The wind of change continues to sweep through Carrow Road and Colney. Except it’s not really a wind. It’s more of a category 5 hurricane.
Stuart Webber’s cull started earlier in the week when news broke of seven first-team or ex-first-team departures, which included the names John Ruddy and Ryan Bennett.
The other five, in Webber terms, were low hanging fruit – an overactive imagination is needed to see Messrs Whitaker, Bassong, Mulumbu, Lafferty and Turner being part of any future first-team set-up – but to say goodbye to Ruddy, and perhaps Bennett to a lesser degree, were bold calls.
The easy part was that all were out of contract, and some of the aforementioned have been nothing but an unhealthy drain on the club’s increasingly depleted resources, but even the hard-nosed Webber will have been aware of Ruddy’s history and the part he’s played in the club’s recent good and not-so-good times.
Whether the same decision would have been reached if the Big Man still had time left on his contract is irrelevant as it’s clear it’s his impact on the collective purse, as opposed to his abilities between the sticks, that was the driver for this decision.
The decks are being cleared and funds are being freed up. To describe someone who has served our club with such distinction as collateral damage is harsh and unworthy, but that essentially is the story. Webber thinks the club can sign another keeper who is as good or better than JR for less money. And that’s the bottom line.
Personally I’m sorry to see him go but from a financial angle of course it makes sense.
The ‘magnificent seven’ were followed out of the door by five more – lesser names in terms of first-team appearances but among them one Conor McGrandles who came down from Falkirk in the Neil Adams era for a not inconsiderable fee.
His first XI action has been virtually non-existent and his progress hampered by a double-break of his right leg when playing on loan for Falkirk. While not a big earner, he’s one that Webber has perceived as unlikely to find his way into first-team reckoning and so, along with Ray Grant, Ben Killip, Jamie Eaton-Collins and Toby Syme, he’ll be a free agent as of July 1.
And this is just the beginning; those for whom a decision had to be made one way or the other now know their fate.
What follows is, to a degree, out of the club’s hands. There are those they’ll move on if the money is right, those they wish to keep and those they would really quite like to see depart even if the money isn’t quite right. But all against the backdrop, I suspect, of everyone having a price.
The Daily Mirror’s James Nursery – one who purports to be a City fan and who was the only person in the Canary Nation who argued against the Board’s decision to sack Chris Hughton – was quick to jump on the final four words of the above paragraph by running a story that declared the club ready to “flog” Jonny Howson.
Quote: “The 28-year-old could be sold off if a big bid comes in for the midfielder, who has just two years left on his contract”.
I’ll not qualify that with what’s going through my head as I type this, other than to say there are ‘big bids’ and ‘big bids’ and anything that will tempt the club to sell one of their prize assets will have to be verging on what’s known in the footballing vernacular as silly money. Methinks Master Nursery’s inference of a fire sale as being just a touch mischievous.
Away from the inane gossip, Alan Irvine continues to be the steady, rational influence of which we’ve become accustomed and it was a measure of the man that he offered said seven departees-in-waiting the option of not training once their Canary future had been made public.
That Lafferty, Bassong, Mulumbu, Bennett and Turner (who in fairness is injured) chose to accept his offer was no surprise. Neither was the fact that Ruddy and Whittaker chose to prepare for their Carrow Road hurrah in precisely the same way they’ve prepared for every other game they’ve played for Norwich City; Whittaker because he’s been the consummate professional, even in some difficult times, throughout his spell here and Ruddy for the same plus the huge impact he’s had on a very memorable era for this football club.
Ruddy’s arrival, as a permanent replacement for the popular Fraser Forster, was a slow burner but by the time Paul Lambert’s class of 2011 had clicked into gear his presence as the rock solid organiser and penalty-box ‘dominator’ made him a cornerstone of that team.
He quickly established himself, alongside Russ, Wes and Holty, as a key figure on the pitch and in the dressing room, and on top of his dominant displays in goal none of us will ever forget his full-length-of-the-pitch sprint to join in with the celebrations when Jackson, Goreham and “utter chaos” collided.
With his position as City’s number one uncontested, his form in the club’s first season back in the Premier League took him to the fringes of the England, with only a broken finger preventing him from taking his place in the squad for Euro 2012; another memory from that season being his no-contest with Didier Drogba when the Ivorian came between Ruddy and ball at Stamford Bridge.
One could argue 2011/12 was Ruddy in his pomp but despite relegation in 2013/14 his position was unquestioned, such was the aura that accompanied the ability. What followed in 2014/15 was the stuff of Canary legend, Ruddy at his imperious best at its heart and Chelsea came calling in the summer of 2015.
The Big Man was not for moving. He told Chelsea where to go.
In truth what followed was Ruddy’s fortunes following those of the team and a loss of form offered Declan Rudd a Premier League chance that he was unable to grasp. When dropped he reluctantly but professionally embraced the role of ‘number two’, but always found his way back into the team.
It was a groin injury in August 2016 that initially gave the newly signed Northern Irishman, Michael McGovern his chance and despite him not having the gravitas to keep Ruddy out of the team for too long, other chances would present themselves as the Big Man struggled to find his pre-injury form.
Some will argue he was never quite the same post-injury but by the same score he never looked the part as a deputy in the same way McGovern never really looked the part as first-choice. Perhaps the large, looming shadow of Ruddy on the bench was too much of a burden.
But it’s JR who’ll be in goal for the final time on Sunday, and it’s fitting that Carrow Road will get the opportunity to say a proper farewell to one who’s been an imposing and key part of the Carrow Road furniture. And as part of Lambert’s class of 2011, of Alex Neil’s class 2015 and everything in between he’ll always be revered and remembered here with great fondness.
Good luck Big Man for whatever the future may bring. It’s been emotional.
“Never mind the danger…”