I probably should have mentioned it before.
My cousin is a primary school teacher in Suffolk.
And he supports the local team.
Catching up with the family on Bank Holiday made for an interesting discussion about all things No 9.
The suggestion that Norwich could do a lot worse than sign Town No 9 Daryl Murphy on the back of his derby showing the other weekend was met with a certain level of incredulity; permit me a wry smile as this weekend saw Rafa Benitez slap £4.3million on the desk of Ipswich owner Marcus Evans for use of the 33-year-old striker this season.
Rafa is no fool – I think that is fair to say. Any manager who can win the Champions League surely must have something about him, yes?
And what he saw in Murphy is not hard to fathom.
Same as I did. A classic Championship workhorse of a No9 who will let successive pairs of centre-halves that they have ‘been in a game’ – just as he did to the City pairing of Timm Klose and Ryan Bennett at Portman Road.
He will pull and prod, snap and shove his way to 15-plus goals this season. And the Geordie faithful will thank him for it. God and the average football fan both love a trier.
Murphy will do Newcastle a big job for one year. At 34 he might not do them much of a job in the Premier League, but by then neither the player nor the club will care. He’ll have a pocketed a king’s ransom for his services – should Newcastle return to the EPL at the first time of asking.
My cousin’s reaction? That’s business… £4.3million for a player that will walk on a free next summer? Can’t complain; parachute payments talk in this league. And for those who have been left to make do without for a number of years – Wolves, Derby, Nottingham Forest, Brighton to name but four – it’s a stark case of the haves versus the have-nots in this division.
Norwich, of course, are very much in the haves camps and have decided that their best bet is Benfica’s Nelson Oliveira – confirmed it today.
Once of Nottingham Forest fame, the lad looks to be the part build-wise. More than RvW ever did. One look at the Dutchman’s physique suggested that he wasn’t tailor made for Burton (a) on a Tuesday night.
And while on that point, one look at the team-sheet on Saturday suggested that City weren’t tailor made for Birmingham (a) on a Saturday afternoon.
“Tip tappy players don’t work in this division,” was the view from across the border.
And Norwich had about five of them in their line-up; tip-tapping away to little or no effect.
The one player who does – on paper – fit the required mould is Kyle Lafferty. Who didn’t get to start, of course.
Cue much anger and derision as to just what it took for the big fella to start a game under Alex Neil.
A change of attitude, perhaps? I know diddly squat about the dressing room chemistry at Colney these days, but invariably players are where they are for a reason squad/substitute-wise. And Lafferty just appears to be one of those that doesn’t quite fit.
For whatever reason.
The $64million dollar question now, of course, is whether Nelson’s arrival in Norfolk can lead to victory on a regular basis.
It is a big gamble. Every ‘big’ signing is the manager putting his name and reputation on the line.
And on the back of the weekend’s 3-0 defeat at St Andrew’s, Neil’s stock has taken something of a hammering – so he needs this one to work.
What’s more, he needs his new No 9 to hit the ground running – and not spend the first six months of his Canary career simply finding his feet. Something that can happen to the best of them.
Given the runaround Murphy gave Messrs Klose and Bennett – as, presumeably, watched by the visiting Newcastle scout – there is little doubt that he is fully up to speed form and knowledge-wise.
He knows what elbows to thrust out where on a Tuesday night in February.
Something that, you hope, our Nelson has in his armoury.
One final point on the Championship No 9 circuit.
I read a suggestion somewhere that Wolves were looking to make Derby an offer for Chrissy Martin – the player one Ian Crook once told me was “the most naturally-gifted finisher” then at the club.
Martin moving on was the right thing to do; he needed a new start from the goldfish bowl of Norfolk.
But what’s interesting is the level of finance those without parachute payments are able to throw at the same problem besetting Alex Neil this summer – namely the lack of a proven and reliable No9.
The Scot has to hope that his extra money will do all the talking and that the likes of the Murphys and the Martins are for the also rans and that his bigger fish will duly fry the opposition this season.