Revolution is in the air.
The least interesting and eventful season for many years is set to be followed by the most interesting and eventful summer. Stuart Webber brought in 15 players to Huddersfield last summer, and is clearly not averse to a similar scale of change at Norwich this time.
The actual extent of the coming ‘Webberlution’ (not my phrase, before you protest) isn’t clear. Alan Irvine is urging something more akin to evolution:
“It’s not a massive clear-out, that’s not needed. Let’s replace the players who’ve left with lads that can improve the squad…not dismantle the whole squad”
Irvine (as someone rather scared by artificial intelligence, I hesitate to use his initials) might support his view by pointing to the final six games of the season. Our 14-point tally was automatic promotion form, despite five of the six opponents being above us in the league.
However, I don’t think Stuart Webber buys it. Half of those clubs were without motivation (including Reading, whose playoff place was already guaranteed). The games against Fulham and at Leeds confirmed the soft underbelly of this Norwich team which I suspect Webber is determined to eradicate, however drastic the surgery.
It’s not a matter of replacing the players whose contracts are being run down. Our squad is too big, as well as lop-sided in terms of positional depth and wages in relation to age. More will need to be done, if Webber is to achieve the revitalization he’s looking for.
The limitation on his ambitions is more likely to be the difficulty of offloading established players with good contracts. We don’t know exactly who’s top of his list to move on, but we can be sure there are at least two or three names in large letters.
If we can’t offload them, it becomes more tricky.
Much has been made of the admission that every player has his price. This does not mean a fire-sale of City’s assets. What it means, as I understand it, is this: if we need to raise further cash to bring in fresh talent, we’ll weigh up any bids for our existing players in that context.
If we’re to sell a Jonny Howson, who could clearly be instrumental to our promotion push next year, I’d guess it would need to be an offer significantly higher than the amounts rumoured so far.
As I’ve said before, if we want a more competitive Norwich team next season we’ll have to put some trust in Webber’s dispassionate analysis. Most of us would love to see Mitchell Dijks starting at left back in August. If he’s been won over by the charms of Norfolk, it would be frustrating for City not to go through with the agreed deal with Ajax.
Yet it’s a lot of money; it simply has to be weighed up against other priorities and possibilities. We wouldn’t thank SW for delivering an exciting left back and no central defenders.
Of course, we’ve had revolutions – or at least revolutionary moments – at Norwich before. Some of them I associate with the Gunn Club.
For several years my wife and I have been Gunn Club members, and eating there is part of our pre-game ritual. The food, wine and atmosphere are good, to the point that you sometimes forget there’s a game to follow. That’s been particularly easy to do in the last couple of seasons.
The relative relaxation, though, has been punctuated with moments of high drama.
On Boxing Day 2003 word spread round the room that Darren Huckerby had signed (not just the room either – I was told the news, somewhat disconcertingly, by the man standing at the next urinal to me).
Another stand-out memory is the announcement of Paul Lambert’s first home team selection, to play Wycombe on 22 August 2009. Eight changes to the previous starting XI we’d seen, on that fateful day against Colchester. Gone were the goalkeeper (not perhaps the hardest decision ever), the two central defenders and the entire midfield; in the place of established and familiar faces were the likes of Korey Smith.
Where the Colchester game had left us speechless, Lambert’s new team had the Gunn Club buzzing (not least “Who the heck’s Korey Smith?”).
I have a feeling the anticipation will be similar for the first home game of next season. How many of the starting line-up against QPR will start that game? My guess would be no more than half.
A brief quiz, while we’re reminiscing. I trust you not to spoil the fun by Googling it.
Q1: Who were the three players of the starting XI against Colchester who kept their places for the game against Wycombe?
Q2: We did actually score a goal against Colchester while seven were going in at the other end. Who scored it?