In a week in which all the focus had been on transfer wrangling and a crucial CEO appointment, Thursday night’s breaking news of the final departure of Ricky van Wolfswinkel came somewhat out of the blue.
Even those anointed few fans who claim to have some special tap-in to the news grapevine coming out of Carrow Road seem to have been taken back on their heels by the announcement.
This surprise and yet ultimately predictable squad development brings down the curtain on Ricky’s professionally painful, if financially rewarding, time with the Canaries.
It was telling that on Friday morning, the BBC Sport website contained no indication of the transfer on their front page; Samir Nasri’s pizza-related weight issues at Man City a seemingly far more important issue.
The Wolf will be returning to Vitesse Arnhem (having first joined them at age ten) – a name familiar to those who recall Mike Walker’s 1993 UEFA Cup campaign. While still in the Dutch top flight, they only finished 9th last season and so Ricky will not be seeing any European action.
He joins the likes of Eloy Room, Marvelous Nakamba and Lewis Baker (one of the vast swathe of Chelsea loanees) at the Gelredome – a stadium that possesses not only a retractable roof but also, most impressively, a retractable pitch for non-football events!
City’s recent run with strikers tells a sorry tale – the Wolf, Hooper, Grabban, Bamford and Lafferty, the last of whom must surely be packing his bags for alternative employment shortly. Dieumerci Mbokani can hold his head high in such company.
With just Cameron Jerome and Steven Naismith left as viable striking options, the focus of club and supporters will no doubt quickly shift back to the negotiations with Fulham for their want-away striker.
Resolution of that situation must wait for another day, so I’ll keep focused here on the trials and tribulations of the Dutch lad who arrived in Norfolk with such fanfare and adulation, but returned to Holland with regrets and no small amount of criticism.
And his record over the past three years does not provide him with a solid defence.
Despite finding an uncritical niche personal fan club – seemingly for his good looks and hairstyle – a handful of first-team outings and a single league goal is a shocking return on the record transfer fee paid in the now defunct McNally/Hughton era.
But how could it have gone so very wrong?
Every man/woman and his/her dog has a pet theory. Some seem determined to lay the blame anywhere but the Wolf himself.
1. Manager – Hughton, Adams and Neil.
All failed to identify and utilise his talents to their best potential.
Whatever your opinion of this triumvirate, it seems highly unlikely that their vast combined professional experience could have failed in this regard.
Indeed, just last summer with Ricky back from his loan year in France, Alex Neil, after seeing his ‘new’ striker at Colney and in pre-season games, said:
“I don’t think he is ever going to be a big, strapping centre forward who is going to bash people about, however, if we can get the ball around the middle of the park the one thing he is good at is running off defenders’ shoulders and creating angles and creating space for himself.”
Physicality was always a clear problem for Ricky in the cut and thrust of the top flight. Whether he would have fared better in the Championship we will never know. I suspect he would have struggled just as much in a division where brute strength is more of a necessary quality in the light of lower skill levels.
Clearly, his managers while on loan in France and Spain could equally be accused of failing him if you buy into this particular theory.
2. Robert Snodgrass
That incident where Snoddy snatched the ball and missed the penalty in a 1-0 defeat to Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa in 2013 when Ricky was the appointed penalty taker. Chris Hughton insisted the Wolf would take penalties in future.
Sadly, you can only take a penalty if you are in the team and on the pitch, which was Ricky’s enduring problem.
Personally, this theory is garbage. And even if it isn’t, Ricky has to develop a hell of a thicker skin if he is ever to shine on the big stage again. Also, I would have Snoddy back in yellow and green any day.
3. Bad luck and/or evil cosmic forces
If theories 1 and 2 don’t cut it and you’re still willing to give Ricky the benefit of the doubt, then his failure all comes down to a straw-clutching combination of unfortunate timing, poor service from colleagues, bumpy pitches and colliding black holes warping space-time around his boots.
4. Just one of those things
Yep, the just throw your hands in the air and say “s**t happens” approach. Not the most scientific but probably the nearest to the truth. Wrong player, wrong club, wrong time – it’s happened before to others and will happen again.
You may have your own pet theory.
Yet, whatever the reason, both Ricky and Norwich will quickly move on and his failings will be left to fade into history via online chatter and suitably-themed pub quiz rounds.
So long Ricky, and thanks for all the….