Wanted – one CEO, one strategic vision and a selection of players “fit for purpose” for the Championship season 2017-18.
While the statisticians may tell you that there’s still a mathematical chance that City can still make the play-offs, there’s been a nasty whiff of inevitability about City’s Championship season, since shipping five goals at Brighton at the back end of last October.
Russell Martin’s Brighton post match interview is now complimented by Cameron Jerome’s, just 126 days later – both as refreshingly honest as there were brutal.
Those within football’s inner circles may tell you that there are certain lines which should never be crossed – a manager, or player, “calling out” fellow professionals, with such affairs confined to the dressing room.
City are an absolute mess; both on and off the field and the evidence is pretty damning. From a financial perspective, this season City will have had the third highest turnover, the third biggest football budget and the third biggest wage bill (behind Newcastle and Aston Villa) in the Championship – their best ever position, from a monetary viewpoint, at second tier level.
Yet, in footballing terms, to be 19 points off automatic promotion, or, if you’re being more charitable, 12 points off third, and still having just under a quarter of the season left, is nothing short of shambolic.
And, while there’s never a good time to lose a CEO; to lose two in under a year, smacks of corporate carelessness.
Last summer we were told that players had to be sold before we could buy – something that was repeated, to be fair, in January. In one sense, that isn’t altogether surprising, given TV monies have reduced by £25m following demotion – something that relegation clauses in contracts won’t cover.
But, to subsequently hear that certain players can’t be moved on because their salaries are “out of kilter” with the Championship implies someone took their eye off the financial ball, probably during a well-intentioned desire to retain Premier League status.
Yet the rules of engagement for the Premier League are simple – the three teams with the fewest points after 38 games are relegated. To splash out £20m plus, in January 2016, was always going to be a huge risk, even with City sitting 14th at the turn of the year, bearing in mind most of transfer installments would be paid in 2016-17 and beyond.
Recruitment – already widely acknowledged to be the root cause of a huge proportion of City’s current problems – only covers part of the issue. Getting players sold on is just as important and City have failed spectacularly to move on those deemed “surplus to requirements”.
Football is a brutal business. Financial Fair Play is supposed to create a level playing field. It does nothing of the sort – it merely enables Clubs to accumulate substantial losses (usually at the owner’s expense) and spending beyond their means.
Trying to compete in this environment, with a self-funding model, commendable as that may be from a business perspective, puts City at a huge financial disadvantage.
Professional football may be unique, but I’m struggling to think of another environment where it would be considered acceptable to run a business, turning over a million pounds a week, with, effectively, six non-executive directors, plus just one executive director, running the whole show?
The Board have recently said that they’re undertaking their own strategic review – the evidence suggests it’s desperately required. It needs a huge dollop of realism, accompanied with an open and honest debate on the Club’s vision and identity.
Whether we get that is another matter.
Second tier clubs often complain about the ‘non-level playing field’ of the Championship regarding the ever-increasing amount of parachute payments received by clubs relegated from the Premier League.
As things stand, City are approximately fifteen months away from their last parachute payment.
That’s quite a sobering thought.
If you want a vision, the Club could focus on committing each season to:-
All this sounds simple – but it can only be achieved through focusing upon the combinations of coaching, recruitment and investment in the infrastructure at Colney; complemented with the support of a dynamic and visionary leadership from Board level downwards.
And, if you want further perspective, let’s not forget, just over a week ago, City fans indulged in some banter with “that lot”. The minute applause during the 15th minute, for “15 years in the Championship” was amusing for us – payback, perhaps, for their waving notes in our direction, while singing “we’re fecking (sic) loaded” following Marcus Evans’s takeover, a few years previously.
The irony is, despite having subsequently pumping in tens of millions, they’re no nearer getting promoted (thankfully) nearly ten years later.
But (as Simon Clegg, the then Ipswich CEO, said in 2009) “There’s a small club to the north of us that has just been relegated.”
Get it wrong now and Norwich City may be paddling a similar Championship course to “that lot”. And no one wants that, surely – do they?