Everyone will have had his or her say by now on our transfer window so I’m pretty loathe to add much more to the debate.
But I will lob one personal observation into the ring.
It concerns Steven Naismith.
Not so much him personally. But the situation he has found himself in.
According to some of the (numerous) reports doing the rounds on Wednesday, the main reason that his proposed move to Sunderland didn’t go ahead is that he, or rather his agent, couldn’t agree personal terms with Dave Moyes’ side.
Whether that is the whole story or not is, of course, open to further debate but, given the fact that enough seems to have been said and written with regard to this being the sticking point, it does raise an interesting point.
Assuming Naismith would – as most footballers (indeed, most people) are wont to do – have wanted his move to result in his getting a pay rise, then the fact that Sunderland might not have been able to live up to his salary expectations, it raises the question of whether that translates as their not being willing, or able, to match what he is currently earning with us.
After all, if we are, as some of the club’s most ardent critics are forever telling us (those people who seem to have unprecedented access to the club’s payroll), “not willing” to pay the going rate with regard to players’ salaries, then what does Sunderland’s apparent reluctance to pay Naismith what he thinks he is worth say about what we are paying him?
I’d hazard a guess that what it tells us is that he is indeed on a very good wage with us. The same good wage, incidentally, that might have led to clubs that might otherwise have been interested in some of our other players from making a move for them as well.
I wouldn’t blame the players for sitting tight if they’re on a good contract here and are unwilling to move on unless someone somewhere is prepared to better it by some considerable distance. Especially those who are married, settled and with families. Why go through the whole procedure of uplifting not only yourself but your children for little to no extra money?
I wouldn’t. Would you?
There will, of course, be players at our club who, for a variety of reasons, are not happy with the way their careers are going at the moment. And, again, if they’re not playing or feel particularly involved or even, for various reasons, feel wronged or let down in some way, you can’t blame them.
Again, we’d feel exactly the same way if it were ourselves.
Look back at your own working history – has that ever applied to you?
I once had a job that, on every conceivable level, I absolutely hated: the company, it’s philosophy, my manager, 99 per cent of my work colleagues and, with one exception, the entire team that I was, in theory, supposed to be managing.
Loathed and despised them all in fact.
But I was on a good wedge and was settled in a nice house in what my parents would have called a ‘good area’.
So there was little chance, as far as I was concerned, of moving on anywhere. The hassle of getting a new job, a good salary and, in all probability, having to relocate. No thanks – unless, that is, it was worth doing. And by that I mean really worth doing.
Just get in, do the bloody job, get home and take the money. Day by day, week by week, month by month, year by interminable year…
There may well be quite a few of you out there who are, or once were, in a similar situation. And I can’t believe for one moment that professional footballers don’t find themselves in it as well. Including professional footballers who play for Norwich City.
It’s a fact of life. And work. There are, after all, plenty of professional footballers out there who dislike the game and the entire industry with a very high degree of passion. They do it because it’s their job and they have been fortunate enough to be rather good at doing it. So they stick it out as well.
Just get in, do the bloody job, get home and take the money. Day by day, week by week, month by month, year by interminable year…
There are plenty of familiar players from recent years who have very publicly fallen into that category.
Ex-Leeds, Newcastle and England midfielder David Batty was one. He famously said, not long after he’d retired from playing that, “… the national game is boring. And I’ve not been to watch any match since I finished playing. I can never understand anybody paying to watch it, never mind going all the way across the world to see it…”
Curtis Woodhouse gave up the game in order to become a professional boxer. There was, and is, no way that he could ever have made the sort of money in boxing that he could had he stayed in football, but that didn’t matter to him.
“Everyone loves football, but I didn’t. It felt like a job. I felt empty playing, it got me angry. I could have carried on playing football until I was 35, making a nice wage and having a nice life, but that’s not what I wanted to do.”
Then there was former Tottenham goalkeeper Espen Baardsen. He gave up the game at 25, completed a degree with the Open University before going on to secure a new job and career in finance. His parting shot to the game was short, simple and telling.
“It is a great myth that football is easy. It’s quite miserable compared to what I have now.”
There have been, and will be, plenty more who find playing football for a living ‘miserable’ despite the material rewards that it brings. Some, like Baardsen, will get the hell out and do something else for a living. And, for them, in exchange for a life.
Others, like Batty, and, most famously of all perhaps, Chelsea’s Winston Bogarde chose to not play at all for a couple of years in order to maintain the life and living his big contract got him at Stamford Bridge rather than move on and play somewhere else, albeit for less money.
He has, to his credit, since denied that was ever the case. But, again, even if those claims are true, who can blame him? Would you rather sit on your backside and take things easy for £60,000 a year or relocate, with all the upheaval that brings, and get your head down for £40,000 a year?
Everyone sees working hard as a virtue, something to be proud of. But let’s be honest. If we could get away with not working and still being paid, most of us would opt for the latter.
And, again, I see no reason why professional footballers should, or are, any different to anyone else in that regard.
Which means that, with regard to our playing squad, the concept of “clearing out the deadwood” isn’t as easy as it sounds.
This is, of course, all hearsay. I am, or seem to be, one of the very few Norwich fans who doesn’t have the proverbial contact at the club or within the game who spends much of his or her life passing on little bits of juicy gossip to me. So I’m merely speculating here.
Which we are all doing on a daily basis.
We love our club and we want it to do well. It’s human, or, rather, football fan nature, that when it isn’t we speak out, some rather more vociferously than others.
But that’s the nature of the beast.
Yet it is rather too easy at times, whatever else is happening, to see our club through yellow and green tinted spectacles.
Of course we love the Canaries. The last time I cried was when we lost the play-off final to Birmingham City. I’ve lost close members of the family since then, including my dad. Not one tear. But Norwich losing at Cardiff that afternoon? I wailed like a baby.
This is what football does to us.
And those emotions are riding pretty high again in a lot of us at the moment. Getting turned over at Birmingham in the manner we did hasn’t helped, neither did deadline day with all of its various plots, sub-plots and speculation.
Some people were even monitoring flights coming in and out of Norwich airport. Now there’s dedication. Or desperation, I don’t know which. What it does do is show how football affects us and pulls at the emotions.
Which is far from what it does (with, I admit, a few exceptions) with the people that play the game for a living.
To them, we are their employer. Nothing more, nothing less. They’ll do all the right things, tick all the boxes. Train, play, talk to the media and say all the right things. But it’s just a job. Nothing more.
Ultimately the players decide where they want to be and who they want to play for. And Naismith’s proposed move to Sunderland on Wednesday seemed, on paper, to tick every one of those boxes for all concerned.
For the player it was a return to the Premier League to play under a manager he knows (and one who knows him); for Sunderland, he would have been an important addition to their squad, someone who is, on his day, a quality player. Whilst, for us, it would have been a saving on wages, some money in the bank and, crucially, time and space for some of our younger players to move onwards and upwards in Alex Neil’s thinking.
For all of those reasons and, perhaps a few more, the very great majority of Norwich fans were behind the move and could see how it was the best thing for everyone concerned. It made sense.
Sense to everyone that is, except Steven Naismith. It didn’t happen and he will now be with us until January 1 at the very earliest.
He has chosen, for whatever reasons, not to move on. So, with that, we must now all move on.
Because there is a lot of football to be played between now and then. And that should be the focus now. Starting with six points out of six against Cardiff City and Wigan.
If we can do that with Naismith being one of the goalscorers into the bargain then maybe we can start to let this transfer window go. As well as letting some of our antagonism go with it.
It’ll do us all the world of good!
Dan R says
Ed, big difference nowadays between experienced footy players and the likes of you and I. If they’ve been around a few years in the Prem, like Naismith, surely they’ve already earned plenty. And could live with a modest pay cut to play at a higher level/bigger club. Most ‘normal’ employees aren’t in that position
Gary Field says
Excellent work Ed. Your thoughts about Naismith are similar to mine and I firmly believe that he, and a few others are still here precisely because their wages are relatively high, especially at Championship level.
e j mason says
i feel that steven naismith could still be a valuable asset, but is he being asked to play in a way that suits his abilities ???
India Bill says
Perhaps it was not the wages that Sunderland were not prepared to match. More likely it was the signing on fee that they wouldn’t give. Their offer was reputed to be 5m which would just about cover what Norwich paid out for him, minus his personal signing on fee. If Sunderland refused to give a signing on fee for him. He would have been out of pocket since a large percentage of that goes to his agent and he would need to buy a new house etc.
Andy Delf says
At last someone has spoken with perfect sense. Very different to the puerile drivel on most of the NCFC forums. Thanks Edward
Dave Winter says
I have never understood why all these figures are not revealed in the AGM unlike other businesses?
Stewart Lewis says
Great stuff, Ed.
Should be compulsory reading for Norwich fans – in particular those now bemoaning why we didn’t get of the “dead wood” this summer.
Simon Harman says
Well written sir. Kyle Lafferty springs to mind as one who is on a nice little earner here and won’t get the same elsewhere – I can’t blame for sitting tight, especially as I doubt he has earned the same amount as Naismith over his career …
There are well documented debates about employment rights and zero hours contracts etc , whilst they do get paid handsomely compared to the rest of us , they don’t get redundancy etc and can be discarded pretty quickly……
Simon Parker says
Brilliant piece. As a Sunderland fan I know all about having a huge squad of mediocre players who don’t want to move on as they’re on very good deals. The amount of money doesn’t really matter, from my own experience your lifestyle just expands to meet your income so a paycut is a paycut even if you earn twice what you earned a year previously.
Barry (Sunderland) says
Interesting article. For info many players turn Sunderland contracts down when they see the standard bit in a Sunderland contract that says their wages get cut by 50% on relegation. Some suspect that’s why we keep dodging relegation….
el dingo says
I think that’s a great feet-firmly-on-the-floor article but from personal experience I would say it’s not always just about the money.
Like Baardsen, sometimes you want to do something else – but 25 is a bit young to do so imo.
We’ve surely all had carpy jobs we have hated and, just like footballers, we carry on or we quit and move. But we don’t have agents and Naismith was quoted as saying he sent his agent to deal with it. I simply do not understand why some sort of compromise could not have been reached.
Lots of fans know you can’t shift out “dead wood” who it doesn’t suit to be shifted. But what I do not want are people hanging around Colney with the big sulk on. To me it seems we missed an opportunity – unless Naismith’s attitude can be turned around I would suggest his input is likely to be more negative than positive. I’ve only been to the home games but it really looks like he doesn’t want to be here.
For a guy who apparently does so much to support the most worthwhile of charities, I really suspect this was down to his agent.
And I hope a few idiots don’t turn on him on matchdays, that’s for sure.
I perhaps wonder, in the case of Steven Naismith, if actually it is partially a wish to play the game that might have been the sticking point. When he signed for us he made a big issue that he didn’t get games at Everton, it gave me an impression that he had promises of playing week in week out. I suspect he was given no such assurance at Sunderland?
For my party I’m glad he stayed, I think he’s a really good player and as the season develops he’ll be a big player for us.
Good sense as always Ed. This is the way modern football hangs I’m afraid. No doubt you will remember the days when we referred to players as ‘professional footballers’.It was partly because they got paid for it. But it was also something of a badge of honour. An unwritten contract with the club and fans as to how they would behave. We can both come up with a list of players who joined the Canaries down the years and failed to make any mark whatsoever. This was of course made more palatable by virtue of the fact that wages never really entered into the equation. Yes, footballers earned more money than the average bloke on the terrace. And I suspect we pretty much broke the bank signing some of them. But my recollection is that they were almost entirely judged by their performances on the pitch each week. The wage gap was nowhere near as big, but fans just didn’t have an opinion on it. Fast forward to 2016 – Steven Naismith needs to return to the club next week fit, and with the attitude that he will buckle down and justify the money that has been thrown at him. Be professional. Honour his commitment to the fans. I would add he is not alone. There are others who need to justify their wages. For me, money has pretty much killed what was a lovely sport. But that’s the way it is. I have no envy whatsoever at the amounts of money individuals take out of the game. But my blood does boil when I detect that they don’t really give a damn about a club I have followed for nearly fifty years. OTBC
Thanks for your comments everyone, much appreciated.
Simon (9)and Barry (10) -good to hear the viewpoint from your perspective. Enough has been said and written about how the influx of every increasing amounts of money into the game has had an adverse reaction, one of those must be the wages that even mediocre players can get now.
In our best ever season, league finish wise (92/93), the squad were on fairly average wages-but the bonus system, according to players who I have spoken to recently, was so good that when (and players do talk, always have, always will, about salaries) such things were discussed in the bar after a game etc, it turned out that Norwich’s that season was probably the best in the Premier League and by some considerable distance.
Mind you, when it was put into place, the club would have had no idea how things might have turned out!
It won’t have been the sole factor in how we did so well that campaign, there was far more to it than that. But it sure as hell was a great incentive to have at the back of your minds when you need a result.
Keith B says
Dave (6) Businesses are required to reveal details of Directors’ earnings but not specific employees.
Re. Naismith, McNally told us that all our players had relegation wage-cuts written into their contracts. But of course it may not be a very large cut – we don’t know. And presumably if we are promoted that pay cut will be reversed.
My guess is that Sunderland were willing to pay Naismith more than he is currently earning, but nothing like as much as he was earning last season – or could be earning next season if we are promoted again. And they too would probably also want to insert a relegation wage-cut clause.
That would leave him two choices:
1) stay as he is taking a gamble that we will be promoted and he will more than make up in the future what he is losing now, thus also avoiding a second disruptive family move in 2016, or
2) take some extra money now and gamble that Sunderland will not be relegated, because if they were he’d be back to square one.
Dave B says
There’s more than just weekly wages as part of any deal. It could have fallen down at multiple points. Perhaps Sunderland had too aggressive of a relegation clause. Perhaps they were only offering a short contract. Perhaps certain bonuses or signing fees weren’t being offered. Perhaps his agent wanted to push a little too much.
We’ll never know. What’s certain is that he’s still here.
Tony Moore says
What do you mean….if Naismith scores in the next two matches? I wouldn’t have him anywhere near the team for the forseeable future. Apart from one game he has been rank poor.Not even on the bench. I’d much rather have a limited player who gives his all for City, rather than a person who doesn’t care.
Fair point Tony (17), I have the feeling that,if he is fit, he’ll be playing.
Excellent article as always from ECL. I was surprised that Naismith didn’t move, but had forgotten that he (supposedly) had a pick me or else clause in his contract when he signed for NCFC. Unfortunately, unless his performances improve, it means he is blocking one of our younger players from appearing and being given the chance to make an impression. The transfer window was a little disappointing, but we surely have to give Oliviera (and possibly?) Chamakh a chance to impress? I think the whole money situation is now totally absurd – only a few weeks back I was smugly satisfied that we got around 10m for Nathan Redmond – a player who had 2 seasons in the Premier League; won in the play-off final at Wembley and consistently performs well for England U-21s……and then Villa pay 14 to 15m for Kodjia who has NEVER performed above the Championship. Any ideas??
Stewart Lewis says
Dave B (16) – Exactly so.
By the way, let’s not forget Naismith was playing out of position at Birmingham, and his flaws as a target man were magnified by the sloppy play around hm. As Alex Neil said, making him the scapegoat is to misrepresent the collective performance.
No-one complained about him after Blackburn – quite the opposite. But it’s now a challenge for the player – and AN, of course – to get him positively focused on the job he’s paid for. He can still be a major factor for us.
d. lake says
sunderland have given better players a free last season
Andy B says
I was fairly positive when Norwich signed Naismith because I assumed we had procured him for more than just his goals. He was a seasoned professional who had spent a long time at a big club and would have understood what was needed to become a successful player. He also joined a club that he knew very well was probably still favourite for relegation. He wouldn’t have made the decision lightly. I saw him as a potential club captain who the crop of talented youngsters could look up to and learn from.
I just hope that things settle down and he can go on to be an asset to the club that he should be.
Gary Field says
When NCFC were relegated in 2014 there was frequent talk from the Club about all players having relegation clauses in their contracts. Were similar comments made following our relegation in 2016? Just an observation.