Stand by for the lull after the sale

DAVID CUFFLEY THE SALE of Norwich City's prized goalscoring stars has invariably triggered a period of decline in the team's fortunes and despondency among the fans.


THE SALE of Norwich City's prized goalscoring stars has invariably triggered a period of decline in the team's fortunes and despondency among the fans.

In many cases these high-profile exits have been controversial and closely followed by the resignation or sacking of the manager who presided over the big-money departure - even if the two events were not directly linked.

Dean Ashton's move to West Ham United for £7.25 million is merely the latest in a long line of lucrative deals to have disappointed City's long-suffering fans.

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While most of those moves have signalled an on-field slump, there have been one or two notable exceptions to the depressing trend. It's fair to say the Canaries bounced back handsomely from the potentially damaging sales of Justin Fashanu, Kevin Drinkell and Robert Fleck.

Much will depend on whether - and when - City find a suitable replacement for Ashton. But the case history should serve as a warning to Nigel Worthington and the board . . .

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t Ron Davies to Southampton £55,000 (August 1966) - Welsh international Davies was sold before new manager Lol Morgan had even got his first game under his belt. There followed three seasons of mid-table mediocrity as City failed to trouble Division Two's promotion contenders.

t Hugh Curran to Wolves £60,000 (January 1969) - “We won't sell him at any price,” said manager Morgan. But Curran, with 22 goals in a season before the end of January, was sold to Wolves. The writing was on the wall. Three months later, Morgan was out of a job after a 4-1 home defeat by Derby.

t David Cross to Coventry £150,000 (November 1973) - Cross beat manager Ron Saunders out of the door by a matter of days. The striker's move to Coventry was followed by Saunders' resignation after a boardroom row with chairman Sir Arthur South. John Bond became the new boss, bringing in Ted MacDougall and Phil Boyer as his new attacking force, but City were still relegated from Division One.

t Kevin Reeves to Manchester City £1m (March 1980) - A classic case of one thing leading to another. Manchester City boss Malcolm Allison succeeded in signing Reeves seven months after his original £1m bid failed. Seven months later, Bond followed Reeves to Maine Road when he took Allison's job. After another seven months, City were relegated from Division One.

t Justin Fashanu to Nottingham Forest £1m (August 1981) - One big-money exit that City managed to recover from. After an erratic six months, Ken Brown's Canaries clinched promotion to Division One with a storming finish to the season. Ross Jack, John Deehan and Keith Bertschin between them provided the goals to compensate for Fashanu's absence.

t Kevin Drinkell to Rangers £600,000 (June 1988) - With Drinkell leading scorer for each of his three seasons at Carrow Road, his move to Scotland seemed likely to leave a big hole in City's armoury. But Dave Stringer's men confounded the odds by finishing a best-ever fourth in Division One, after leading the table at Christmas, and reaching the FA Cup semi-finals.

Robert Fleck to Chelsea £2.1m (August 1992) - Mark Robins' instant success and Chris Sutton's ability to play even better in attack than he did at centre-half meant Fleck's big move had little effect. Mike Walker's men went one better than Stringer's team four seasons earlier and finished third in the first FA Premier League, qualifying for the UEFA Cup.

t Chris Sutton to Blackburn £5m (July 1994) - One of four strikers to go in big cash moves in the space of a year, Sutton went after the sale of Ruel Fox and before the departure of Efan Ekoku and Mark Robins. Was it any wonder the Canaries were relegated 10 months after Sutton's departure? Manager John Deehan, then caretaker boss Gary Megson were further victims as City suffered the dreaded drop.

t Ashley Ward to Derby £1m (March 1996) - Megson's second spell in charge of the Canaries was a losing battle almost from day one as he found his team being sold around him while the club headed perilously close to financial ruin. Megson lasted just three months after Ward's exit - axed to make way for Walker's second spell in charge.

t Darren Eadie to Leicester £3m (December 1999) - Eadie's ill-starred move to Leicester City was followed just three months later by Bruce Rioch's resignation as manager, after a 1-0 home defeat by Crystal Palace. Rioch was clearly disillusioned with his lot at Carrow Road after nearly two seasons trying to shape a side capable of promotion.

t Craig Bellamy to Coventry £5.3m (August 2000) - Bellamy's dressing room outburst after the opening game of the season at Barnsley is understood to have paved the way for his move to the Midlands. But it was unlikely it had any bearing on Hamilton's resignation at the start of December.

More likely it was his poor results and abysmal signings. Out of 14 new recruits, nine of them permanent, only Steen Nedergaard and Paul McVeigh went on to play a meaningful role under Nigel Worthington.

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