So, stats time.
Three recent seasons – 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14 – plus, at the time of writing, one game played in that league in this 2015/16 campaign.
Four managers and 115 games. But how many different players do you think have made at least one Premier League appearance for the Canaries since that 1-1 draw at Wigan back on August 13, 2011?
It includes the likes of Russell Martin, Wes Hoolahan and John Ruddy, the weekend’s debutant, Robbie Brady, through to the improbable and almost forgotten figures of Jonas Gutierrez, Joseph Yobo and Kei “heart-shaped hands” Kamara. Plus who could forget the one and only Adam Drury who put in a few very decent shifts under Paul Lambert back in the 2011/12 campaign.
Of those 48 players who have made at least one Premier League appearance for us since August 2011, seventeen remain at the club at the time of writing. So there is plenty of top level experience in and around Carrow Road – an inarguable fact.
What is, of course, up for grabs at the moment, is whether or not that experience is matched by their ability to shine at Premier League level.
But it’s not them or that well-worn exchange of views I am concerned about here. There have been, are, and will be numerous arguments, debates and even occasional handbags offered about which of those is capable and which aren’t. And I note that, after the Palace game, quite a few of them have been written-off already.
And that includes pretty much every member of the defence as far as most of the posters on one particular club message-board seem to be concerned.
But I’m digressing.
Simple maths then. Seventeen of them are still with us which means that a total of 30 players who have made at least one Premier League appearance for us since August 2011 have since moved on to other things.
And, of that 30, how many do you think are still at Premier League clubs this season?
The answer may surprise you. It certainly surprised me.
It’s five. That’s correct, just five. And three of those – Ritchie De Laet, Kyle Naughton and Harry Kane – weren’t even our own players.
The only two who used to be our own players and who might, for that reason, be hoping to play against us at some point this season in a Premier League game are Mark Bunn (and, arguably, he won’t anyway as he’s now rivalling another ex-Canary in Jed Steer for a place on the bench at Villa Park) and Andrew Surman; the latter all too easily released by us last summer and has since gone on to make a return of his own with Bournemouth, the player who, according to one Cherries fan I contacted, “made them tick” throughout last season.
But too lightweight for us a year ago it would seem. Sorry, I’m digressing again.
What does that 5 out of 30 statistic tell you (apart from the fact that I clearly have too much time on my hands and an unhealthy interest in MS Excel)?
It makes me think, again, of the damn it to hell for all eternity transfer window. And our everlasting quest to add ‘Premier League quality’ to the squad, which, as I suggested in my previous column is a lot harder to propose, speculate and demand than it is to achieve in reality.
And it doesn’t matter how ambitious the club is, or purports to be, if a player (or, just as likely, his agent) doesn’t fancy Norwich, then he isn’t going to come here.
And no amount of caterwauling or protest is going to change all that. You think Patrick Bamford would even have considered coming here, the moment he knew that Palace were interested?
Not. A. Chance.
For the average player, a move to Crystal Palace means London and all that it entails. A move to Norwich is more about asking just exactly where it is, and how far is it from London.
Remember Keith O’Neill’s famous phrase about how the only good thing to come out of Norwich was the road to London? Shortly after he made that claim, he left us for Middlesbrough. That’s the Middlesbrough that’s is around 250 miles from London as opposed to Norwich which is less than half that distance away.
On Planet Football, Norwich is seen as such an unfashionable place to be that you take the first offer to get out and get out while you can. And if the one and only offer at the time comes from Middlesbrough then that’s where you’ll happily end up.
Take Rudy Gestede as a modern day example. We were heavily linked with him at the beginning of the summer; indeed, I strongly suspect he was one of the players who we would have made a more than merely informal offer for.
Once that interest was apparent, Gestede’s agent would have stalled and waited for other clubs to have become involved. We were linked with him for what, one and a half, nearly two weeks? The first I heard of Villa being in for him was pretty much the same time as he signed on the dotted line for them.
If you or I need a plumber and electrician, we ring around, get a few quotes and, ultimately, decide on who offers the best all round package. Footballers are no different. They’ll study the first offer with interest but wait for something better to come along. Because it usually does.
For Gestede and his entourage it was Aston Villa. We never stood a chance once their van had pulled up outside his house.
Not. A. Chance. (again)
Someone made a point on one of the club’s message-boards last week as to why it seems that, whenever we sign for a player, we never seem to beat other clubs for his signature, that there is never a the proverbial frenzied race to sign him from which we, eventually, come out victorious.
Gestede and Bamford are two examples why. Like the 40/1 shot at Goodwood, we’re in the running but no-one really fancies us to win.
There have been exceptions. Ryan Bennett was all set to sign for Swansea until we came calling.
Yet his career seems to have stalled since he joined us. Maybe he’ll be moving on again in the near future? But will it be to another Premier League club?
Probably – with all the best will in the world to Ryan – not.
And here’s another point.
How many of the 17 that were left – players who represented us in the Premier League from 2011 to 2014 – do you think will go onto play for another Premier League club when the time comes for them to leave Norwich?
Work your way through the list and tell me who might go against the flow and prove themselves good enough to go onto bigger and better things, post Norwich City. Which of them will continue as Premier League players after they have left Carrow Road?
Seb Bassong, Ryan Bennett, Elliot Bennett, Wes Hoolahan, Gary Hooper, Jonny Howson, Bradley Johnson, Russell Martin, Josh Murphy, Martin Olsson, Nathan Redmond, John Ruddy, Declan Rudd, Alex Tettey, Michael Turner, Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Steven Whittaker.
I’m not naming names here. But I reckon no more than half a dozen at the most. But it might be as low as just two of them.
Have we really become a club that is, for most of the players that join it, one that represents the peak of their professional careers?
Andre Wisdom, you might think, probably sees us as a stepping stone on to bigger and better things with Liverpool. And he’s made no secret of that fact. But then he’s not our player anyway, unlike Graham Dorrans and Youssef Mulumbu who have had substantial previous experience at this level.
Yet you would have to say, once the yellow and green tinted spectacles had been removed, that, had any of the Aston Villas, West Hams or even Stoke Citys of this world also been interested in either of them, we might have had a struggle in persuading them to head to Norwich.
If it’s a choice between any of those clubs and ourselves, we’re going to be at the back of the queue more often than not. No matter what we say, do, promise or propose to player ‘X’ whose off to St Mary’s after he’s paid a little lip service to us up at Colney.
Which begs the question: Are we our own glass ceiling in terms of the type of player we can hope to sign?
Steve B says
I think in modern day football it’s a case of pay the wages and they will come,
I think now it my be less attractive than London options (London I would say is more important to foreign players) but you only have to look at Stoke and, to an extent, out signings before our third season in the Prem to see how important stability is in convincing potential signings.
I do think the club is especially wary of spending big money after RvW too.
Gary Carver says
Swansea City ??
Gary Gowers says
Gary (3) – Unfortunately, following relegation , we’ve slipped behind them in the pecking order. They’re now perceived by the outside world as Prem regulars; Norwich as favourites for relegation. Hence if a prospective signing had to choose…
Alex Neil said at this mornings Press Conference that players didn’t find Norwich an attractive proposition which blends in with the gist of the article.
A combination of two things-our geographic location and the fact that, as play off winners, we are seen as the weakest and potentially least comopetitive team in the division. Players don’t want to come here to fight what they see as an ongoing relegation battle and, quite possibly, have to look to relocate again next Summer if we go down.
The start of 13/14 was different, that was our 3rd (then) successive spell in the Prem, enough to convince RVW, then considered quite a coup, signing wise, to the club as well as a seasoned old pro like Elmander. I doubt they’d be looking at a move to us if we’d just come up in the Summer of 2013.
Swansea are established now with a good reputation as a progressive club and one where players can push on with their careers. We weren’t in the market for perceived “Prem quality” in the Summer of 2011 but didn’t do too badly with what we ended up with.
Alex Gregory says
I think we appeal to slightly more mature players with young families that are looking to settle down in an area, find a good school, nice house etc.
They tend to then stay forever and become converted canaries fans themselves.
Stewart Lewis says
Interesting piece, Ed, with some striking facts. Sobering to see that of the ‘real’ City players in our recent Premier League time, none has gone on to be a regular in another Prem team (Surman might, but that’s still to be seen).
A couple of points on being unfashionable. But first, just a reminder for people that ‘being strongly linked with’ is not the same as ‘we tried to sign’. Perhaps you’re in the know and you’re telling us Norwich tried desperately to sign Gestede. Not being ITK, I’ve no idea whether we were seriously in for him, Bamford, Lambert or any of the 24 other strikers we’ve been ‘strongly linked with’.
The attraction of Norwich surely depends on a number of factors. Ed highlights the appeal of bright lights which I’m sure is true for some unattached young players. For someone with a young family, hopefully the balance will be different.
The one constant, as succinctly put by Steve B, is that other clubs will currently offer higher wages than we can. An established Prem club like Stoke, especially if it has a super-rich owner, will easily outbid us on pay.
The other key point is Gary’s: we’re seen as relegation favourites.
Both of these factors risk being self-perpetuating, of course. To break out, we need to (i) prove this season that we can stay in the top league then (ii) build on the financial and reputational benefit we’d get from it. For us fans, that means having a bit of patience and getting fully behind the manager and team.
Over the past 25 years what ‘ big names’ have come to Carrow Road other than on loan? NCFC is a club where players can make a name for themselves and move on, Rob Green, Darren Eadie, Bellers, Sutton, Ashton etc, and I expect Redmond will do likewise. We have to understand and accept this just as, if we do really well Alex Neil will jump ship as Paul Lambert, Martin O’Neill, Mike Walker all did.
We have great players at the club and a fantastic team spirit our aim is to entertain and achieve 10-11 wins plus a few draws that will keep us up and disappoint all the pundits. I don’t believe one ‘Big name’ would change our fortunes but there again I’d be happy to see what AN could do with Mr ‘Grumpy’ Chris Martin, bet he’d make double figures??
…. And “he’s one of our own!
Half Nelson says
Norfolk is fine where it is thank you.
You do seem to have pre-empted AN’s press conference.
There’s no doubt that Norwich made Harry Kane what he is today.
Keith O’Neill was one of the worst players I ever saw at Carrow Road. Did well to offload him.
Gestede has played one game and everyone is blowing smoke up his proverbial..as we did with Ricky.
I’m sure Shaqiri’s head was turned by the bright lights of Stoke-on-Trent. Bayern to Inter to Stoke – now there’s a downward trend if ever there was.
Maybe we could put in a bid for that Colombian, Shakira? Getting on a bit but good set of lungs.
Woodton Canary says
Interesting piece, and the following 2 points I think are worth noting:
(1) as is stated above we will be one of the lowest payers in the league, or even the lowest payer
(2) I don’t know for definite but I assume that any players that sign for City this season will be offered a (very good) bonus for avoiding relegation but also a relegation clause that cuts their wages by a significant amount (40% was the figure bandied about at the end of the 2013/14 season).
Whilst I of course hope that we stay up, the highest chance of being relegated is in that first season. Therefore players will be very aware that they can get good wages this season and play in the Premier League but the likelihood is that the following season they will (a) have to move to another Premier League club to maintain their salary or b) stay at the club and try and get promoted (again for a decent bonus).
Given the above what kind of players are going to be attracted to playing for Norwich this season? The best indicator is probably what signings Norwich were able to achieve before the first transfer deadline of that 2011/12 Premier League Season. I believe they broadly fell into two categories:
1. Players from Premier League clubs that were failing to get any game time or were promising players that needed game time (James Vaughan (Everton), Ritchie De Laet (Man Utd, Loan), Kyle Naughton (Spurs, Loan), Daniel Ayala (Liverpool))
These guys realised that moving to Norwich gave them an excellent opportunity to establish themselves in a premier league team whilst also maintaining similar levels of pay.
2. Players that Lambert was able to attract from lower league teams (Steve Morison (Millwall), Elliot Bennett (Brighton), Bradley Johnson (Leeds), and Anthony Pilkington (Huddersfield))
These guys had little too lose as (i) I’m sure they were offered a pay increase on what they were earning and (ii) the relegation clause was probably more than they were on anyway. Plus now of course they also had the opportunity of playing in the Premier League.
My other point is this. Alex Neil is still relatively unknown in the football world, I would imagine that his contact book is relatively small compared to say Lambert. Lambert had also made his name as a player and hence has an advantage in attracting players to play for him I would think. We should remember that Norwich have already signed AN’s best player from his previous club.
There’s no doubt that Alex Neil is a good manager but it will take more time for his reputation to get established and the pool of players wanting to play for him to extend.
I’m sure that if we stay up this season, then we will see a higher calibre of player want to join us next season. But for now I think we can only really expect players who meet the criteria that is explained above.
But as AN said himself today we are, at present, way down the pecking order and that really shouldn’t be a surprise to any NCFC fans.
I buy in to the above to a certain extent, but would ask if the club is doing all it can to sell itself to prospective new players. Is there a promotional video of the Team and area for example. How are visits to the club arranged and what is the itinerary?
What more than anything else has undermined the club’s ambition and credibility to my mind is the opening and subsequent offers for Mr Brady’s services. Quite frankly a £2M opening offer is insulting to both Hull and the player himself, do you think we offered £2M for Gestede? No wonder he did not come to us!
Stewart Lewis says
We’ve always been good at selling the club & the area, and I imagine that’s still the case.
What’s different now? Surely Woodton Canary (11) has put his finger on it. Paul Lambert focussed on young players from lower leagues, for whom Norwich was an obvious step up. It seems now that we’re trying to strengthen by signing players with Premier League pedigree. That makes sense given how the league has moved on, but it means our competition is clubs who pay more and can be seen as having better prospects.
One consolation of this is that we won’t attract mercenaries. The players who come to us will be (as Brady gives every indication of being) people who really want to perform for Norwich.
Jersey Canary says
What Norwich should be doing is buying the best young talent from The Championship to ensure that if we do go down we’ll either have saleable assets or a team that should be too good for The Championship upon relegation. Redmond is a prime example, buy for £3m sell for £13m, Snodgrass £2m/£6m, Ashton £3m/£8.25m are other examples. We should have enough cash to buy replacements and a squad for that should be top 2 material. It’s a vicious circle, if we buy well, sell well along with a decent man manager and parachute payments we should be (at least) a permanent yoyo club.
Jersey Canary says
If we can manage the above process well we can build the clubs off field infrastructure to generate more cash and this will give us a better chance of getting promoted and staying in The Premier League. If we keep making profits maybe a ground extension might be the end goal. Extra day to day revenue may give us a better chance of attracting PLplayers and becoming a sustainable PL club.
Jersey Canary says
Aim for a 40,000 capacity stadium, with German like ticket pricing and more families will attend, Norwich will become the go to away day match so we’ll sell more away tickets. I think with a bit of imagination we could achieve this easily.