City’s fate is still unknown of course and a week on from what at the time felt like the Apocalypse it’s now become clear that we’re not dead and buried – not yet.
It looks a distinct possibility that it could go to the final game, in which case it would be helpful if, 1) Everton’s board could leave Roberto Martinez in situ at least until the end of the season (the last thing we need is a combo of Everton legends – spearheaded by Duncan Ferguson – rallying the Goodison faithful into a frenzy for one night only) and 2), they offer a repeat performance of last night’s first-half, not the second.
What is needed though is for City to actually grasp that bloody nettle themselves and not rely on others to do their dirty work. While it’s definitely silly season – we were sky blue Mancs in the week, Scousers yesterday (I know…) and will this afternoon, for two hours, become die-hard Gooners – part of me harks back to the plethora of missed City opportunities.
If we can’t see it through ourselves, or are not good enough to see it through ourselves, then to spit the dummy out when, for example, Liverpool throw away a two goal lead to the Mags is just a little bit ridiculous.
We’ve made our bed – bit of a bedraggled mess it is too – and we’re soon to find out if Alex Neil’s squad, armed with a central defensive pairing that was deemed not good enough for the Championship and a forward line without goals in it, can defy logic and eke out a minimum of six points.
And football being football they just might.
But, either way, this season has been a struggle and for large chunks has not been a whole lot of fun. As ever when in the Prem, the highs are very high but few and far between while the lows are more plentiful and range between moderately disappointing to gut-wrenching. If it has to be a roller-coaster then it’s more Vegas than Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach.
The reality is however, this was always going to be the case. The bookies and pundits, whether we like or not, did call it right. We naturally dreamed of mid-table mediocrity and convinced ourselves that the Alex Neil factor would be sufficient for an angst-free one but once the adrenalin-fuelled bounce of promotion had subsided it became clear that for us plain sailing wasn’t even a thing.
We are a club that in its current state is a top six contender in the Championship and bottom half shoo-in in the Prem – the very epitome of a yo-yo club. I’d rather we weren’t but that’s precisely what we are and why, alongside a couple of fallen ‘giants’, we are currently sniffing around the nether regions of the top tier.
And unless something extraordinary happens, that no-man’s land between top and second tier is where, for the foreseeable future, we’ll remain. (I’m not, for now, willing to even consider relegation that is duly followed by an Ipswich Town-like spell in the footballing wilderness).
What form that ‘extraordinariness’ should or could take is the $64,000 question, but if we do wish to break that cycle something different needs to happen; the flip-side being if we’re happy to bob along as we are then leave well alone.
One risk-free possibility would be for that something to occur in the corridors and on the fields of Colney, whereby the club steals a march on its peers by excelling in the fields of coaching and recruitment.
It’s nigh impossible to quantify the success of the current coaching set-up at the elite level (easier at academy level, where we appear to be be strong) but it’s hard to argue that it’s an area where we currently excel. Perhaps we hold our own but there’s little evidence of us being better than the rest.
And in terms of recruitment, while perhaps it’s not quite as shambolic as some suggest (Timm Klose was certainly a good spot by someone), it’s impossible to argue that it’s an area in which we usurp our peers. For that particular trait Leicester City are leading the way. I’d suggest we’re way behind and still playing catch up.
So, in order not to bob along content in the knowledge that as a club we’re secure but limited in our aspirations we have to be clever; we have to find a way that will aid us in punching above our weight. Perhaps the signings of Ben Godfrey, Ebou Adams and James Maddison were the opening shots in such a process.
The other possibility, the elephant in the room if you like, and one that by even mentioning it will make me unpopular, is to consider seriously the prospect of inviting outside investment into our hallowed walls.
It’s of course a route that comes riddled with risk and I await being offered a very long and sorry list of those who have unsuccessfully sold their soul to the Yankee Dollar, Indian Rupee, the UAE dirham and such like, but minus an innovative approach on and off the field it takes cold hard cash to take a club out of Premier League ‘poverty’.
Some will cite the mega-megabucks that are on offer next season to the country’s elite 20 clubs but with all 20 being in receipt of said windfall it only becomes advantageous when you’re going toe-to-toe with those outside of the Premier League, at home and abroad.
In the last week, Swansea City – they of the perfect football club model – have announced they are finalising a deal with American investors that could be worth as much as £100m; a suggestion that the Welsh club see their current model as having been maxed-out and in need of more financial muscle.
That said, as the aforementioned list will show, there are more examples of bad, unsuccessful investors than there are good ones – and the Swans will be hoping for a John W. Henry as opposed to a Randy Lerner – but City’s current sound financial footing would offer the club time to consider its options and not be forced to jump into bed with anyone akin to Venky’s, Vincent Tan or Marcus Evans.
All of which assumes the club would even entertain the prospect in the first place and Tom Smith’s appointment to the board, as part of Delia and Michael’s succession planning, suggests that for now at least it isn’t even up for consideration. And that will please many.
It also assumes that there are investors out there who would be interested in a piece of Norwich City and previous fruitless searches across the globe probably suggests this isn’t the case. Another one for the traditionalists.
But if this club is to progress, as much as some will oppose it, I suggest it is a possibility that has to be considered.
We all want this football club to be the best it can possibly be. We all want to be able to compete on an even playing field with the Southamptons, the Stokes and, yes, the Leicesters. And we all want the club to be well equipped to thrive.
If that means us veering a little away from our existing traditional community club model, would it not be worth it?
I can’t decide. You tell me.
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