For want of something better to do on a Saturday night, I tapped the following three words into a Google search box: ‘Kenwyne Jones wages’.
Somewhere near the top, this popped up: http://www.espn.co.uk/football/sport/story/273675.html
And in the second part was, apparently, the answer: ‘Jones has been fined two weeks’ wages, around £80,000, by Stoke after texting manager Mark Hughes to say he was unavailable to play against Liverpool on Sunday…
Which was interesting; about right I suspect for a player of Jones’ ilk. No Remy, but always a handful. And at 29, he’s been around the block a fair few times. His goal-scoring record isn’t the greatest. But I have him down as an awkward one for defenders.
So £40,000-a-week. On the assumption that his wages didn’t change in the midst of the simple swap deal for Peter Odemwingie that took one to the Britannia and the other to the Cardiff City Stadium.
What’s interesting is what appears if you type ‘Peter Odemwingie wages’ into a Google search box. This appears: http://www.mirrorfootball.co.uk/transfer-news/West-Brom-Peter-Odemwingie-wants-pay-rise-to-40k-a-week-to-snub-Newcastle-Wigan-interest-article784151.html
Odemwingie demanding a pay rise of £40,000 to stay at The Hawthorns. And to not then, presumably, turn up in a car park outside Loftus Road one transfer window night.
The point being quite simple. In the current Premier League market-place, £40,000-a-week gets you a Kenwyne Jones or a Peter Odemwingie. Loyalty comes extra.
It also gets you a winning goal against one of your relegation rivals. And that, as we all know, can be priceless.
It gets a club off its knees and it gives a new manager all the lift he needs to drive on and up the table at a crucial point in the season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can walk across the Taff tonight. Vincent Tan’s tiff with Malky Mackay will be so much history.
For this is the point that niggles away at me as the knives continue to sharpen for Chris Hughton.
And I’m not about to revisit all his managerial strengths and failings; this decision, that decision. A wrong sub here; the wrong shape there. Fine. Whatever. Next…
But there is one decision that is not in Hughton’s hands. And nor – to my knowledge – has it been in any Norwich managers; past, present or future.
And that is how much he is allowed to spend on a player. That is a decision that sits with the board.
If a manager were given a free rein to spend whatever he liked on a player then, of course, any manager would pay whatever it took to get the best players to play for them.
But that’s not how it works. Someone else sets a ceiling. Hands him a budget to work to. In effect, ties his hands.
And this is the question. Where is that ceiling wages-wise? If a Jones or an Odemwingie are out of Hughton’s reach, then you get what you pay for – a Hooper, a van Wolfswinkel or an Elmander. Or, indeed, a Becchio. Who came at the price of a Steve Morison. Now back to plying his trade on loan at Millwall.
Of all the charges that are laid at the City manager’s door, I’ve yet to see daft as one of them.
It is not rocket science to recognise that – maybe bar Hooper – none of his strike buys have delivered. To anywhere near the level required to compete effectively at this level.
And, by the way, nor do I set much store by goals conceded columns. When a team like Spurs are shipping five at home to Manchester City, there is something new going on. If Norwich are returned to sender, it will be the ‘Goals For’ column that despatches them south, not the ‘Goals Against’.
Which brings us back to money and wages. And a transfer window that has come and gone without Norwich’s evident short-comings in front of goal being addressed.
“If we’re making mistakes like we did, then we’ve got to be scoring goals – and we’re finding that tough at the moment,” said the manager after this weekend’s 2-1 defeat against Jones and Co.
And then there is that whole Steve Bruce quote: ‘In the Premier League, any manager is only ever as good as his strikers…’
So you have to presume Hughton looked long and hard at that January striker market; did he throw names at the board – only to hit the Jones-type ceiling?
Or was the ceiling relaxed, but he just couldn’t find the players willing to make the move east?
Players – and their agents – will go where the money is; throw enough at the pair of them and they will move.
Or did Hughton shy away from his Oliver moment and not ask for more? Does he still believe that van Wolfswinkel can turn the corner form and fortune-wise? Or did he recognise that he’s had his lot; this is the hand that he has dealt himself – now he has to make certain players deliver?
My fear would be that, as a board, you end up falling between several stools. You stick by your man manager-wise and not flow with the message-board tides, but then neither do you enable him to address the biggest gap in his armoury and play/pay at the level of a Stoke or a Cardiff wages-wise.
But then even if change had been forthcoming manager-wise, unless the new man can pull a Michu-like rabbit out of the hat with his knowledge of foreign fields, would we not be going round the same block?
Slice and dice this squad any which way you want, but I strongly suspect that if you pay £20,000-a-week you get one player; if you pay £40,000-a-week you get another player.
And if you pay £200,000-a-week you get Luis Suarez. And you can play 8-1-1, 5-4-1, 6-3-1… whatever combination you want. And he’ll still rip you to bits.
It’s as simple as.