It’s Anita time again! Barclay-Ender and City fanatic, Anita Byrne-Phillips is back, this time with her thoughts on the summer transfer market and last Friday’s Norwich City Fans Social Club Forum with interim chief executive, Steve Stone.
As the football season draws ever closer we, as fans, keep our eyes firmly transfixed on the transfer market rumour mill, which grinds to pulp any source whether it substantial or mere speculation.
There are naturally worries that we are leaving it too late again and are making similar mistakes to last season – which was a clear factor in our relegation – and as fans it’s difficult and frustrating because we’re unaware of the day-to-day dealings of the boardroom.
In today’s footballing world, business is done behind closed doors because it is such big business, with major deals akin to a game of poker. We rarely have an ace card!
As fans we feel very much like mushrooms, kept in the dark, which is why we thrive on rumours and allow the #ITK to penetrate our social media. We’re offered tantalising glimpses of players that we’re supposedly linked with and thrive on them because, without more than a few pre-season friendlies to distract us, what else do we have to get our teeth into?
So while we chew over and agree or agree to disagree with each other over our possible/impossible signings we are all left wondering deep down if we are actually signing anyone.
This season we have the additional complication of heading into the Championship with an interim captain at the helm of our ship after the shock departure of David McNally. The board are not only having to manage the task of tackling a new league and the summer transfer market but are also undertaking an interview process for, arguably, the most important role at the club.
While setting their stall out early for someone with footballing knowledge, the club’s Finance Director, Steve Stone, was asked to step in when McNally resigned. With a background in finance it was a big step up for Steve but was one that Ed Balls clearly felt him capable of making.
He has openly applied for the position but because he doesn’t possess the footballing experience the club has said they are looking for, your guess is as good as mine at to whether he will be successful. But he knows the club and he will now have built a rapport with Alex Neil.
Also, the agencies hired in to introduce agents/players in the transfer window will now know him as their port of call, he will be building his contact list, he knows our financial direction and he’s acutely aware of the ethos of the club.
Could this all go in his favour? Or would we all look at this as the easy, cheap, ‘little Norwich’ option?
I went along last Friday to the Norwich City Fans Social Club event where we met Steve Stone, where fans could ask questions and were given an insight into the day-to-day running of the football club.
There were almost 100 fans present, although given how many fans run a better club on social media it was a little surprising that more were not there to put their opinions across.
Steve came across incredibly well and was honest and frank throughout. He may be less hard and (possibly) shrewd than McNally, and may need to toughen up if the role were his permanently, but appears a decent guy.
He was asked the normal plethora of questions (“Who are we selling?”, “Who’s coming in?”, “Is the wallet empty?”) but of course, professionally, he was rightly unable to comment on individuals and exact figures.
He did confirm however – as did Alex Neil in an interview – that we are actively after a striker! So be calm everyone we ARE active in the transfer market. He confirmed it’s a priority and as everyone who knows me will tell you, this was my soapbox topic last year.
So I for one am thrilled (although would now would like two strikers).
As fans it’s difficult to understand the long process of a transfer, including dealing with agents who, I suspect, can be even more demanding than their players (and make a pretty penny in the process).
We learned that fees are invariably agreed to be paid in instalments – a bit like hire purchase where you pay your first instalment then agree terms with regard to future instalments, payment plans etc.
So, in a nutshell, if you sell/buy a player for £12million you do not receive/pay all of that money at once! Deals are certainly not as straightforward as agreeing a price and a wage and then shaking on it.
But at least it’s good to hear we are in a position to be able to buy a striker and by the sounds of it Alex Neil has a target in mind. And he seems the type of man who likes to get what he wants.
For example, he wanted Alan Irvine and he’s here – because he wanted that experience in his backroom staff – so perhaps he wants an experienced Championship striker.
Oh I do love putting two and two together but we do seem to be odds-on favourites, and Steve did squirm in his chair when asked about Ross McCormack. So maybe?
I like to think there’s always one rumour that comes good.
It will be interesting to see Alex’s squad this year because it will be his squad, and so let’s see what he’s capable of.
We now have the addition of some great youth players coming through and with relegation means they could possibly get first-team starts, which is great for the Academy that has recently retained Category One status. That we haven’t seen any productivity through our Academy since Rob Green, Adrian Forbes and Craig Bellamy is unbelievable.
Alex likes youth football and will hopefully look towards bringing players up through the ranks. Also, hopefully, whoever new CEO is, he/she will look to continue the work in this area, as it looks like we may just be starting to produce some bright young stars. The upgrades to Colney will certainly help.
Steve also got asked about the City Stand extension but admitted the plans may be gathering dust again.
He proved he has a great sense of humour and fended off some questions from social media and he’s clearly a likeable guy. But is he just too nice?
We discovered he is a Coventry City and so is used to disappointments like ours – it was his local team and he was a season ticket holder – so he knows what it’s like to be a passionate fan.
He certainly seemed passionate about his role at Norwich City so I wish him the best of luck with his application.
The Norwich City Fans Social Club Forum raised £3,000 last season for Community Sports Foundation, they run regular events for the fans and I can highly recommend them. They are always hosted expertly by Diane (a fan who started the social club along with some great volunteers) and our very own legend Darren Eadie.
The next event is on Wednesday August 17th and will be a players forum with three of the first-team squad (to be announced) so keep an eye out on the website: ncfsc.co.uk, Twitter @NorwichCityFSC and Facebook: Norwich City Fans Social Club
Thanks, as ever, to Anita. I’m sure we’ll hear from here again during the season.