.
We all have questions about the way money is spent and whether the signings and team selections are right.
But overall as a long in the tooth City fan, I’m content with the way we’re run on and off the pitch - and ok with the prospect of lots more “boing boing” as we keep on yo-yoing.
Among the facts and figures in the annual accounts which showed the impact of the pandemic on Norwich City, there was plenty of evidence too of the positivity coming out of the club during the crisis.
In the first lockdown when football totally stopped, the players and officials certainly made the most of their extra time to make a difference in the community.
Working with charity partner, the Norwich City Community Sports Foundation, and with a donation of £200,000 from first team players, directors and senior staff, the Canaries Covid-19 Community Support Project was established.
The annual report revealed more than 7,000 phone calls were made to potentially vulnerable season ticket holders and members, while 2,500 care packages were delivered into the community, including 640 social care providers in Norfolk and Waveney.
That’s a fantastic effort and proves what a caring club we support.
Lacking common sense
As we enter the second lockdown, I think the right decision has been made to allow elite sport - including football - to continue.
I did have my reservations about it resuming initially back in the summer but so much work was done to ensure matches were played in safe conditions.
Lots of us are eager to get back watching our team in action - however, that is looking like it’s going to be several months at least away.
What really puzzles me is the decision for international games to take place next week as infection rates rise in so many parts of the world.
It’s one thing for domestic action to take place, but it’s a totally different situation for teams to travel vast distances across different countries. That seems to really lack common sense.
Is it right for Scotland to travel to Serbia and Slovakia, Italy to take on Poland, Belgium to host England, Austria to play Northern Ireland, Romania agaist Norway and Bulgaria v Finland?