Today, just a quick re-cap on where things stand at Carrow Road. Then let’s move on to other important matters – in particular money, envy and (unrelated to the other two) my birthday.
Current developments at Norwich warrant at least our interest, and possibly a bit of excitement (though Dave B is excused).
What we’re seeing is a clear plan, outlined to us by Stuart Webber, being put into operation. The squad is being streamlined and re-shaped, with high-earning older players who’ve lost their winning mentality being replaced by younger and/or hungrier ones.
We know it won’t go exactly to plan; some of the players we’d like to bring in will be disproportionately expensive, while it won’t be possible to offload all those we’d like to. However, fans can grasp what’s happening because we know the strategy and can see decisions which are following it.
It’s what one of my more progressive clients called a “clear line of sight”.
Dave B might observe, with fairness, that this isn’t rocket science. The point is that it’s actually quite rare in business, politics or sport – and certainly hasn’t been apparent at our club in recent years.
There’s a long way to go, of course. Among other things, we should remember the transfer window doesn’t actually open for another fortnight!
Like many City fans, I can buy into what Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke are doing as long as it’s consistent with the strategic plan. I’d be disturbed if we started selling younger and livelier assets like Pritchard. Every City player must have his price, but in those cases – assuming they’re happy to stay – I trust it’s high and reluctant.
Unlike most years, I’m looking at the pre-season fixtures and trying to figure out how many I can attend; I suspect others will be doing the same. It won’t be on quite the same scale as Roehampton where Maria Sharapova will be trying to pre-qualify for Wimbledon, but I expect relatively large numbers at those games. That’s got to be a good sign.
Money has been a big discussion point about Norwich, of course, especially with the contractual messes we got ourselves into.
Let me take a wider perspective on this, though, and perhaps challenge a bit of conventional wisdom.
We often hear “don’t worry about him – look at the money he’s getting”. And it’s true that you can find examples of footballers apparently content to give up their playing aspirations for a comfortable and well-paid spot on the bench.
Anyone remember Shaun Wright-Phillips? He was forecast to have a stellar career for club and country, but the more expensive his transfers, the less he played. After signing a lucrative contract with Man City in 2008, he made just 64 appearances over the next four years. He now plies his trade with Phoenix Rising FC, a name which hardly matches his career.
We’ve also seen the opposite, of course: players who put professional pride or lifestyle ahead of maximizing financial return. Our own proud example is Darren Huckerby, who I suspect has gained much more happiness than Shaun Wright-Phillips from his choices.
And happiness is the key. If you have no money, you have to prioritise getting some. Beyond that point, though, extra money rarely brings the benefits and contentment that people expect of it.
Based on my own experience, the one piece of advice I’d offer anyone embarking on a career is to try and keep things in perspective. I’ve seen many people get seduced by titles and/or money, and suddenly find they’re not as happy as they expected – or indeed as happy as they were before.
In a similar way, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some luxurious holidays. But none has been happier than our early holidays together when we had almost no money to spend.
There are of course compensating features for a young couple on holiday – but the point still stands about money and happiness.
What I’m saying is that I’m not sure we should feel as much envy for those with money as we tend to. Whether it’s footballers or the Royal Family, money is poor compensation for a restricted life or an unhappy job.
Once upon a time, I used to look forward to my birthday and worry at the thought that others might forget it. These days it’s more the other way round.
I’m lucky, though, in having a birthday at the start of July. Certainly luckier than my best mate at school who was born on December 25.
Even if it’s not during the league season (the real season, as far as I’m concerned), there’s usually a good choice of sport on. So if I’m lucky enough that someone asks what I’d like to do on my birthday, I can say that I’d like to watch the cricket/tennis/golf, please.
Occasionally there’s even some football. This time, perhaps, I’ll be exploring the routes to see City at Stevenage, Cambridge and elsewhere.