From the moment promotion was confirmed, I braced myself for the inevitable. I wasn’t alone. The inevitable churn of finger-wagging from pundits and experts, telling us what we should be looking to do, who we should be looking to buy and why what we’re going to do won’t be enough.
It comes with the territory.
The media glare that comes with a prized place in the Premier League brings with it a detailed dissection of almost every single decision the club makes – a Daniel Farke sneeze will likely cause a ripple or two across the newsdesks of talkSPORT – and the prospect of doing anything ‘under the radar’ in the Prem is as unlikely as something astute passing the lips of Alan Brazil.
But I hate it. Every second of it. It’s like when someone says something less than complimentary about a member of your family – you’re allowed to say it but woe betides anyone from outside the inner-circle who offers up an opinion that doesn’t suit.
So, while I’ll happily listen to (and read) words spoken by who I perceive as acknowledged experts on our club – I’m talking Paddy Davitt, Chris Goreham, Michael Bailey and co – when those same words arrive via the MSM, I’m immediately sceptical. Even if it flows off the keyboard of Henry Winter.
All of which is illogical and plain stupid, but is a mindset borne of some grim recent experiences when trying to mix it with the elite of the English game. From the perspective of a fan, City’s coverage tended to flit between the patronising and condescending tones of “plucky little Norwich” to almost total ignorance of what we are about and how we are trying to achieve it.
It’s a dial that tends to oscillate wildly but rarely rests in the middle – only occasionally will we stumble across a national journo who gets it and gets us, albeit more of a rarity now that our own Mick Dennis is no longer among their ranks and therefore unable to spread the word.
That we will be made to feel like unwelcome guests at a posh do is almost a given, with the arduous 1 hour 52 minutes of Liverpool Street to Norwich almost guaranteed to irk said national media more than any other trek.
But, however irritating, this is standard stuff and we’ve been here before. We expect it and if it didn’t happen we’d think something was wrong and, generally, most of the comments come with a hint of logic, however flawed we believe them to be at the time.
When it all starts to go awry is when folk for whom we have not one iota of respect wade in with their own unhinged theories as to why City are virtually guaranteed to go back whence they came.
I give you Baroness Brady of Knightsbridge CBE.
In her column in that tabloid, Brady spouted some Delia food-punned nonsense that confirmed everything we needed to know about her lack of insight into the beautiful game and how little thought and research goes into her words.
To quote a few nuggets:
‘Don’t try to survive in the Premier League on the cheap’
‘Bournemouth have stayed up on a relatively small budget’
‘West Ham have done well because we have rich Hammers supporters as owners and a 60,000 capacity stadium’
There were loads more, but without wishing to dissect every line of Ms Brady’s rubbish, it’s worth reminding her that our club is acutely aware of its financial limitations and if the way to sustain its long-term stability is to try and survive “on the cheap” that is precisely what we will do.
I’d argue Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke’s more than passable attempt at getting “promoted on the cheap” worked out rather well, and so see no reason not to trust them with the club’s attempt to survive season one back in the Premier League.
And the dear lady’s assertion that plucky little Bournemouth only managed to survive on such meagre attendances due to the brilliance of manager Eddie Howe, ignores the fact the club’s rich owners played fast and loose with the Financial Fair Play rules.
In fact, if she really insisted on playing the ‘staying up on the cheap is impossible’ card, then the Cherries could quite possibly have been the example to use.
Instead, she chose her own club – West Ham – whose owners have acquired their fortunes by means rather less wholesome than Delia’s cookbooks and who pay a nominal rent for said 60,000-seater stadium, for which the conversion from athletics stadium to football stadium was largely funded by the taxpayer.
It was described as the ‘deal of the century‘
So please spare us the lectures on how the West Ham model is the one to follow when to most of us it’s a classic example of how not to run a football club.
This is merely the beginning though and in the weeks and months ahead they’ll be queuing up to tell us why our model won’t be good enough to see us survive one season. For obvious reasons, I’m no longer a devotee of talkSPORT but do make an exception for the excellent Hawksbee & Jacobs but was saddened to hear the way, in conversation with John Motson, they too have already dismissed our chances.
Part of it I believe comes down to a lack of knowledge of how we are now doing things – only those who have looked closely will appreciate quite the scale of the culture change – but also I do wonder if there is an element of nervousness around a newcomer looking to rip up the traditional norms and do it a different way.
Ultimately it comes down to players, recruitment and coaching, and the common logic – certainly in the Brady Chronicles – is that the only way to succeed in those three areas is to spend, spend, spend. Yet there are so many examples of this backfiring – Fulham being the most obvious.
Much was made of the quoted £20 million budget that may or may not have a semblance of truth, but would I prefer £20 million in the hands of Kieran Scott and Webber, or £100 million being spent by Fulham’s 2018 recruitment team? Who’s more likely to deliver value for money?
So, yes, we will be sneered upon; yes, we will be ridiculed; and yes, some will start penning our Premier League obituary before a ball has been kicked, but this promotion is different to so many others in the way it has been conceived.
We will be doing things differently, in part because we have no choice, and in part because the new values and ethos dictate that every pound in the City coffers will be made to work that little bit harder than those sloshing around the coffers of our competitors.
But if anyone thinks that means we’re preparing to fail, think again.