Football fans are often a superstitious bunch. Whether it’s a preferred turnstile (number 8 in the Barclay for me), ‘lucky’ pants (other clothing is available) or a prescribed pre-match meeting point, there is a deep-rooted belief that it’s not just the actions of the players which influences proceedings on the pitch.
Or indeed off it.
For example, how often has a player’s appearance in the official club calendar coincided with his departure from the club?
Supernatural forces are surely at play.
One thing that can’t be dismissed as mere coincidence is the ‘curse’ of my son’s football shirts. He’s still at an age where he likes to get a name and number printed on the back (i.e. an age where money [mine] is of no concern to him).
He gets the new City shirt every summer and without fail, whichever player he chooses to adorn the back, will be gone by the time that it’s replaced.
Holt, Snodgrass, Hooper and Redmond are all recent victims of the curse.
Soon to be joined on the hit-list by ‘8 HOWSON’.
(Looking back, I should have played it safe and smart by paying the extra £7 to get ’19 LAFFERTY’ ironed on but hindsight is a wonderful thing).
With the writing on the wall as soon as my lad left the club shop last summer, I should have been resigned and mentally prepared for Jonny’s exit.
But I’m gutted.
No real consolation to be found in the talk of him being past his prime; a Championship player at best; or the fact that he will command a decent fee for squad rebuilding.
He is – or was – my favourite player.
I will miss his “erms” in press interviews.
I will miss his lego hair.
I will miss the possibility of seeing him carry a pigeon off the pitch.
But most of all, I’ll miss a classy midfielder who never failed to give his all and who over the course of five years scored a few genuine ‘worldies’.
We always knew – and were told – that there would be wide-scale departures this summer as an under-performing and aging squad got the overhaul it so desperately needed. Finances off the pitch and performances on it, dictated that the crop of players who failed to gain promotion was neither sustainable nor worthy of giving it another go.
I’ll admit to being fairly indifferent about the prospect.
Last season, all the talk about having a good squad ‘on paper’ counted for nothing as both individually and collectively, the players failed to live up to the task. The same mistakes played out time and time again. The same heads bowed following each conceded goal. The same platitudes about a desire to put it right reeled out after each abject performance.
The squad was stagnant and stale and as far as I was concerned, we could get rid of the lot of them.
Apart from three – Alex Pritchard, Ivo Pinto and of course, Jonny Howson.
It’s a naive view. Aside from those out of contract, the club can’t just ‘get rid’ of the rest. You need to find buyers with both the money and the inclination to part with a fee and perhaps more importantly match the wages that Norwich are paying.
High-earning and under-performing is a toxic combination that is unlikely to attract a queue of suitors, even if the club (and us fans) deem certain players to be surplus to requirements.
In that context, Jonny is part of a worryingly small and select group who could generate interest and a reasonable fee from those clubs with the necessary financial muscle and standing to actually make it happen.
I suspect the others are Klose, Pritchard and the Murphys.
Howson, like Klose, is 29 and no longer ticks the box marked ‘potential’ that will play such an integral part in the club’s plans to rebuild and secure its long-term future. Timm may well follow him out of the door in the weeks ahead. If or when that happens, the fans will have to take it on the chin and trust in the combined efforts of Webber and Farke to reinvest the money wisely.
Sell Pritchard or one of the twins and that’s a wholly different matter but let’s not go there until or unless we have to.
Ultimately, in Jonny’s case the club had no real choice. Once the offer of an extended contract was rejected, there really was no other viable option in the circumstances.
As galling as it is to write the words, he simply wanted to leave.
For all of Norfolk’s charm, the lure of the Dales to a Yorkshireman with a young family proved too great.
But if any player deserves to go with our blessing and best wishes – even to a direct rival – it’s Jonny Howson. A model professional who showed commitment, endeavour and genuine class throughout his time at Norwich. Never one to seek or grab the headlines, he went about his business in an unassuming but wholly effective manner and made the game look simple with what appeared an almost effortless grace.
Along the way, he produced some true moments of magic; long-range strikes at Millwall and Stoke; the opener in the play-off semi-final at Ipswich, carving through Man City and of course ‘that’ goal against Forest last year.
I’ll miss you Jonny.
But now is not the time for remorse or recrimination; it’s time to buy my son the new shirt.
Whose name shall I put on the back?