What follows is pretty much an open question. I don’t have an answer.
Hence why I’m throwing it open to the floor.
Because of the six teams that sit above Norwich City in the Championship table – Bournemouth, Ipswich, Middlesbrough, Derby, Watford and Brentford – none have graced the English Premier League of late.
Why is that?
I haven’t done the full search, but I can’t imagine either Bournemouth or Brentford have ever been in the top flight of English football.
Watford have been down for a good number of years; ditto Ipswich, Derby and Middlesbrough.
And yet all are better placed than Norwich. Or, indeed, Fulham. Or Cardiff. Or Blackburn. Or Bolton. Or Blackpool.
Why? I don’t believe in that level of coincidence.
And yet listen to various folk after this weekend’s 2-1 defeat at Reading – add to the list above – and the Canaries position in the table remains somewhere between disappointing and disgraceful. Four out of ten, to quote one.
We should be walking this league, is the general consensus.
‘We’re just down from the Premier League…’ is cited as a plus, not a minus. Whereas if ‘the table doesn’t lie’, then the reverse is true.
Indeed if you look at that table in the light of the above, Norwich are the best performing of the recently relegated Premier League teams.
In fact, they are bucking a trend. Because if you were to average out the positions of their relegated fellows, City would probably come out 11-12th.
To my mind, there must be something that binds all these teams together in terms of their near-universal ‘under achievement’ in their first years back.
And, by the same token, there must be a reason why the six clubs currently above them in the Championship pile are that much closer to the ‘Promised Land’.
Six clubs without a bean in terms of Premier League parachute payments.
Or if they ever had them, that cushion has long since gone. And was never to the same scale that Norwich have enjoyed.
So, six of the ‘poorest’ clubs in the Championship sit above a dozen of the ‘richer’. Certainly if you built a table around wage out-goings, you wouldn’t have Bournemouth and Brentford in the promotion and play-off positions.
The argument against Norwich is that they are seventh due to an inexperienced manager whose squad is under-performing given the ‘obvious’ talent that sits in that dressing room.
And yet there are vastly more experienced managers than Adams sitting in lowlier positions.
So that argument doesn’t explain why six clubs with no recent ‘benefit’ of Premier League football should be perched above all the clubs that have.
Which leads me back to the first question – why?
For me, I think the answer lies in the corrosive power of money.
Whoever the manager is.
The six clubs that lie above Norwich, and the rest of those clubs who have grown fat and soft on Premier League riches, have one common quality – a hunger to do well.
The same hunger to get on and get up that Norwich themselves had in spades under Paul Lambert – a hunger that was personified in the figure of Grant Holt.
He was on a journey. From non-league to Premier League. And it drove both player and club on.
Look around and who has that now? Not just at Norwich. But across the board with the ex-Premier League sides.
From a distance, Ipswich are driving on through young and hungry kids; let off the leash and given their chance in the absence of a Jimmy Bullard, Town’s biggest challenge will be next month’s transfer window. Can they keep Master Mings at home?
But the lad cares about his home town club. More than a Bullard, one suspects.
And this would be my feeling closer to home. If a decent offer comes in, let a player walk. People are getting out of this division on the back of players wanting it more than others.
Those that have had it wages-wise rarely offer the same edge as those that haven’t.
And it’s around those players – almost irrespective of age and experience – that you forge a promotion-winning team. The ‘poor’ relations.
To be seventh at the turn of the year with a squad full of players who have tasted Premier League riches remains no mean feat.