City boss Paul Lambert all-but dismissed hopes of any new fresh faces arriving in this month’s transfer window as the wage demands of Premiership-capable players continue to thwart his best-laid recruitment plans.
Asked outright whether there had been any progress with regard to his New Year ‘shopping list’ with the transfer window now already 14 days old. The clock is firmly ticking on Lambert’s desire to give his squad ‘a helping hand’ or two.
Don’t hold your breath, was the message from Colney this morning.
‘What progress on any new signings?’ was the obvious question, ahead of talking about tomorrow’s return to Premiership action and the first of two, forthcoming trips to West Bromwich Albion.
“None,” was Lambert’s swift and decisive response.
Before Christmas and the manager appeared confident that he might be able to bolt fresh resources into his squad. This morning and that confidence appeared to have waned as the realities of both Norwich own financial position – two years into their so-called ‘seven- year plan’ – and the wage demands of the real, Premiership deal together conspired to halt Lambert’s transfer ambitions.
“We’re not making any inroads – that’s for sure,” was the Scot’s blunt message.
“And, yes, it’s very frustrating, but if I have to go with the group [that I’ve got], I have to go with the group that’s here. I’ve got no problems with the lads that are here – they’ve been brilliant for me this season.”
In certain aspects, the City chief is almost becoming a victim of his own success.
The club’s meteoric rise from the depths of League One to the top half of the English Premier League within little more than two years has found both City’s evolving wage structure and it’s plan to establish itself as a solid, ‘self-sustaining’ Premiership force struggling to keep pace with their success on the football field.
To bring in the next ‘tier’ of player – individuals that can add further quality to the current group – clearly costs more money and may yet demand that the club crosses the next line wages-wise.
Whether – given how close the club came to administration two, short years ago – around the boardroom table there is the same appetite to push the boat out further wages-wise is something for Lambert, the chief executive, chairman and directors to know and the rest of us to guess.
“As everybody knows, it’s the wages that are the problem,” the City chief said.
“When I spoke to you before the start of the season, I’d have probably told you that the lads need a hand.
“But you’ve got to bring people in to play – there’s no point bringing in people here who I think are just going to be a squad player. Or just make up the numbers. But I don’t want to do that. You want to bring people in who you think may play a good part of the remainder of the season.
“And when you get people coming through the door in January, it’s a big help.”
But, clearly, moving the goal-posts financially from X to Y to facilitate Norwich’s new-found status in life was not quite what that seven-year plan imagined. Events have overtaken the board’s even most optimistic assumptions – the ‘Where next?’ crossroads has arrived a mite early.
The alternative view would be that if it ain’t that bust, why try to fix it – particularly if it then extended your exposure to the banks and the lenders when the club had worked so hard to restore the Canaries to an even keel. There are, in short, few easy answers and merits to both prudence and ambition.
Would there be an 11th hour flurry of activity as the window prepared to close?
“The way it is going now? No,” was Lambert’s simple verdict. “But I won’t bring somebody in for the sake of bringing somebody in. What use is that to me?”
The money that appears to be sluicing through QPR this window might merely add to Lambert’s frustrations. He is, however, well aware of the underlying background.
“Two years ago the club was nearly flat on its face and we’ve got a structure here that we think might stabilise it a bit, but you’ve still got to try and get players in that you think can help.
“You’d love to be bidding for players that are worth £10 million or £12 million – but we’re not, that’s the reality of it.”
The City boss also appeared to have one or two injury concerns on his mind ahead of this weekend’s trip to the Midlands – one Norwich will repeat for that fourth round FA Cup tie.
It might, equally, sharpen his desire to add fresh faces to his pack.
“There’s little things there, but I’ll see how they are,” he said, offering no more details than that.