This week has certainly provided confirmation, if indeed any were needed, that the current version of Norwich City is very different to the one that we have become accustomed to in recent seasons.
In the place of the reassuring statements at the start of transfer windows to the effect that the club was under no financial pressure to sell key players, we now must accustom ourselves to a situation where everyone has their price.
I warned in an earlier column that the extent of Stuart Webber’s rebuilding project is such that fans would have to accept that some of their favourites might have to be sacrificed as well as players they had little regard for, and we are already seeing that with the departures of Graham Dorrans and Johnny Howson.
While neither is a massive surprise, given Dorrans’ affection for the club that he has always supported and Howson’s apparent desire to return to the North with his young family, the latter in particular generated a lot of reaction, including a Twitter spat between Rob Butler and Mick Dennis; two people for whom I have a lot of respect and have good access to club sources about who did what to whom.
I suspect that that may well have been a factor in Webber’s surprisingly candid exposé of the background to Howson’s departure and the events leading up to it.
Frankly, my opinion of Howson remains unaltered as a result and I am grateful for his contribution to City over the last few years. Sometimes as fans we expect players to feel the same way about the club as we do, but realistically professional footballers have a relatively short (albeit financially lucrative) career and therefore have to put themselves and their families first.
If Howson wanted out and was aware that there was interest from a club he was attracted by its relatively easy to understand why he might behave in the manner described by Webber to try to force a move.
It’s tempting to criticise him for what is, without doubt, self-serving behaviour but let’s not forget that he stuck with the club through two relegations when he was at the peak of his attractiveness to other clubs, whereas now he is 29 and realistically has one big move left in his career.
Equally, I see no justification for the criticism of Webber’s statement. If the club was being criticised for things of which it was not guilty why suffer in silence? Surely greater transparency is preferable to platitudes or a silence which would provide unwarranted ammunition to those who seek to criticise the club at every opportunity?
However, all that paled into insignificance on Friday evening as Nelsongate erupted on Twitter as reports emerged that City had accepted an offer from Reading for Nelson Oliveira, a massive fan favourite.
While social media is awash with rumours of dubious provenance at this time of year, the involvement in the inevitable repeats of the original story of Pete O’Rourke, formerly of Sky, but now freelance gave greater credence to something which might otherwise have been more readily dismissed.
A check back through O’Rourke’s record shows that, although he is hardly infallible in these matters, he’s more reliable that most pundits on Twitter (although that’s not saying very much) and consequently meltdown ensued among City fans with one or two threatening to cancel their season tickets if the big Portuguese were to leave.
While other reports suggested that no actual fire had been involved in the production of what was, by then, a pretty impressive cloud of smoke, Daniel Farke’s post-match comments at Lowestoft provided a warning to all of us that we may see more high-profile players leaving the club this summer if the price is right.
If a club come along and offer an outlandish sum for any City player then I think it’s perfectly feasible that the club might consider a sale, not because there is fire sale mentality (note how all the incoming players have stressed the club’s desire to get back to the Premier League), nor because the owners want to “do things on the cheap”, but simply because on a limited budget there is a need to be “creative” as Webber promised to be when he arrived.
While I think it’s unlikely that the likes of Alex Pritchard or Jacob Murpy will go, the ultimate consideration for Webber and Co has to be how can they get the best from the budget and therefore they have to look at every offer in the context of “can we use this money to improve the squad?”
Ultimately, I’m prepared to accept that that might mean I have to accept the loss of some of my favourites and put my faith in the new broom sweeping through Carrow Road. Whether that’s right or wrong can only be judged when the squad is complete, but so far I like the way things are going.
Thanks to our friends at Archant for permitting us the use of Robin’s services over the summer months on a short-term loan deal