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.