Hhmm… not quite sure that went as planned.
We began the day all bright-eyed and bushy tailed, with the general consensus being that a centre-back and possibly another striker would be in the offing. “We have Mbokani. Now for Jonathan Walters and a CB – I’d be happy with that”.
Little did we know at the time that the big story of the day would be nothing to do with any of the above. Instead it would be the departure of one who was at the very epicentre of last season’s promotion campaign. The holder of the Barry Butler trophy no less.
It was one I’m not sure any of us saw coming – even the #ITK Twitter super-sleuths.
Bradley Johnson’s departure to the bright lights of Derby brings to an end a City career that trundled along in second and third gear for a few Premier League seasons, only for it to be ignited by City’s relegation to the second tier.
Only then, when shifted from a central midfield berth that even in the Championship looked a slightly uneasy fit, did the bearded one flourish. But *how* he flourished.
In a season that ended in Wembley glory, Johno netted an impressive 15 times; more often than not courtesy of his hammer-like left boot. The examples are numerous but the first goal in the regular season home game against Ipswich will forever be remembered as his finest.
But it wasn’t just the goals. It was his voracious appetite for hard work, allied to a never-say-die spirit that endeared him to the faithful – even those (like me) who had questioned his technical ability when the company was more refined.
And win us over he did, with his central role in the post-Wembley celebrations symptomatic of the key role he held in the dressing room.
But the cut-throat world of Premier league football strikes again and just 99 days after said party he found himself only peripheral to Alex Neil’s plans. Regular first-team football was his obvious aim and it wasn’t going to happen in the 2015/16 iteration of Norwich City.
While some have taken to Twitter to bemoan his sale without an obvious replacement – the arrival of West Ham’s Matt Jarvis (an old style winger) on a season-long loan is hardly a like-for-like swap – it in fact arrived back in July in the form of Robbie Brady.
Brady, while possessing a left foot every bit as good as Bradders’, had just clocked up an impressive PL campaign and a series of equally eye-catching international appearances. While his ability to cover at left-back was timely given Martin Olsson’s shoulder surgery, it’s clear the left side of midfield is Brady’s natural home.
Telling was Neil’s decision to play the square peg of Jonny Howson in the round hole of left-midfield; so too the manager’s comments a fortnight ago:
“Bradley did well last year, I don’t think he’s done as well as he should have done up until this point.”
Much of the wrath that has accompanied news of Johnson’s departure has been aimed at ‘the board’. Those same folk should understand that no-one departs Carrow Road without the manager’s say-so; every decision made with the best interest of Norwich City and the player at its heart.
Others have commented on the rumoured £6m being good enough reason to give the move the nod. I’m not so sure.
£6m, possibly rising to £7.5m, seems a decent deal for Derby in today’s inflated market. This won’t make me popular, but I perceive the sanctioning of the move to be a footballing decision.
Yes, it’s a shame but when has sentiment ever played a part in top flight football? Chuck into the mix a driven young manager with a ruthless steak and there you have it.
Of more concern to me at the time of writing is that despite their best efforts Messrs Darnbrough, McNally and Neil have collectively been unable to lure a quality centre-back to the Fine City.
Intriguingly, despite the names of Nkoulou, Koulibaly and Sviatchenko doing the rounds in the last seven days, today produced very little by way of central defender tittle-tattle. Plenty of names were mentioned – Chamakh, Gayle, Austin, Naismith, Walters, Ulloa, Lansbury etc etc – but none were centre-backs.
Of course, work was ongoing out of sight of Twitter but, as things stand, produced a big fat Family Fortunes-style uh-uhh. And, as hard as I try, it bothers me.
Russell Martin and Seb Bassong are decent and honest but we’re shipping two goals a game as things stand, even before English football’s elite swing into town.
Alas, Norwich City – as alluded to by Alex a few weeks ago – are not perceived as an ‘attractive’ proposition by those with the Premier League in their sights. And to bring in those who are no better than we already have is a no-no.
An unhealthy combination – and one that has made life nigh impossible for the aforementioned trio to do their dealing, specifically when cultured defenders are on the shopping list.
Either way, the non-events of the day in this regard remain puzzling and leaves us in a potentially precarious position until the window opens again on January 1.
In terms of the striking department, bids for Everton’s Steven Naismith and Crystal Palace’s Dwight Gayle were both ultimately unsuccessful – although the latter did it seems go to the wire – yet we still hold the registration of Gary Hooper and Lewis Grabban, both of whom appear to be straining at the leash to depart.
So, that leaves us one happy striker (Jerome), one new striker (Mbokani) – who has yet to be granted a work permit – and a couple who will somehow need to be motivated and reinvigorated to re-enter the fold. Not an easy one for Team Neil.
Without wishing to join the furore that is currently unfolding online it’s hard to argue that we ended Deadline Day stronger than we started it. We didn’t. But a list of summer newbies that reads Dorrans, Mulumbu, Kean, Brady, Wisdom and Mbokani is not to be sneezed at. Add a shiny new centre-back to that list and it would have been a good job well done.
Alas, today is about one who departed. One who through sheer effort, endeavour, a bludgeoning left foot and the heart of a lion won over all his doubters and left us with memories that will last forever.
Farewell Bradders. The Rams have got themselves a good’un. You’ll not be forgotten.
Good summary Gary. The Johnson one came as a bolt out of the blue but on reflection I think represents a good deal for Norwich – many of us were just not convinced that he is PL standard. Andreu out on loan is no surprise and a month out for Vadis will do him the world of good (assuming he is still registered for us thru to Jan). Jarvis fits the AN mould – experience and proven PL ability. Up front I think we finish the window stronger than we started – Mbokani looks the real deal, let’s hope he proves a shrewd purchase although how Grabban fits in remains to be seen. The biggest disappointment of the window is the lack of a new CB – a couple of injuries and we could have issues. All-in-all not the disaster some are saying – just a bit underwhelming. Interesting comment from AN a few weeks back about the struggles of trying to attract players to Norwich…seems to have rung true again…
Matty cooper says
It’s seems as Norwich always appears to do is when it comes to transfers live in the olden days when it comes to fees, they always offer less way less than the required amount so why are they surprised when they always fail ie wolves striker keep bidding never ever going to get him just 1 of many failed attempts it’s not like they can’t raise the money we forget they just made 120 mil for 1 game recently!! And the Bradley Johnson sale!! Wow someone prepared to get kicked in the head for a game of football and u keep babies who won’t play coz they not picked bless em grab ban does not deserve the rediculous money he’s on after that and Matt Jarvis wow bet he feels wanted last ditch left footer who can’t get in a crap West Ham side as for the manager think he’s well out of his depth now and it’s showing honeymoon period well and truly over
Michael D says
Of our current centre backs Bassong was the last to be signed, just to show how long ago it was that that position was credibly strengthened. We don’t even have a promising Academy player there. One injury there and we creak, two and we are stuffed. Very weird decision making not to ensure that even Turner was replaced.
And Rotherham say they have signed on loan the best player on the pitch in our recent cup match with them. I have been surprised we haven’t seen more trying of different players. Somehow ANs selections this season have seemed a little more inflexible, which has surprised me a bit.
Edward Kerrison says
As always Gary Gowers makes so much sense so well written so true as ever a great read.
Good piece Gary. I’m not one for spending silly money on players no better than we have but the failure to bring in a good defender or two is a bit strange.
BJs move came completely out of the blue. But when you think about our midfield resources, and BJ’s place in pecking order, perhaps it shouldn’t be so much of a surprise. After a great Championship have to say BJ has not looked so sharp this year. Perhaps things have been said.
Feeling nervous for the rest of the season but if we can survive this year bringing in better players may be easier in 201617
I’m trying not to allow my confidence in our prospects to be shattered in the space of a day, and to show a little but more faith, but that is proving increasingly difficult right now. We had all summer to strengthen the centre of our defence and failed. And up front, as you say, we are now reliant upon Jerome and a combination of the unproven and unhappy. This is all before we are beset by any injuries.
Without wanting to sound like a melodramatic message board ranter, this is one of the most disturbing days I can remember in a long time for our fortunes.
Questions will need to be asked about the structure of our management team/football board – or whatever it’s called – and whether the right personnel are in place to operate in the cut throat world of the Premier League transfer market. But in the meantime we are going to need all the ability of Alex Neil as a coach and a manager to survive,
Azores Canary says
Puzzling indeed, Gary. I am starting to get a little twitched. Are we seeing the ship starting to creak a bit?
First, Grabban’s extraordinary behaviour should have seen him overboard to whoever would pay a reasonable fee (Bournemouth seemed to want to oblige). Grabban has achieved limited success at this club, being a bit of a lightweight with a propensity for profligacy in front of goal and impetuous behaviour in front of the referee.
Second, the no-show at Southampton, underscored by the largely un-noticed and unreported slagging match between Brady and Jerome during the second half. We gave the impression of being a demoralised team in disarray.
Third, the departure of Johnson which seems frankly astonishing. I can’t believe the lion-hearted Bradders has left to increase his bank balance (Derby?), so there must be another reason. And the fact that he’s not currently getting a regular start is irrelevant given the long season ahead where inevitable suspensions and injuries would have given him a chance again.
So, is our young thruster starting to learn the hard way about handling footballers in the top flight? When you’re on a roll, being the Boss is easy. But when the pressure comes on (as it always is in the Prem – ask Senor Mourinho) can the Boss keep the ship heading in the right direction and the crew happy? I think Alex The Younger will be severely tested in the coming weeks. Many good managers have fallen on their swords under the relentless strain of the Premier League. If Alex Neil, ably supported by DMac and the Rest, can ride out this storm and get us quickly back to the way we were, then he will have proved he is the great manager that we all believe he is. And in the meantime, he will probably have learnt a thing or two as well!
Oh, and by the way, let’s hope Dieumerci Mbokani can find the back of the net – something the rest of our strikers have failed to do so far this season. (Except RVW at Rotherham, of course, which doesn’t count!!)
Jim Davies says
Natty Cooper (2) should realise that it’s not a case of not offering “the required amount” for Afobe – no-one knows what the “required amount” was. City offered what they thought he was worth, Wolves said it wasn’t enough,City went back with an increased bid, Wolves still said “no”, City may or may not have gone back again. Afobe wasn’t sitting in the shop window with a price on him, like a box of corn flakes in Asda. The way that transfers work is that offers are made, bids are either accepted or rejected, and negotiations continue till either agreement is reached, or the bid is dropped. There are plenty of other clubs who have failed to get their targets this transfer window – just ask Man Utd, Chelsea Tottenham etc.
I would have liked to see one of the centre backs coming in, but there is some flexibility at the club, in that Wisdom can also play there, and Ryan Bennett is still available.
As for the manager being out of his depth, I think he’s perfectly capable of swimming in these waters.
No one – NO ONE – rated Bradley Johnson this time last year and if we’d have been told we’d get £6m for him plus Mulumbu, we’d have bitten all the hands off we could find.
Not sure why people think we were going to get in cover good enough to start at CB. Neil made it perfectly clear who his first choices are and no one coming in would have been any better.
Mbokani will light up our season – be sure of that!
However at the end of a shocker of a week for Alex Neil it’ll be interesting to see how he handles it all. Let’s not forget the same team has been playing really good football and we’ve added to it. OTBC
A shambles. no worse than that. the very least we should have go is a central defender.
We sell one of the few who would run through a brick, sometimes that is needed. for around six million, nearly recouping what was spent on Brady. We have two strikers who do not want to be here, a winger who hardly seen the light of day for a while, and a unproven striker who has almost in the cold. What a window
For a club who boasts being debt free, with premiership money available it is in fact diabolical. Championship clubs have spent more money than we have. It is Disgusting, I cannot believe that this board are showing any ambition for staying a premiership club, when the very least requirement wasn’t met
Dave H says
An odd day which started in disappointment for me with Ricky’s departure (I know, I know – I was just desperate for him to succeed!) and ended in disappointment. As Gary mentioned, I also fully expected to see us add a desperately needed CB & another striker. I would have preferred Dwight Gayle to keeping Grabban – Bournemouth signing Murray instead of Grabban would appear to have prevented that. While I can somewhat understand Johnson’s departure from a footballing point of view, it does seem odd losing someone who very recently was an integral part of a successful side. Our inability to strengthen the defence is most worrying, particularly after releasing 3 CBs since the end of last season. In Neil we trust, but I think he’s got his work cut out.
Paul Rich says
To see our immediate competitors strengthen well while we fail to is unforgiveable. Remember the nonsense from the MD about going down being worse than death?! Wonder what pearl he’ll come up with come March.
colin m says
I reckon we’ve done well and all signings are improvement. Lots of peripheral players gone on loan for game time. Olson coming back releases Brady, we’ve kept hold of Redmond, Mulumbo is real deal and Matt Jarvis might just be an inspired loan signing.AN rates Grabban so lets get behind him. What C B could we have signed? There’s no good ones available we tried Hoisveld, Cuellar,Turner etc.
All in all ok, BJ a great Championship player who will not be forgotten but good business for us I reckon. Exciting times ahead in our quest to prove the pundits wrong!
Some social media comments suggest that the board may have prevented AN bringing in the players of his choosing. My take is that AN may want to try to show he can prosper at this level due to his man management and motivational skills, so a bit of a vanity project. He did similar at Hamilton. However he may be underestimating the gap between the two leagues and end up with egg on his face. I have no problem with him learning from this experience provided he is still with us next season whichever league we’re in, although I fear we may be in a lower one.
Russell S. says
Some of the bleating over the ‘lack of business’ done by Norwich is predictable and yet still depressing. If we’re not careful, we’ll end up as miserable as Arsenal fans.
We didn’t get in as many new faces as other clubs, but why high numbers/price tags seems to automatically equate to “strengthening” is beyond me. Those players have to settle (particularly if from abroad) and gel as a team for the squad to be strengthened.
That can take months to happen and sometimes not at all however expensive they were. There is no guarantee Bournemouth or Watford for example (who some of our fans seem to be looking at enviously) have guaranteed their PL survival in this transfer window.
We’ve been here before with Watford on this site – their fans have declared their owners are fantastic and everything at the club is brilliant.
Take a listen to this fan who phoned in (53 mins 30 secs in) and was almost in tears at the way the soul of the club was being ripped out by the multiple-Pozzo purchase approach. He can’t be the only one.
Do we want that?
I remember one of the mfw columnists earlier this summer writing a fawning article describing mcnally as a consummate professional. Thought it was ridiculous then and even more so now.
When we were last relegated mcnally blamed it on poor summer signings at start of season. No lessons learnt.
Chris A says
Oh it’s all doom and gloom after the sale of Bradley Johnson isn’t it. I agree, we did replace him ealier in the window with Robbie Brady, add Matt Jarvis into that list aswell and our midfield is stronger. Honestly, who would put Jonno on in front of Tettey, Mulumby, Howson and Dorrans in a match day team? let alone Gary o’neil, who i would put on par with Jonno. £6 million is a good price,
I do think though, if we hadn’t of had our no show at Southampton, say we won that game, it would make 2 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss, would people feel so down and out over the transfer window? All last year we were saying we have a premier league squad, so what has changed? Because Bournemouth and Watford have splashed the cash on a thousand players who only around 5% of them have premier league experiance. The Nucleus of our team HAS improved. Of course i would of loved a new centre back and another centre forward. But life goes on, We have to continue backing our team. We haven’t turned into a terrible team in the space of a deadline day.
One last point is that as much as it’s nice to have a new name in the club, You have to keep the team spirit/moral together, signing so many new players means it the gelling process start’s all over again, which takes time. Honestly, i believe people are reading too much into the dip in team spirit within the walls of Colney. Players spat all the time on the field (aka Jerome and Brady) Players don’t start not wanting to play when ONE player leaves the squad when they are close to them. It’s football, Players move on more times than we have hot dinners.
Confused of the North says
Felt like the worst Christmas. Santa was approaching, i heard him….waiting for him to leave the goodies, waiting, waiting, still waiting…..never arrived. Thats how i felt yesterday. We had 4 forwards, Jerome first choice Mbokani new, then RVW putting in the effort and Hooper and Grabban just collecting their not insignificant wage. We lose our 3rd choice but keep the 4th and 5th????….We ship out 2 of our more promising wingers and bring in an ageing, expensive, lastminute 1 cap wonder, we lose our 4th choice CB and do not replace, we seem to have a last minute clearout of midfield but keep the likes of O’Neil. Just feels that it just all went wrong at the end leaving most of us quite flat. I’m sure they worked hard in this window, i have no doubts, perhaps this “Recruitment Board” just needs a little more quality
Cambridge Don says
Pab (16) – naming names? I’m sure that columnist can mount a spirited defence – like our back 4!
Chris (17) – spot on in every aspect.
Confused (18) – wouldn’t want you in the trenches with me.
Ben K says
This all smells a bit like January ’14. A real boost was needed and very little came. I’m not going to suggest a lack of ambition, since everyone knows the rewards on offer for staying in the PL. It would be ridiculous to suggest that the club wasn’t trying to do everything it could, but that’s the problem. There must’ve been a lot more work going on than we’re all aware of; and it all amounted to something of a damp squib.
I wish I knew what the reasons were. Maybe there’s a reluctance to being held to ransom. Maybe the location of Norwich puts players off. It was interesting to hear Mbokani saying that Mulumbu had a hand in persuading him to sign. Maybe a few more contacts like that would’ve helped. If, if, the new number nine can hit the ground running and add a new dimension to the team we might all forget the disappointment. Here’s hoping.
Woodton Canary says
If the goal of the club is to have competition in each position then I think we have reasonable cover throughout the squad.
AN’s preferred formation is 4-4-1-1 so my guess at NCFC’s best XI would be as follows:
Ruddy; Olsson, Bassong, Martin, Wisdom; Brady, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Redmond; Hoolahan; Mbokani
That leaves Rudd, R.Bennett, Whittaker, Jarvis, Tettey, O’Neil, E.Bennett, (Ojidja-Ofoe away on loan for a month) Jerome, Hooper, Grabban, and Lafferty all in the wings – looks decent cover to me. Let’s not forget Toffolo, Thompson and McGrandles all trying to impress too (I admit Toffolo appears to be further advanced than the other two).
I would agree that we look a center-back light particularly if one of them gets a long-term injury and we know that NCFC were trying to sign in that position.
I think most of us would agree that Johnson would struggle to be picked in front of Dorrans, Mulumbu, Howson and Brady. If that is the case than it is reasonable that NCFC sold him for a decent fee.
Reply to Cambridge Don: It was Stewart Lewis on 7th July.
In response to above, I don’t see that location has much to do with this situation. Players usually retain a house in their true ‘home’ location, and make additional new base with new club. They also have plenty of time and money to drive around and commute in their treasured fast cars. Teams like Swansea and Sunderland don’t seem to have geographical issues.
Networks are important in football. Evidenced by Mulumbu and Mbokani. AN’s single weakeness may be that his lack of managerial experience and not being English based means he is not well known or does not have an extensive list of contacts which can help when persuading players/agents that Norwich is the place to come.
Stewart Lewis says
Pab (22) – guilty as charged.
I was talking about the man who came into our club in Summer 2009 when it was a dispirited shambles, facing a hopeless season in League 1 and on the point of Administration. For all our frustration about deadline day, we’ve come a very, very long way from there.
Against derision and outrage from fans, he appointed unknowns Paul Lambert and Alex Neil as managers.
He signed five good players during this transfer window, and kept everyone who’s a possible first-team regular. But he’ll be as disappointed as the rest of us about yesterday. He wanted to do more deals, and clearly thought he would be able to.
He’ll be as critical of himself as any of us is.
Contrary to a few tweets from ‘fans’, though, none of the saved money will go into any director’s pocket. It will be all be available for AN in the next window. Let’s hope it’s still timely.
Bob in Diss says
A week in the life of the Canaries: lose away for the first time in 8 months (with 10 men), striker throws a hissy fit and we don’t buy a centre back.
Result: Mass panic, the boss is out of his depth and the CEO should consider his position.
To those signings we have made – welcome to the crazy world of Norwich City – sadly, this is normal.
Yes hopefully joining us will not be a less attractive proposition for any decent player by January.
Given that we had three months to do business this summer, I am not optimistic that we will achieve much in the single (and expensive) month of January.
The Johnson sale has got to be one of the most strangest in City’s history. The club have gone on record to state that they don’t need to sell, yet our ‘Player of the Year’ has gone…
Something doesn’t smell right. Clearly something has gone wrong between Neil and Johnson. I can think of no other reason. He hasn’t looked the part so far this season, but normally you would work hard and get back into contention with the managers blessing. But not here.
Bradley’s body language did not look like a man who wanted to leave and was going through the motions at his press conference.
The whole thing stinks and the club have now an arguably weaker squad than it did before the transfer window. Brady was no replacement and I now fear for the clubs progress as it is weaker with Johnson gone.
We need answers – and fast. This one doesn’t add up.
Stewart Lewis says
Darren (26) – Frustration is understandable about yesterday (and I’m sure is shared by McNally). But it’s hard to argue that our squad is now weaker than before the window.
We haven’t lost any potential regular starter (though they each have their fans, in truth neither BJ nor RvW looked the part). In contrast, we’ve added Dorrans, Brady, Mulumbu (who looked outstanding in pre-season), Mbokani and Jarvis – five likely starters.
The big gap, of course, is cover for central defence where we haven’t really changed our situation. Yes, we’ve released Turner and Miquel – but who, hand on heart, wanted to see either of them line up for us in the Premier League?
Gary Field says
Let’s cut the conspiracy theories and any sense of “bad smells.
Alex Neil wants to improve his squad and past reputations clearly count for nothing.
It’s the here and now that counts and, if that means your player of the season suddenly becomes 4th or 5th choice in his preferred position, so be it.
I sense Bradley wanted game time and realised that he may not get so much of it this season. He therefore chose to move on.
It’s that simple.
Bob in Diss says
Good luck to Bradley at Derby Academicals. Context: 1 great season, 3 very average ones for us. Mulumbu is a massive upgrade.
Darren(26) – I’m guessing you probably think the moon landings were faked too?
I can’t wait for the rest of the season with the squad we do have.
I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I’m just simply stating that this doesn’t add up.
The club didn’t need to sell. That was placed on record. And it looks to me that he didn’t want to leave….So how does selling Johnson strengthen the squad?
I’m sure it was AN decision (and not the board pulling the rug as some people have suggested) – a kind of ‘I’d take that move if I were you son’. Something has happened for him to take the Derby move and certainly nothing to do with him losing his place. The total lack of our local media asking the club for the reason of the sale of our POTY would suggest they already know, which is why they aren’t asking!
If NCFC needed the money I would understand totally – that has happened before, but we are not in that situation now, so why? Johnson was told to move on of that I have no doubt and it’s a bloody shame.
Premier League Pedant says
It makes perfect sense to me. We are very strong in midfield, Johnson wasn’t going to play, so much better to have 6-7 mill in the bank than a surplus-to-requirements unhappy player kicking his heels. The club showed respect by being honest with him and allowing him to move. He’s too good to not play, but not quite good enough for us this season.
Someone suggested a minutes applause on 4 minutes at the Bournemouth game to show our appreciation. I hope it happens.