I’ve kept my MyFootballWriter powder relatively dry recently.
While others have vented their feelings on a range of the recent hot-button topics such as safe-standing, investment, or the recent inability to convert semi-decent performances into wins (or even goals), I’ve watched from the sidelines with a sense of detachment.
Not because I’ve lost faith in “the other woman” in my life that is Norwich City. No, the old girl still holds a fatal attraction for me that is difficult at times to fathom but remains as keen as the day I took up residence at Carrow Road 30+ years ago. But I currently don’t feel the highs or lows anywhere near as keenly as many of my fellow Canaries (Other than the loss at Millwall, which was so far beyond acceptable that Mrs H was forced to take away all sharp objects from me for 24 hours).
Am I a “happy-clappy”? I’m certainly more forgiving of the current set-up than many, but that wouldn’t preclude me from losing my (we’ll go with…) wits at 5 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon when the eleven men in yellow have failed to convert possession into goals yet again. Currently I feel unmoved however. In homage to my fellow MFW columnist Martin Penney, a fan of the musical analogy, I remain “Comfortably Numb”.
After some soul-searching, the reason I believe is expectation. Not that I’m smugly sitting back, looking on my fellow supporters with a Shearer-esque sneer, condescendingly opining “What were they expecting?”.
I think years of painful experience have just given me the ability to spot this season for what it is fairly early. It’s a dud. A damp squib. A firework that you light on bonfire night that never goes up. And try as we might to ignite that banger and get us a show, other factors are combining to dampen our fuse and leave us underwhelmed and disappointed. Having accepted that fact, I’m no longer as prone to the bipolar mood swings as others.
What I see now is that whilst the Webberlution gave us a chance at promotion, should everything have gone perfectly on the pitch (which was always a long shot), it wasn’t about immediate success. It was about transitioning from the Norwich City that we have been over the past few seasons to the Norwich City that we have to become given the financial realities.
Fast-forward to August and let’s play a little Mystic Meg with the squad. Loanees Gunn and Reed will be gone, and the likelihood is that Oliviera, Pritchard and Maddison will have also departed to bring some much-needed money into the club. Tettey’s contract will be allowed to run its course and at 31 with knees made of marmalade he’ll be allowed to depart with a pat on the back and our thanks but no chance of a contract because the days of us paying aging players the wages they are used to are gone.
Likewise, as much as he can still be a game-changer, Wes’s decision over whether to retire will effectively be made for him as he’s unlikely to be given the option of another year on anything like similar money, especially given how infrequently he has been used this year.
The bulk of the squad will be made of what I think of as the new Norwich. Young players such as Godfrey, Matthews, Murphy, Lewis, Phillips, and Cantwell, combined with the recently arrived contingent such as Zimmermann, Trybull, Stiepermann, Vrancic, Husband and Raggett who are paid a far more modest and affordable wage than their predecessors.
They will be juxtaposed with what is the old Norwich. The players who remain on Premier League contracts that we can’t get rid of because we’ve paid them more than any prospective purchasers are willing to match. And whilst some of these players are repaying some of those bigger wages (Klose, Pinto), equally you have the Naismith’s, Jarvis’s, McGovern’s who aren’t contributing but have another year at least to ride the gravy train of our ill-advised contracts.
Add in old hands like Martin and Jerome (who earned contracts that are nonetheless expensive), and a marquee signing that provides leadership and stability going forward in Hanley, and the wage-bill remains vastly bloated.
Whilst Klose and Pinto may be picked off by clubs who are willing to pay big money for players who perform solidly regardless of circumstance, Webber isn’t Derren Brown, and he can’t hypnotize clubs to come in for a Naismith or Jarvis (no matter how many column inches are given to attempts to whip up a possible January move for the former).
We won’t truly be able to move forward financially until these contracts have expired and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if there was a chart in Stuart Webber’s office of how many days there are to go until the last of these high-wage contracts has ticked over – at which point he can pop a glass of something fizzy to celebrate that he can finally press on without the past tying one-hand behind his back.
Until this time however, we’re in-between eras. Our heroes of yesteryear are going or getting old. Our mistakes are continuing to haunt us. And Daniel Farke is trying to balance bringing the young players that will form the new Norwich in gradually while Webber does his best to transition the old players out.
Early in the season it became apparent that too much was changing within the squad for this to be a promotion-challenging year. Equally, despite our recent poor run, performances remain reasonable and we aren’t being beaten by massive margins, so relegation remains an unlikely prospect.
As such I’ve come to terms with the reality that I’m not watching a season of struggling for points. I’m watching one team die, and another one rise to take its place. So I’m enjoying the likes of Maddison, Pritchard, Hoolahan and Gunn while we have them. And enjoying seeing our youngsters start to emerge.
But I’m not going to stress over the table or points which won’t always come our way. My hope is in the future and not in the now.