That’s pre-season done and dusted then. I’m not sure how much we’ve learnt over the past few weeks but attention now turns to the big kick off against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Not only is this a landmark season for the Canaries, marking the 80th anniversary of our move to Carrow Road, it’s also probably our biggest ever, in terms of financial reward, should, in 38 games time, the club finish seventeenth, or higher. Because the rewards for being one of the twenty Premier League teams from 2016-17 onwards are huge, as the next series of multi-billion pound broadcasting deals kick in.
A minimum of £100 million pounds, just for finishing twentieth – it’s truly CRAZY!
So, what are the chances of City crossing that mythical finish line and avoiding the drop?
Well, if the bookies are to be believed, and I’m not really a betting man, City, together with Watford and Bournemouth, are all predicted to be “one season Premier League wonders”.
Watford – 20th, Norwich – 19th and Bournemouth – 18th, are the universal predictions from the High Street and online betting establishments alike.
Fair? Probably not. Predictable? Yes.
The bookies usually know more than the punters. How else do they have that “edge?”
The stats speak for themselves.
In the preceding 23 Premier League seasons, only once (1997-98) have all three promoted teams been relegated the following May.
However, it’s equally fair to mention, that there have only been two seasons (2001-2002 and 2011-12) where all three promoted clubs have survived.
Or, to put it another way, in 21 out of 23 seasons at least one of the promoted teams have been relegated after just one season.
So, three different clubs, with three different close seasons, but who is the best equipped to survive?
If it was solely based upon managers, then Eddie Howe, currently in his second spell at Bournemouth, is the longest serving of the three, having been in charge since October 2012. Howe undoubtedly has the advantage of knowing his current squad inside out, knowing its strengths and weaknesses.
Alex Neil, as we all know, has only been in charge from January 2015 and, although his arrival was part way through the last transfer window, this is his first real opportunity to fine tune his squad.
Watford, ditched their fourth and promotion winning manager from last season – apparently he was being too greedy in new contract negotiations – and have gone for the experienced Quique Sanchez Flores, once of Atletico Madrid, Valencia and, more recently, Getafe.
If safety was judged on age and experience alone, there would be only winner. However, none have managed in the Premier League before, so, no major advantage on that front.
And then there are the players at each club. And this is where, in my opinion, it gets really interesting, as each club seems to have taken a differing approach.
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, seem to have opted for the loyalty route, having so far signed just five players.
Having promised not to spend “silly money” they promptly went out and splashed £8 million on Tyrone Mings. Certainly, he’s young and with plenty of potential but with just one full season in the Championship it feels a big risk.
Howe has also signed Sylvian Distin on a one-year deal. At 37 years old there’s no questioning his Premier League experience, just, maybe, the legs for another 38 game season?
Further goalkeeping experience has been added with Arthur Boruc and Adam Federici, plus Josh King, a striker, on a free from Blackburn Rovers.
You do, however, have to wonder if last season’s Championship top scorers will have the fire-power to survive in the Premier League?
Personally, I doubt it.
Watford, in contrast, have so far signed ten players – a word limit, plus a spell check nightmare, prevents me listing them all – mainly from overseas, with a mixture of international experience.
Etienne Capone became the club’s record signing, arriving from Spurs, and has Premier League experience, even if it’s 24 games in two and a bit seasons. And Matei Vydra has finally signed permanently, after two previous loan spells, from Udinese.
It will be interesting to see how Flores manages to integrate the large number of new signings into the current squad, which looks desperately short of genuine Premier League experience.
Maybe, the bookies have this prediction right after all?
As for Norwich over the close season, the new arrivals were, perhaps, a little slow in arriving.
Alex Neil does, however, have the benefit of a squad with much greater Premier League experience that the two promotion rivals, even if the cynics may suggest, some most part of the relegation team from the season before last.
The additions of Graham Dorrans and Youssouf Mulumbu also bring a wealth of Premier League experience, as, to a lesser extent, does Robbie Brady.
Add in the ‘Alex Neil factor’ and I genuinely believe that the Canaries will surprise a few of their Premier League rivals throughout 2015-16.
So, where do I think the Canaries will finish come next May? Well, you’ll have to wait a few more days for the answer to that one.
On the Ball City