Don’t look now, but we’ve gone and done it again. Bad Norwich. Bad bad Norwich City. Go and stand in the corner.
Not only have we signed Ricky van Wolfswinkel – and, in doing so, preventing a whole host of other clubs from signing him before sending him off on loan somewhere for a couple of years; we’ve only gone and had a bid accepted for one of the games more promising home grown prospects, Birmingham City’s Nathan Redmond. And that’s not all.
We’re very publicly ‘in the mix’ for a number of other relatively high profile players, offering the dual temptation to the seller of cash in the bank and an ability, if needed, to pay up front, the lure of which was so beguiling to RvW’s former club, Sporting Lisbon – no fiver down and the balance to be paid when the player wins this third consecutive World Cup winners medal nonsense at Carrow Road – whilst the attraction of regular first team football for the player in question in what is generally perceived (although whether it’s true or not is open to question) as ‘the world’s best league’ is an equally attractive one. Because yes, whilst there are footballers out there happy to sit in their faux Tudor mansions and count the cash they get for doing nothing, a great deal more would rather do what they love and what they excel at – and, crucially, on a regular basis.
It is, after all, one of the reasons why one Darren Huckerby loved it here. He got to play every week and, not only that, was allowed to do so. No long spells on the sidelines, no occasional appearances as an ‘impact sub’ (and sorry, but I hate the phrase and the concept, if you are a player who can make an ‘impact’, then you should be trusted to do so from the start, not after an hour of play) or starts in Capital One Cup games at Sheffield Wednesday. A regular place in the side.
We all heard and read about the rumours that, as Huckerby more than proved himself as a Premier League level player during his time with us that both Liverpool and Celtic were supposedly interested in signing him but did he want to head north and join up with them for more of the same that he went through at Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester City? Of course not – he wanted to play football for a professional football club, not be a supporting member of the cast at a footballing soap opera.
Those same reasons which, I suspect, led to van Wolfswinkel signing for us rather than kowtowing to whatever lightweight interest that Tottenham and Newcastle made public in him at the beginning of the year. You get the impression that some clubs expect any indication that they might be showing a little intent towards a player results in that individual and his agents doing all the running themselves, such is the supposed allure of the vaguely interested club.
Such an attitude, of course, makes it easy for the interested club – the ball is in their court and they can dictate terms and get exactly what they want from the deal. It’s how, for example, Manchester City managed to sign Scott Sinclair last Summer. Sinclair wanted a move; an agent made it known that Manchester City were interested – and his head was turned. Twelve months on and Scott Sinclair, who left Swansea City because he was “ambitious” has made just three starts for his new club. It’s not even as if he hasn’t been there before – five league appearances in four years at Chelsea as well as being loaned out to six different clubs during that time, it ain’t rocket science Scott – both they and Manchester City didn’t and don’t want you for the football. But perhaps that doesn’t bother you?
Fortunately, and we should remember to be grateful for this for every day that it remains the case, we have people running our club who know the game and who put the game first. We take it seriously and investments and interest in new players is purely with that in mind – for them to come in and play for Norwich City, to do well for us just as, we would hope, we can do well for them.
And yes, van Wolfswinkel may see us as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. But I’ll tell you this – he’ll still bust a gut and want to play whilst he’s here and, if that means he gets 30 odd league goals in the next eighteen months or so before joining another club for £25 Million, is anyone really going to complain?
We want players who want to play football. And they, in turn, are attracted by that oh-so-simple selling point that we can offer them. Clear, clean, complication free, classic.
Yet it seems to be something that the fans of some of our Premier League peers simply don’t get. And their collective disquiet at the fact that Norwich are daring to encroach upon their territory which, at first was rather funny is now bordering on the embarrassing.
“Why….”, lathered an Everton fan on Twitter on Monday, “…would Redmond choose to join Norwich rather than us?” Another one, from the mighty Swansea, was even more indignant, claiming “…if a club like Norwich beats us to the signing of Redmond, I’ll be so p****d off”. He may, of course, at the time of writing this, still choose either of them over us. So why is the presence of ‘little old Norwich’ bewitching them so?
Where does this case of self entitlement come from? Is it because they think they are a ‘big’ club? Or is it because, and I shudder to even think about this argument, because it is, and shall always be, an utterly puerile one, they have ‘history’.
Listen. If having a ‘history’ was so important, wouldn’t we all be clamouring to live in Hampden Court Palace? After all, that’s got a history. And it’s a big name. Henry VIII lived there several hundred years ago after all, and he was a player, that Henry lad. Full international honours gained in France, six wives and a whole host of other achievements. No wonder people flock there, in their thousands, every year, to visit. And I repeat, visit. Because that’s what you do with history. You take a look, admire it – and then go home again. Yes, it’s fascinating. But that’s all it is. History.
Back in the here and now; you, me, we all live in the real world. Because its contemporary relevance, whether it is an ancient building, battlefield site, vintage aircraft or, yes, a football club, is what it is now, what we might have learnt from it, and what it stands for today. And in modern football, history means nothing.
It is, of course, the basis of any and all Ipswich Town’s fans arguments against us. Yes, we may be in the Premier League; yes, we may have a far superior squad; managerial and coaching set-up and financial stability; yes, we may have Category One Academy status under the new and very strict EPPP regulations – but all that apparently fades into nothing when weighed up against their ‘history’.
And fair play to them, they do – or, at least, they did. A last major trophy over thirty years ago, since when they’ve worked their way through nine different managers, three relegations and an administration, all of which make up their most recent history and the most, if there has to be one, relevant one. It does strike me, when taking all of that into consideration, why such a “big club”, one that has such a “massive history” has so many fans who all seem, en-masse, to be perfectly content with their current status and so accepting of such continual and self perpetuating mediocrity? But perhaps it doesn’t matter. Because they have a ‘history’.
The problem, it would seem, for fans of clubs like Everton, Swansea, Ipswich and Celtic – whose fans are hugely indignant at the fact we may have more to offer Gary Hooper than they do – is that we are neither a “big club”, nor do we have a “history”. Something that hasn’t, of course, stopped van Wolfswinkel from signing, just as it didn’t players of the obvious class and calibre of Robert Snodgrass, Michael Turner and Sebastian Bassong – and those yet to come. “You’re not a big club” they lament, “not like us”. It’s like being back at Junior School – only for “you’re not a big club” read “my Dad has a better car than your Dad” and similar. Same mindset and mentality.
To be honest with you and all of them – I don’t really care if we are a ‘big club’ or not. And I care even less about whether we are seen as one or not, especially by fans of other clubs. The same applies to our ‘history’. And yes, we’ve got one. It’s fairly modest, admittedly, but it’s improving. And yes, we celebrate those achievements and relative successes that the club has enjoyed since it was formed. Rightly so. But I do hope that we never use those that we have had, or those that are to come, as a stick to beat fans of other clubs over the head with. Because what really matters is there here and now, today, tomorrow and into next season. Even yesterday is history now. Today is what really matters – whilst tomorrow is even more important.
And that’s the attitude of the people who are running our club. Always thinking ahead, planning the next move, the next signing and the one after that. It’s called progress. It means ambition. And it’s one of the reasons why Ricky van Wolfswinkel chose to sign for us. Not because we won the FA Cup on the same day that the Bee Gees were topping the charts with Night Fever or a League Title in the same year that The Simpsons first appeared on TV. But because whilst some would rather boast of their achievements in the dim and distant past, we prefer to talk about those that we might want to make in the future – and how he, and others, can be part of a side that makes history, not ones that are forever being told about it.
Because that’s what attracts players to a club. Not the record books.
Yes we deserve a bit more respect. Why would Swansea think they are a bigger club? The size of a club is probably best measured on their average gates and their potential attendance when at their most successful. That means we are a bigger club than Bolton, Wigan and Blackburn, but not as big as Leeds (unfortunately).
Jason S says
But I do hope that we never use those that we have had, or those that are to come, as a stick to beat fans of other clubs over the head with.
Very true, but the mocked up ‘Welcome to 1p5wich’ sign is a comedy classic that will resonate for eternity. A minor quibble, but is Hampden Court Palace where Henry used to go and beat the scots at fitba when he was bored with playing real tennis at Hampton Court?
Cracking read, thank you Ed.
What an excellent article and well written.
I only hope more footballers would make the same choice to ‘go to a club with less history and have a chance of playing every week, rather than sitting on the bench and watching their bank balance grow!!!’ Well done Jack Butland and I sincerely hope our own JR makes the same choice.
Great article, lets hope some of the overpaid benchwarmers who are in a squad of 55 pros at the “big” clubs (sorry clubs with rich owners)start to remember the reasons they ventured into football, they loved to play. We are a proper club, community club, fans everywhere whether supporters or admirers and i for one am intensely proud of way the club is run. The future is bright the future is YELLA.
Douglas Millar says
Footballers” careers can be cut short at any time due to injury and so I cannot condemn those who go for big money when its on offer. Of course any player worth his salt wants to play rather than sit on the bench and so that is a big attraction that signing for NCFC can have. But we know that even with our limited resources some good players will not get many games.
The next few weeks are a big test for McNally and Hughton. Can they attract and retain players wanted by other clubs? If they can, the upward trajectory of NCFC can be maintained. If they miss out – as they did with strikers last season – the future of City in the premiership may be at stake.
I also dislike the fashion of measuring other clubs by history, ground capacity or other yardsticks which have no bearing on the current ethos or performance of the club. In their different ways Paul Lambert and Chris Hughton got City to punch above their weight. Let us hope that in 2013-14 City not only exceed previous performances but also are seen to deserve whatever success they achieve.
Thanks Ed, a great read. otbc.
Russell S. says
While we must of course look to make continual progress, I’m happy for us to be an ‘under the radar’ club quietly going about our business mixing it with the ‘big boys’.
Our league position of 11th compares with 14th in the average attendance table of last season. I think if we can maintain that way round next season, we can all be satisfied – compare with Newcastle for example: 3rd in attendance, 16th in league. Mind you, they’ve addressed it by putting in place the Pardew-Kinnear dream team! Better off with Roy Kinnear IMO.
Redmond? CH obviously sees it but I’m to be convinced – record at Brum was not jaw-dropping.
Hoping Chelsea sign their current Dutch target, if only to hear Motty spluttering over the van Wolfswinkel-van Ginkel combination on MOTD.
Best post all summer. ncfc are not some small Fri team any more and we are good enough to beat club in the top 5. So stop treating like a championship team in the wrong league. We are premier league!
The term “big club” annoys me, especially in respect of teams like Leeds. What constitutes a “big club”? average gate? league position? Size of stadium?History? We might not be a “big club”, but our resources are second to none. With the new rules regarding how far away we can recruit players from (the catchment area is currently something like within an hours drive of the club (and we all know how long it takes to get down the A11!)) changing so we can recruit from further away, our development team will only go from strength to strength.
great article this, and expesses a sentiment that alot of fans feel.
Yes, apologies! Hampton Court. Still, considering I actually got lost in the maze there once, no-wonder I’m still confused! And agree on the sign. Fine line, I suspect, between spontaneous and original banter and playing the same old record over and over again.
That Swansea fan will do well to remember that Mr Bennett turned his car around when he heard of our interest (as he was about to sign on the dotted line for the Swans). What a joker.
Club’s stature are based on three things…how they did last year, what competition they are due to compete in next year and the amount of money they can offer. It is not based on winning the league in 1896.
Adrian richmond says
Unlike most top clubs we will not spend big money on players who are then put on the bench. Scott Sinclair has earned a lot of money for being a”failure” but he doesn’t care because he knows there will another manager come along and convince his chairman that he’s the player they need, spend another fortune for him and his agent and then realise after a few weeks that he really isn’t that good
Good piece Ed. Something of interest in amongst the silly season nonsense.
History doesn’t count for much – at Portsmouth and a few others! Swansea : history? Everton might look a little different once they’ve fully experienced Mr Moyes’s departure.
I don’t think we should get too hung up on the attitude from other fans. To me its a sign of their disconnection from reality. In fact I hope lots of other fans and clubs continue with their attitude. It means they are under estimating us. That’s a good thing.
Russell S. says
Henry 8th (GK) – big barrier a la ‘Fatty Foulkes’
Alfred (LB) – solid defence + HT refreshments (cakes)
William 1st (CB) – French yes, but all conquering
Richard 1st (CB) – lionhearted defensive rock
James 1st (RB) – canny Scottish whippet
Charles 1st (LW) – bit of a dandy and can lose his head but pacey and skillful
Oliver Cromwell (CM) – uncompromising midfield enforcer
Richard 3rd (CM) – dodgy back but tough on the field of battle
Edward 1st (RW) – old ‘longshanks’ on the flank
Harold (CF) – good eye for goal
William 3rd (CF) – strong Dutch influence, every team needs one.
Manager – Joe Royle
Home Venue – Crystal Palace
Toad summed it up perfectly: “Club’s stature are based on three things…how they did last year, what competition they are due to compete in next year and the amount of money they can offer. It is not based on winning the league in 1896.”
On that basis, Everton did finish higher up the league than us and on paper offer more chance of playing in Europe one day. And Swansea of course can offer European football next season. So possibly a bigger draw for a player, yes.
Don Harold says
Excellent article and some excellent replies. I’m surrounded by Villa, Wolves, Birmingham and WBA fans. The only ones that seem to have any grasp on their modern day reality are WBA fans. When I argue that only Villa can now call themselves ‘bigger’ than us (even though they’ve trailed us by a long way in the last couple of years)you should hear them squeal. It’s great that we’re signing players with a view to them playing immediately. What the clubs with the richest owners seem to be doing, with the possible exception of MUFC, seem to be doing is what Celtic and Rangers had been accused of for years in Scotland: that is, buying players they don’t particularly want but they want to make sure they’re not playing for the other lot.
Dean Gee says
Players of the class of Snodgrass and Turner?????? I am guessing this is a joke?
Deadly serious Dean, two who could fit in at most other Premier teams and one, Seb, who could play for any of them-and I mean that.
Pete Long says
It makes no difference as long as Norwich can maintain the momentum and continually improve. It seems they have got what it takes to lure some top players/prospects to Norwich and with Chelsea’s interest in Ruddy it shows that Norwich players are being looked at by the “bigger” clubs.
Bigger probably means those clubs whose owners have a fat, almost bottomless bank account. Even so, that doesn’t mean you can buy success, look at Man City last year.
Russell S. says
Ed/Dean – I fall somewhere between your positions i.e. Snoddy is a class act who will only get better over the next 2-3 years while the jury has to be out on Turner – struggled last year without the mighty Seb at his side. It’s a make or break season for him.
Re: my earlier Monarchs XI – Oliver Cromwell would probably smash me in the face for including him amongst the privileged ruling elite (akin to putting Billy Bremner in the Real Madrid team maybe) but he was a ‘major player’. I suspect there would be some serious dressing room issues to sort out between him and Charles 1st though.
A well considered and composed article, one worthy of far wider debate and circulation.
As an exiled City fan living in 1p5wich I’ve cut the two paragraphs about their bleating on about their ‘history’ out and put them on the wall in my office. Under the Premier League scarf (1993 vintage) and above the 9-2 mug.
The future’s bright. The future’s yellow.