Maybe it’s just me, but five days into the January transfer window and I have to admit my pulse has hardly quickened.
News that Chrissy Martin has extended his loan spell at Palace by a month barely qualifies as ‘news’; I suspect in the fullness of time both parties will move on and Beccles’ finest will find pastures new.
That City boss Paul Lambert is keen to do business is in little doubt.
“These lads need help…” is one of the more well-worn phrases of late. And will, no doubt, be repeated again before the month is out.
But, for me, the interesting point is if you start to look at it from the board’s perspective – or rather imagine if the Old Man was still in charge. As in R Chase.
Because I can know now what his response would have been had Lambert taken that plea to the chairman’s table c1993-94.
“I think they’re all doing just fine, don’t you? Look where we are in the table. Now, any other business…”
Clearly the current regime are a million miles away from the flint-hearted approach the Old Man would adopt; I can still remember being part of a little gaggle of people who followed the chairman all the way down on the train to a Robert Fleck disciplinary hearing in Lancaster Gate – with Martin O’Neill desperate to front Chase up about just how much money he did have to spend.
After all, he wanted Dean Windass. And he wanted him by the end of the century…
In the event, the Old Man would deliberately stride five yards ahead of his manager at all times; at no point was that conversation had; the only player Norwich signed that day was in the Lancaster Gate Hotel and it was a 16-year-old Jamie Shore – then ‘fresh’ from recovering from his first major knee operation.
It would have made a glorious YouTube clip as O’Neill – by now almost completely at the end of his tether – trying vainly to get the chairman’s attention on the pavements of old London town.
Lambert will have no such trouble.
But if you adopt the same attitude that Chase would have brought to bear on this month’s conversations, then his reaction would have been just that.
‘Why do we need to be spending any more money when we are already ninth in the table…’
And the sticking point, I suspect, will not be fees, it will be wages.
We need to pay ‘X’ to get ‘Y’… Why do we need to pay ‘X’ when we’re already ninth in the table…
Let’s, for argument’s sake, suggest that Lambert feels he’s short in central midfield.
About three to four inches short.
That what he would love to add to his squad is something tall and rangy; athletic in a six-foot two-inch kind of way.
One of the things that stands out, for me, about Anthony Pilkington is that he has that easy ‘ranginess’ to him. He appears to have the ‘frame’ that fits.
As much as your goal-scorers have always commanded the big money, so too have your rangy midfielders.
Like Yaya Toure. On – apparently – £185,000. Per week. One report I read suggested it would rise to £220,000. A week. Once the 50% tax rate came in.
Toure is, clearly, out of the very top drawer. But he represents a specific type of footballer. That Norwich lack.
And the point is that for any agent hawking around a poor man’s Yaya Toure this month, he knows that his boy’s frame can command the big bucks wages-wise.
Pick a number, any number… let’s say £35,000 per week.
Traditionally, of course, under Lambert’s watch, the lower leagues have proved a happy, hunting ground. Thus far, he has been able to stock his larder with hungry gems that he and Ian Culverhouse can polish.
But at some point that stops; because any six-foot plus player capable of commanding a regular starting place in a top half Premiership side has probably long since been whipped out of a Hartlepool or a Huddersfield.
When they were 14.
Height and frame are ever more the key criteria as to which players are granted Academy deals and which aren’t… they are guarded and prized like no other.
So, not that I’ve looked under every last lower league stone, but I would be amazed if there’s a centre-midfielder of that certain ilk that’s waiting for a Norwich to call – and ready to take £12,000 a week.
There might be one at Oldham. But Norwich already own him.
Out there, across the English Channel there will be one. The French National Football Academy churns them out year after year; a couple of seasons learning their trade at a Lens or an Auxerre and here comes the English Premiership boys with the cheque books out.
Which is why this particular transfer window could prove a testing one for all concerned.
Loaning out a Chrissy Martin or signing a Kyle Naughton on a full-time deal is easy; anyone can do that.
Bagging yourself your own Toure is a completely different ball game.