Let’s just say this summer has been distracting; my attention has been elsewhere.
On certain occasions, on the other side of the planet.
So what was my ‘beat’ for 20-odd years feels all rather unfamiliar. And tomorrow it all starts again. And I quickly need to check half the spellings…
But maybe being almost an outsider looking in is an advantage; or at least offers a different perspective on many of the previews that have gone before. Detachment is not always a bad thing; sometimes you can see both the wood and the trees.
So, a few broad brush strokes of opinion. For the little that this opinion is increasingly worth.
Professional football in England is not split into four divisions; it is five.
There’s a six-team tier at the top of the Premier League that needs to be viewed as a separate entity. Everton not included this time round.
If the gap points-wise between the two Manchester clubs, the two from Liverpool and the three from London weren’t guide enough with 12 points separating Liverpool in seventh and West Bromwich Albion in eight, look at the transfer numbers that have come to dominate this summer’s non-moves.
They are in the £40m plus range. Waaaaaay beyond any of the numbers that float around the also-rans.
And this is signifcant; because a £40m plus player commands wages to match. A £40m plus player’s agent also commands fees to match – and that, too, is significant.
And this is where we get to with Norwich’s summer spending.
Because if I was Hughton – or I was the agent for either of those two, Dutch lads – that’s the ‘pitch’.
Do well for Norwich and who knows where it might lead in the next 12-18 months. As it almost did – apparently – for John Ruddy.
This is the point. Football is a business; is a meat market.
Grant Holt was a one-off. In the same way that a Russell Martin is a one-off; and, in fairness, Ruddy too.
Others may well see a 12-18 month ‘tour’ with Norwich as a way to go the next level up; to get to play in the top tier of English football.
Which is fine. Because viewed with that ‘meat market’ hat on, everyone can be the winner.
The player – and his agent – get the big pay-day; to do that, however, they have to perform for Norwich. Who then, likewise, get the big pay day when they move on. It is how £8 million can become £35 million in the space of a season or so.
And then allows Hughton to buy a better class of van Wolfswinkel next time round.
And what is important to note is that the four – maybe five – players who may yet feel they have the right or the ability to enter that ‘top six’ market are straight down the spine of the side.
Ruddy, Bassong, Fer, Hooper and van Wolfswinkel is a decent hand to be playing at the level of the also-rans – as and when suspension and niggling knocks allow all concerned to be involved.
They are the ‘money men’; they are the rocks upon which Norwich’s fortunes – both football-wise and finance-wise – will be built over the next 12-18 months.
Powerhouse centre-midfielders with an eye for goal command top dollar; as do lads with anything more than 15-plus goals in them – particularly when they have age on their side. Something that the luckless Holt never had.
Age, athleticism and ambition – three, big reasons why that spine should keep the Canaries well out of harm’s way this season.
You look around and I can see at least half a dozen sides that look all-too weak; all too laboured with debt to try and compete at Norwich’s transfer level.
The question, of course, is what fun is there to be had being this season’s West Bromwich Albion? Safe by the middle of February.
I think that’s the area that Hughton – and the club – need to deliver on. A decent cup run that gives Norfolk’s finest a sniff of Europe again.
My first season covering Norwich City Football Club on a full-time basis was 1993-94. It would be nicely fitting if, 20 years on, the team that Chrissy Hughton built could somehow find its way back to Munich and beyond.
That would be when the fun would start. Away days to the furthest-flung corners of Europe for the Faithful.
Given the cr*p they have had to endure in all-too many of the seasons since Mike Walker’s men stormed the Olympic Stadium, it would be the very least their patience, their passion and their unbelievable numbers deserve.
All yours, Mr Hughton. Go out there and give them their due reward.