It must have been in the aftermath of the Sunderland victory that someone made the point that the whole of Paul Lambert’s Premiership squad probably cost something in the region of one Connor Wickham.
It was an interesting point. And as much as anyone really knows how much a player truly cost given the numerous add-ons that invariably follow, you could still – roughly – see how you might get to a figure of near £10 million for the side that racked up a second, straight Premiership win that night against Wickham and Co.
First things first. I’m not going to apologise for talking about money. It’s what makes the world go round football-wise; and you can bet your bottom dollar that a few of the following thoughts will have passed across a boardroom table of late.
No-one might like to talk about bottom lines, but in reality football is a business where it is all about the bottom line.
And as much as we all cling to the belief that each and every player buys into the ‘Norfolk Nation’ – and, in fairness, I think more do here than elsewhere – football remains a brutal, meat market.
Players are commodities to be sold all-too often on an agent’s whim.
And as City boss Lambert has proved time and again before, there is little or no room for sentiment in this game. He is a total pragmatist – and, clearly, knows the value of what sits in his dressing room at Colney.
Wait until the New Year for that point to be proved again. I strongly suspect – wherever the Canaries find themselves on the first of January – City will spend again; fresh bodies will be brought in to ‘help’ those already here. And someone, somewhere will lose their current place in the manager’s starting line-up.
And, as a result, make seek to move on. Or may be gently encouraged to move on. It’s the very nature of the beast; Lambert knows that – his squad is always a work in progress.
But on a weekend in which Andrew Crofts and Steve Morison have both played a central part in Wales’ 2-0 win over Switzerland and after a week in which Bradley Johnson found himself mentioned in provisional England despatches – and all after a weekend away in Manchester in which Marc Tierney found himself talked about in glowing terms – it is an interesting question to ask: just how much is Lambert’s squad worth now?
Is it still only worth one Wickham?
Bear in mind two points. One is that nigh-on every player has arrived on a three or four-year deal. So no-one is about to be out of contract next summer and, therefore, sees their value plummet accordingly.
Likewise, there are a clutch of players – Russell Martin, David Fox, Tierney, Crofts – who arrived for a relative pittance; and they are all English – an added bonus in an era of ‘home-grown’ player quotas.
And you can add in their age – most are in that 24-25-year-old bracket, ie yet to reach their playing prime of 28-30. That, too, can add a nought here and there.
And they have attitude to match ability; they haven’t yet grown fat on the Premiership calf.
I’m not proposing to slap figures atop everyone’s head. It is a broader point about the ‘value’ City’s players now enjoy two months into their grand Premiership adventure.
Because it is considerably more than it was no more than a fortnight ago.
Tierney being the case in point; star turn at Old Trafford; the Republic of Ireland coming a-calling. What price would you slap on his head? A third of a Wickham?
John Ruddy has hardly shrunk on the Premiership stage; English goalkeepers are few and far between.
Russell Martin has grown again in stature since switching inside to centre-half; Fox can ping a ball the width of Old Trafford; Johnson can run and run all day at a Stamford Bridge.
Elliott Bennett and Anthony Pilkington have the chance to grow into their new surroundings; Morison just needs a couple more goals to his name to make rather more of a name for himself.
I’m not setting out to throw anyone into the nearest shop window; to suggest that he’ll be away in January – or to suggest that Norwich will for ever be a ‘selling’ club. The country cousins who always end up having their ‘Chris Sutton’ moment…
No. The point is that those who ‘valued’ Norwich at one Connor Wickham no more than a fortnight ago, now need to re-do their sums.
Reach for the nearest fag packet and scribble down some new numbers.
For the more that the Canaries hold their own on the greatest of Premiership stages and the longer that the Norfolk club can hang around in mid-table and let the Boltons and the Blackburns teeter on the brink, so the ‘balance sheet’ blossoms ever further.
City, right now, are pretty much in clover and what’s more, they may well be in the money.
The players that Lambert carefully plucked out of lower league obscurity are fast proving their worth – in every sense of the term.