I didn’t want to intrude on private grief this week, but having seen the various thoughtful articles on here – notably Ed’s yesterday, which made some valid points about my team (Boro) – I thought it might be time to chip in with a few words of cautious encouragement.
I’m genuinely sorry Norwich went down. I’ve always had a yellow and green soft spot, as I mentioned in a previous blog. And I’ve left BBC Sport now, so have my weekends back, and fancied another trip to friendly Norfolk, rather than hostile Wearside, next season.
Rick Waghorn and I could have bored my wife stupid again over a curry with exaggerated stories of our college football prowess, and Adam Drury is no longer around to compound the hangover by heading a 94th minute equaliser.
And both the NE’s “massive clubs” going down would have been hilarious, although at least the more deserving of the two has gone. I’m tempted to send my pre-programmed Championship postcode satnav for use in Mike Ashley’s collapsible car next year.
I even went to Burton Albion for a (very enjoyable) League Cup outing last season, so he’d be able to get there, too, in his Sports Direct cheapo replica shirt and matching squirty flower. I wrote “Quelle Dommage” on a friend’s very rude and funny Newcastle-related Facebook post this week, and I believe Lee Charnley was straight on the phone to Bordeaux offering £15 million for “the boy Dommage”.
Anyway, I digress, look at the facts: Burnley and Norwich are about to swap divisions for a third successive season, and that could easily happen again next year. The parachute payments are apparently £25 milliion this season, and £20m and £10m respectively if you were still down for a second and third season. Admittedly, those payments are about to get bigger still, which is why Steve Gibson gambled last summer and ploughed money into a squad which had missed out at the final hurdle to you guys last summer.
But £25 million next season, with some judicious transfer business, will put the relegated clubs at a tremendous advantage again. A club like Ipswich – just to give you a cheery example – can only dream of having that sort of money at their disposal.
Admittedly, certain clubs – QPR, Bolton, Fulham – have failed to exploit that advantage in recent years, but they are all smaller clubs than Norwich, and also, more importantly, had an off-field set-up that wasn’t equipped to deal with relegation.
Those who have been half-expecting to go down, and budgeted accordingly – Burnley last season, West Brom in the past – can, and should, bounce straight back. Of the three relegated clubs this year, I can confidently predict that Norwich will have been the one in the Burnley camp, planning-wise.
Plus you’re a much bigger and better-supported club than our strange and angry friends from outer Lancashire.
I know your Chief Exec. has gone, and there will be some player, and possibly coaching, changes at Carrow Road over the summer, but Villa need to completely reboot everything and start again, and Newcastle finally threw money around this season on anybody from anywhere with no thought of how Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday at Rotherham, Huddersfield and co. might pan out.
Jonjo Shelvey may turn out to be next season’s Joey Barton – a fired-up, village idiot thug who does quite well at that level – but most of the others are on vast wages with seemingly no relegation clauses, and will be straight on the phone to their agents when the fixtures come out and they digest the prospect of 46 games against unfamiliar opposition.
So, you wouldn’t put much money on those two genuinely big clubs bouncing back.
Who else is there? Well, quite a lot of sleeping/comatose giants, but without parachute payments, Financial Fair Play means they’re supposed to survive on what they earn. Admittedly, you can ignore that rule and pay the fine later – Leicester, and especially Bournemouth with their secretive Dorset-based Russian backer, did just that in recent seasons – but based simply on attendances, Derby and, maybe Sheffield Wednesday if they can galvanise their absentee thousands, would be the only comparable clubs to Norwich, and one of them may well have gone up via the play-offs by then.
Forest, Leeds and Wolves are big names from the past, but are in varying degrees of disarray off the pitch, and the rest, frankly, look like also-rans unless someone does a Brighton.
So, lick your wounds, keep an eye on the comings and goings over the summer, and get back in there in August for a season where, unlike the Premier League, you will score goals and win a lot of games. I’ve just looked at the Skybet promotion odds and Newcastle are, inexplicably, 11-10 favourites.
That’s presumably because of a flurry of bets from deluded, bare-chested, horse-punching idiots who think Rafa Benitez; a) will stay and; b) knows anything about managing in the Championship.
Back in the real world, Norwich are second favourites at 2-1. I’ve just had some (quite a bit, actually) of that. Just hope you don’t swap divisions with Boro again in the process, but even if you do, we’re lucky to support sensible clubs and to live in the era of parachute payments.
I confidently predict that both clubs will either be in the Premier League or the upper echelons of the Championship for the foreseeable future. And, if I’m wrong, I’ll be out of pocket and Rick Waghorn is paying for our next curry.