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.