Terri Westgate: Money may make your world go round, but not ours
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
It’s brilliant being a Norwich City fan these days.
We have just experienced one of the greatest seasons in recent times.
It was flags in the Barclay, last-minute winners, table-topping, glorious fun. We have a new mayor and a love of all things German. It was a season that none but the most optimistic had expected. It will live long in the memory - and I write that as someone who was at every moment of our Uefa Cup journey in 1993.
We over-achieved and did it on a shoestring. We stormed to the title playing beautiful football and without breaking the bank. This time last year I had no idea what a Teemu Pukki was, and given his free transfer, a 30-goal-a-season striker would not have been my first guess.
Once the joyous celebrations had died down, thoughts turned to reality of life in the Premier League. Those of us living in the Canary bubble had no expectations of a summer spending spree. Yet elsewhere many commentators and football fans have already written us off as dead certs for relegation. The reason they often give is because of our low-key transfer business.
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This seems a bit odd, though. It's only a few weeks since Fulham's catastrophic fall back to the Championship, despite coughing up £100 million on players last summer. An obvious example of how spending big guarantees you nothing. By contrast, Wolves were promoted alongside the Cottagers, they splashed out around half as much and finished a very respectable seventh. However, there is more that differentiates these two sides than transfer budgets.
Wolves won the Championship at a canter, having put together a balanced, skilful squad of talented foreigners and experienced players released from other clubs - including former Canaries John Ruddy and Ryan Bennett. They had developed their own identity and continued with their style of play and confidence into the top tier. Clearly, there are similarities between the Wolves journey, and that of Norwich City last season - but with one exception. Money.
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It is an amazing fact that we achieved one of our best ever seasons following a window when we had parted with our biggest names and made a clear profit. We all knew that the books needed to be balanced, but had no idea that in doing so a Championship-winning squad was being formed. Our recruitment wasn't about big names and money signings. It was about a group of players who had been under-appreciated elsewhere, and now were given the chance to thrive in a supportive environment where everyone was working for a common goal.
Our success has been built on this ethic. The camaraderie amongst the group played as much a part in those last-gasp winners as all that extra training. Unused subs and squad players celebrated every moment as much as those on the pitch. The unity and trust grew with each game, and the points continued to rack up as other teams fell away.
The idea that once promoted we would throw our principles out of the window and spend money we don't have, on players who could potentially disrupt the equilibrium, seems bizarre to anyone in the know. Instead, we have strengthened with quality free transfers and season-long loans, and instead invested in youth for our under-23s.
Whilst those in the national media and armchair fans may baulk at this approach, those of us who wear the yellow and green are excited that players we love are getting their chance on the biggest league in the world. They have earned that place, they had worked hard to get there, and they will fight to the last second for our club. If they fail, they will do so admirably. But maybe we could cause a few upsets and surprise all those doubters.
With so many former top-flight clubs struggling with mountains of debt, I believe it is worth the risk to be prudent. However, I also have faith in our coaching staff and playing squad, and I promise to give my all from the terraces to prove that, at least in the Fine City of Norwich, football isn't all about money.
Where will City finish: 13th
Who will win the title? Liverpool
Which three teams will be relegated? Brighton, Newcastle and Crystal Palace