So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the latest buzzword in the Canary lexicon.
Which has, of course, replaced ‘plastic’, it’s late and not at all lamented predecessor in the role as word of the week amongst sections of Norwich City supporters.
First, let’s take a retrospective look at the latter.
It’s popular use may be temporarily on the wane, but, as with so many equally annoying things in life (Lady Gaga for example), just as you think it’s gone away forever, it’ll inevitably return – probably in or around the time we are due to play someone like Chelsea or Manchester City at home.
No further explanation needed. You know the rest.
I’m probably a ‘plastic’ fan myself. I certainly don’t go to as many games as I used to and, whilst I don’t pick and choose those that I do attend, I’m not as hardcore now as some I know, many of whom have barely missed a fixture of any description for well over a decade and beyond.
That sort of dedication to the Canary cause probably applies to a lot of you who are reading this right now and, believe me, when I hear or see the legions of you up at Blackburn on a cold Wednesday night, it makes me very proud to be a Norwich fan and to know we have such a loyal and noisy following for even the most logistically difficult away fixtures.
But does that dedication and both personal and financial sacrifice make you or anyone else whose blood, like Peter Mendham’s, really does run yellow and green a ‘better’ supporter than me and many others in similar circumstances?
That’s a debate which, I suspect, has run for a long time amongst fans of just about every league club in England.
What makes a true fan? And are you one? Or, as in the case of we perceived plastics, not?
For me, anyone who genuinely supports the club is a fan of Norwich City. They can have attended 500 consecutive matches or never been to one at all. If you love, follow and support our club then that’s good enough for me.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with that. Football is, as I have said on here on more than one occasion, is a game of differing and often wildly polarising opinions. And long may it remain so. That is one of the great joys of following a team and our national game. And I know some will accuse me of being one of those with a great long streak of plastic running down his spine.
Then so be it. I’ll just carry on loving and supporting my team and enjoying all that added flexibility it gives me.
I can be your flexible friend.
Tinpot, on the other hand, is a phrase reserved for the club itself rather than the fans. Or, more precisely, the perceived attitude of those running the club.
But what is ‘tinpot’ and why the accusations of same being labelled at the club at the moment?
Good writing practice dictates that it is a capital offence to write down the definition of any word in an article and that copying it from a dictionary is a faux pas of cataclysmic proportions and a definite no-no.
But, given that good writing practice and I have never even been introduced, much less sat down at the same table and had a frank and honest chat, I’ll do so here, because I want to know exactly what people mean when they throw this accusation at the club. So…
Tinpot: Adjective (pronominal) Brit. Inf. 1. Inferior, cheap or worthless. 2. Petty, unimportant.
Tinpot? Do they mean us?
I think I have to beg to differ.
Inferior? A club that has just won promotion to the English Premier League?
Cheap or worthless? A club that has little to no exterior debt and which, for the financial period ending June 30 2014 posted figures that showed revenue was up to £95.5million – an increase of £16.8 million on the previous year?
One that posted a profit, after tax, of £6.7million?
You want Manchester United? Sure, don’t we all. Well, no actually. Billy Big Bollocks they may well be, but their quarterly financial figures released in February show that they are operating under a debt of £380million.
No, they aren’t a ‘tinpot’ outfit. But they won’t have a tinpot or pot of any description to pee in if they don’t get their financial affairs straightened out in the next few years.
It matters not that they are Manchester United.
Leeds United thought they were untouchable once. As did Glasgow Rangers. And remember, for all that they stood for and achieved, they went under. The club playing at Ibrox Park next season is not the Glasgow Rangers of old but a fledgling football club just three years old whilst, back in 2010, there were serious concerns that Liverpool, yes, Liverpool were on the brink of going into administration.
Whilst in Italy, Parma, the not-at-all-tinpot club of Zola, Stoichkov, Crespo and Thuram have gone bankrupt twice in a decade.
Trying all along, I suspect, not to be tinpot. And look where it has got them.
It’s easy to confuse being tinpot with being financially prudent. And it’s just as easy to equate observing the latter with being boring – at least that is, if it’s not your money.
Put it this way. I have a ridiculous, bordering on the obscene credit limit on one of my credit cards, as will many of you reading this. You and I could go into our nearest car showroom and okay, we won’t be driving out in a Jaguar or a Merc, but a nice new Citroen C4 Sir? Thankyou, that’ll do nicely.
But that ain’t gonna happen. All because the money is there and available doesn’t mean you have to spend it regardless. It isn’t obligatory. Leeds United had it, or, at least, thought they had it, and paid a substantial amount to Seth Johnson.
Because they could. And because their spectators expected them to do so. Because they weren’t tinpot.
The story of Johnson’s contract negotiations with Leeds have passed into legend. He’d been earning £5,000 a week at Derby which led to his agent telling Johnson that, in the hope he’d eventually get his client at least £10,000 a week at Elland Road, that he “…wouldn’t settle for less than £13,000 a week” before he signed.
Yet, even before he had the chance to put forward his demands, Leeds Chairman Peter Risdale opened the meeting by telling them that he could ‘only’ offer Johnson £30,000 a week.
Both Johnson and his agent were stunned into silence; so much so that Ridsdale interpreted it as disgust, before going on to offer Johnson £37,000 a week.
That told them didn’t it? Leeds United. We’re many things but we are not tinpot. At least they weren’t then. But they are now.
And all because they tried so hard to show that they were not.
So you’ll perhaps forgive me if I don’t get myself into the sort of rich and creamy lather some of my fellow Norwich fans are getting themselves into because we won’t meet Hull City’s asking price for Robbie Brady.
Yes, I’m sure that we could afford to pay them the £7million they there were originally asking. But this is not an episode of Blackadder and we are not, to quote Prince George going to “… pay the fellow Edmund (aka David) and damn his impudence.”
We can. But that’s not the point. Because we don’t have to. And it makes a far better and more long lasting point to other clubs, players and, most of all, agents to show that, whilst we may well have the means, that doesn’t translate as us being willing to roll over and give in to whatever demands are made of us.
Passive we are not. And giving in to whatever demands are made of us by other clubs and all their assorted hangers on is not a good thing.
I hear the counter argument and I hear it loud and strong.
The one that says it all very well saying that but we need to strengthen the squad and that everyone else is doing so, even Watford and Bournemouth and if we don’t follow their lead we’ll be left behind and struggling from that start.
And that £7million is a very good price for a Premier League player. And indeed it would be if the player in question we wanted to sign from Hull City was, for example, Tom Huddlestone.
But not Robbie Brady.
Transfer fees and player demands are now ridiculous. We all know that, there’s nothing new in that statement, nothing to see here. Move along, move along.
So, sometimes, just sometimes you have to take a stand against the madness. Draw a line in the sand and say that, come what may, we are not crossing it.
And maybe that’s exactly we are doing in the case of Norwich City, Hull City and Robbie Brady.
If we are then, far from thinking the club is ‘tinpot’ for doing so, I rather think it deserves a little bit of respect for taking such a stance. One that marks us out as anything but “inferior, cheap or worthless.”
But, rather, one that makes us stand out as strong, professional and yes, I can hear the shouts of boring in response to this, as eminently sensible and responsible.
Four values that are essential qualities in the running of any business. Especially football clubs.
‘Tinpot’, for me, would be giving in, to capitulating, to being dictated to by other clubs over unrealistic transfer fees and players whose wage demands that far outweigh what they have to offer.
‘Tinpot’ would be acquiescing to Hull City’s demand that we pay £7million for Brady and not only because they know we can but because we know we can as well.
But still not doing it. That’s strength, not tinpot.
And we should be very glad that we have strong people running our club, individuals whose modus operandi is working to the football club’s very best interests. And not just this summer or for the pending Premier League season, but for its financial health and well-being for many years to come.
Robbie Brady has become somewhat a symbol of that this summer. Yet, as one swallow doesn’t make one, neither will he, whatever happens, make or break ours.
Because he isn’t Seth Johnson. And David McNally isn’t Peter Risdale.
And thank all the gods for that.