On August 9th 1997 we welcomed in the new season with a game against Wolves at Carrow Road.
Those who attended will remember the match-winning performance of a 17-year-old Wolves debutant. He ran the show, winning plaudits in abundance for his all-round display and the goals he scored in their 2-0 victory.
His name? Robbie Keane.
Now, a little over 15 years later, the name Robbie Keane is doing the rounds at Carrow Road again. For, despite the very obvious distraction of Manchester United as league opposition, word got around last Saturday that Keane has been identified as a possible loan signing for the club.
The reaction to this possibility – at best – was remarkable. It wasn’t a time to be seen sitting on the fence. Opinion was divided – it was either a massive thumbs up and resounding “Yes!” – or an equally strident and disbelieving “No!”. The joy of football: polarising issues like little else. But who is right? And are these short term deals even worth considering in the first place?
One view is that this short termism policy, in football, is often a necessary evil. Logic dictates that long term planning and investment is key, whether this relates to club infrastructure or the playing squad. And that is absolutely right. “Young and hungry” has been the mantra attached to would-be Norwich players over the last few years for that very reason.
Yes, the initial outlay may well be a costly one. However, the intention would be that the club’s investment in them would pay off in their improvement as a player, their ‘subscribing’ to the Norwich City ideal, growing with the club, and, if the inevitable happened, rewarding the clubs initial risk by having a very high resale value.
It is how Norwich City have always operated; we’ve done it before; we’ll doubtless do it again.
Short termism goes against this perceived best practice. We’ve seen it fail before. Myriad players arriving at the club on a temporary basis throughout a season (15 players joined Norwich on loan throughout the 2008/09 campaign). No heart, no commitment, no connection with the club. Players just going through the motions.
A disinterested mix of ingredients resulting in a recipe for footballing disaster.
Do we want to walk that road again, do we want to take on a costly player whose best years are behind him and whose motives are nothing more than a wish to stay match-fit during the US close season?
I still say yes. If the possibility exists to get Keane on loan, let’s do it.
I hear the words of protest. I’ve pretty much outlined the base of any argument against signing Keane above. The logic is hard and unrelenting. He’s too old. Too expensive. His legs have gone. Uncommitted. An indulgence. Plan for the future; that means getting in our own players, those who want to play for us. Invest long term. Tangible, not intangible.
I hear it all. But I maintain that we should look to secure Keane’s signature – if the possibility is there.
Because at the present time, right now, short termism is important. Nothing is more important to the club and supporters than staying in the Premier League this season. The financial rewards of doing so are obvious and tempting.
Every point counts, every clean sheet, every goal scored. Nothing is as important as NOW.
And, right now, if we can get someone in who can hit the ground running and be part of that now-forget the next month, next year, next season – then we need to welcome them with open arms.
Keane’s qualities are obvious. He knows the Premier League, he knows how the game is played at this level, he knows the teams and the players he would be playing against. And he knows where the goal is.
The likes of, for example, Charlie Austin, do not. He’s never played in the Premier League, he doesn’t know the teams or players he’d be up against and is completely and utterly unproven at this level. Indeed, he’s only had a few months experience at Championship level. Is that worth upwards of £6 million? No.
Last season people were saying we should sign Jay Rodriguez. We didn’t – but Southampton did. His form this season to date? Ten league appearances, one league goal. One? In exchange for £7 million? OK, so he’s an investment, a footballing slow burner. But we need goals now and in the Premier League, not next season back in the Championship.
Do you think Robbie Keane might have yielded a better return, given ten first team appearances for Southampton this season? I do as well.
As for those who claim he is too old? Grant Holt is just nine months younger than Keane – is anyone going to face up to Holty and tell him his legs have gone? It’s all a moot point, of course.
The prospect of Keane coming here may be entirely academic and there have never been any plans to sign him.
But what if he did? What if he was to sign, to play eight games for us and score four, maybe five goals in that time? Just enough goals and influence to secure us 10-12 points, points that might make all the difference come May.
Might that then be the best bit of ‘short termism’ the club has ever got involved with?
And he is absolutely, definitely, without a shadow of a doubt capable of doing just that.
Would you say the same about Charlie Austin?