It’s guest blog time again and first up this season is James Finbow with his take on the lethal cocktail of the transfer window, Deadline Day and Twitter.
Take it away…
Alex receives five transfer tokens from Jez.
“What’s this?” enquires Alex, looking somewhat irked.
“Oh, were you expecting the ten tokens that David gave you last season?” quips Jez. “I’m afraid it’s all we’ve got because our income has halved after you numpties got us relegated. You can have some more if we sell a couple of our prize jewels but so far we’ve had no firm bids, just window shoppers – so you’ll have to ‘make do’. It’s still a decent amount, more than most clubs in this division – we’re not paupers. Who do you want us to try and buy?”
“Well I’d like to buy a guaranteed, 20-goal a season striker, Jez. I’ve heard rumours that they exist, even though there are no guarantees in football! Oh how I long for the day that I’ll see a guaranteed scorer play for me. Oh, and I want a new winger too. Oh, and a centre back while you’re at it. Oh, and a goalkeeper. Actually, make that four goalkeepers – you can never have too many. Oh, and a long-term replacement for Wes. Oh, and what are your thoughts on big screens that rotate and revolve? One of those would be really cool, don’t you think? Can you get me all of those with my five tokens?”
[Jez shakes his head slowly from side to side]
“You’ll have to lower your expectations” he affirms. “I’m sure the fans will understand.”
[A short period of silence is broken by laughter from both before falling silent once more]
[Tumbleweed drifts across the boardroom table]
Yes folks, it’s the wacky world of the transfer window! Twice a year the media, and in particular Sky Sports News, work a nation of 18-year olds (and a few who should be old enough to know better) into a frenzy.
Presenters have their teeth whitened before donning bright yellow ties and shiny dresses. Sky Sources (i.e. Twitter) start tracking helicopters and looking for ‘Arry ‘what’s he up to these days’ Redknapp to give his thoughts on wheelin’, dealin’ and stealin’… sorry, overseas bank accounts.
Unlikely stories emerge of how ‘Vaguely-Decent-But-In-No-Way-World-Class Player A’ is definitely moving to Melchester Rovers for 18 squillion pounds – and, of course, this has absolutely nothing to do with boosting the coffers of Sky’s own betting firm.
Meanwhile, the hero, Jim White, gets aroused by showing off his counting-down-from-ten skills as Big Ben strikes ‘eleven’, so that he can declare to the UK that the farce is over – for six months at least.
I find it all hugely distressing – like Comic Relief but without the laughs. So ‘exactly’ like Comic Relief. Bob Geldoff in his Arsenal shirt shouting “spend some f**king money” to Arsene Wenger, while Tony Pulis visits an orphanage looking for a new centre back.
Yet despite hating it, I’m strangely enthralled at the same time – drawn in by, in particular, those fans who work themselves into such a lather over something they have absolutely no say in whatsoever.
Cries of “We should get our business done early” are later followed by “why don’t we ever do any transfers on the final day?”
“Why are we signing him? His stats are crap on Wikipedia” coincide with “lets sign this guy, he’s the bee’s knees on FIFA.”
Players get linked and they’re rubbish. Then they sign for someone else and we’ve ‘missed out’.
“It was different under Lambert”.
Yeah, it was. But he was shopping in a very different market to the one that we are now. We brought in lower league players who saw us as a step up and increased wages. Now, players want top whack and often see us as a sideways or backwards move.
We’re also competing with big clubs and even bigger resources. And some will say we should continue to shop lower down the leagues – but in the same breath the words ‘lack of ambition’ and ‘little Norwich’ get tossed in. Signing footballers is not as straightforward as many would have you believe. If only there was a button we could press.
I’m surprised the word ‘meltdown’ isn’t constantly the number one trend on Twitter. A quick inspection of other clubs feeds and forums prove Norwich City are no basket case – up and down the leagues there’s select committees of fans who can’t find anything positive to say about the club they purport to support.
It is also their view that if you ‘do’ have anything positive to say you are a ‘happy clapper’. It’s all very school playground stuff – from both sides – given none of these people can affect what happens.
But that’s football fans – no middle ground allowed – even though that’s where the truth tends to lie. Emotions run high and it’s impossible to please everyone. When the window opened I tweeted fellow City fans for their thoughts on which position they believed the club should prioritise to strengthen.
I received close to a hundred responses. ‘Centre forward’ and ‘centre back’ dominated the result but I can tell you that every single position was suggested on more than one occasion. We weren’t going to buy a whole new team so some fans were guaranteed to be unhappy.
As it happens I think we’ve done ok. There are issues, of course. I imagine (and hope) Mr Darnbrough’s position is being reviewed whilst our latest Head of Recruitment, Tony Spearing, seems to have got off Scott free.
Most pleasing to me is seeing younger blood being brought in. The lack of a second striker is a big disappointment and could bite us in the bum but I think Lord Nelson Oliveira is a canny signing. Canos looks raw but exciting, Pritchard is top notch at this level and McGovern offers proper competition in goal.
I can’t see anything that would lead to a ‘demonstration against the board’, unbelievably planned for before the Cardiff game. Kids, eh? If they think this is bad, I wonder how they’d have dealt with the end of the Chase era?
Which leads me on to the Jez Moxey interview…
Nobody goes to bed dreaming of being a football CEO. Despite running a steady ship you are perceived by fans as only ever delivering bad or indifferent news and you’ll never be well liked regardless of ability. But it concerns me greatly that there was such gnashing of teeth from fans over what he said because he didn’t say anything particularly unexpected!
As the completely true conversation* above proves, our income halved – so why would anyone suddenly expect we had a war chest of used bank notes to throw around? As a Championship club without a wealthy benefactor, the only way this club can operate in the transfer market is to trade.
Sell a Redmond, bring in a Canos and a Pritchard – that’s good business. Sell a Brady, bring in an Assombalonga. It almost worked but that’s the problem – that sale never materialised, so budgets were altered and targets downgraded as a result. And that’s sensible business.
I think perhaps it’s a little unfortunate that we were relegated alongside Newcastle and Villa. They have muddied the waters with their big spending.
But when Villa blow us out of the water on wages, we can’t get too frustrated as we did precisely the same to Brighton over Pritchard. It’s swings and roundabouts.
We’ve spent well over £30million in 2016 on transfer fees alone. The club financially is very stable, debt-free, asset-heavy but cash-poor – something I think many fans have trouble to comprehend.
“Where’s the Premier League money?” The answer? It’s all been spent! There’s really no way of dressing it up.
The only aspect of the Moxey interview that I found interesting was that he said the club was “not for sale”. Now that is something that requires closer inspection and I hope the local media delve a little deeper into that.
For the club to have any chance of moving forward, getting bigger and ultimately competing long-term at the top table, investment will be a necessity. It’s no longer a choice.
* It definitely happened. Probably.
Thanks to James for an entertaining read. Hopefully he can be persuaded to contribute again during the course of the season. He can be followed on Twitter @JamesFinbow