Norwich’s Premier League curtain-raiser at Anfield is just around the corner. City are back in the big time and a free hit at the champions of Europe is first on the agenda.
Completed transfer deals and extended Stuart Webber interviews aside, I’m personally not a fan of pre-season. Transfer rumours fuelled by clickbait and ill-informed ‘experts’ are not my cup of tea, and if one more media outlet credits Daniel Farke with Norwich City’s transfer business I think I’m going to lose it.
But the small, sometimes large, sparks of fury at the inaccuracies of national reporting on the topic of Norwich City are infuriating – Simon Mignolet for £15 million. Really? For a start its Simon Mignolet and secondly, in what realm of fantasy would that fit our remit?
Sorry, it really does infuriate me – sad aren’t I?
If pre-season has taught us one thing, it’s that Webber and Farke will not waiver on City’s philosophy or business model – that much is very clear.
Earlier this summer, Webber dispelled the Premier League money myth for newly promoted clubs, stating in an interview with Paddy Davitt, ‘We’ll have probably the lowest budget ever as a promoted side.’
Having overspent during previous Premier League campaigns, Norwich City had very little to show for it upon Webber’s arrival at Carrow Road, despite spending four of the previous six campaigns in the top-flight. Webber continued, ‘If you look at what myself, Steve Stone, Ben Dack and all the guys inherited with I turned up two years ago, we inherited exactly that.’
On that note, I would like to take a small detour back to January 2016, because it was a pivotal moment in the club’s recent history for several reasons…
Alex Neil was calling the shots and City were hovering above the relegation zone. In an effort to ensure Premier League football the following season, they spent close to £30 million, partly offset by the sales of Lewis Grabban and Gary Hooper.
The transfer window in question is primarily remembered for the acquisition of Steven Naismith for around £9 million, a poor piece of judgement. Matt Jarvis also arrived from West Ham for £3 million after an encouraging start, Jarvis had unprecedented injury problems and failed to make an impact at Carrow Road.
Subsequently, both Naismith and Jarvis have been released from the club this summer to the tune of around a £12 million loss plus wages.
January 2016 also saw the arrival of Ivo Pinto, Patrick Bamford, on loan from Chelsea, and Timm Klose signed from Wolfsburg for a reported £9 million. It’s fair to say the Klose transfer, although expensive, can be marked down as a success. Timm has served the club remarkably well considering he joined expecting to play Premier League football season on season.
Generally, the work in that transfer window will go down as some of the poorest in City’s recent history, but it did present the club with a couple of silver linings, in the form of Ben Godfrey and James Maddison. It’s funny how in a period of such cataclysmic decision making, the £25 million sale of Maddison to Leicester City would later steady the ship and counteract the loss the club made during that and subsequent seasons.
The final point I wish to make regarding that particular transfer window was the link City had with Sebastien Haller, who reportedly made the trip to Colney before turning the club down. Back to the modern-day and Haller, after successful spells with both Utrecht and Frankfurt, has just signed for West Ham for £36 million!
It is not just West Ham splashing the cash in anticipation of the 2019-20 Premier League season though. Manchester City have set the club’s record paid fee at £63 million for Rodri while on the other side of Manchester, United have paid £50 million for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and £80 million for Harry Maguire. Leicester and Chelsea have spent £40 million each on Youri Tielemans and Mateo Kovacic, respectively, and even Newcastle are spending big money, parting with the best part of £40 million for Joelinton.
Meanwhile, City have spent just £750,000 which is brilliant, and I’ll tell you why. It’s clear that Webber, Farke, Kensell and co see themselves as custodians of the club who have learnt from the position they found themselves in when they arrived at Carrow Road.
They clearly don’t wish to put their eventual successors in a similar position and in a league where spending vast sums of money have become routine, it’s admirable they put the long term ambitions of the club ahead of short-term gain.
City won the Championship last season because they were the best team in the league, and the way that team was assembled was nothing short of revolutionary. Just because the club is now a small fish in a big pond, there is no reason to break the mould. In fact, it’s all the more reason to stay frugal in the transfer market and invest money into the club’s infrastructure, encouraging success for future seasons.
For (officially) £750,000 City have acquired…
- Ralf Fahrmann on loan – a Champions League regular between the sticks for Schalke, over the last six years.
- Patrick Roberts – another loanee who has played Champions League games for Celtic, La Liga games for Girona and has looked incredibly sharp during pre-season.
- Josip Drmic – a Swiss international striker who has scored at major international tournaments and has a respectable tally of Bundesliga goals to his name.
- Sam Byram – on whom the £750,000 was actually spent on, and who comes in from West Ham to challenge Aarons for the right-back spot.
- (I’m not including Ibrahim Amadou as at the time of writing he was merely airborne)
Not only have they bolstered the squad, but they have also tied down the existing squad to new contracts, with virtually every player who played a vital role in last season’s promotion being rewarded with a new deal.
Whether this has been done out of loyalty or for financial reasons – namely increasing the prospective price for any club looking to purchase our players – both approaches are hard to argue with if you’re of a Norwich City persuasion.
Elsewhere, the ‘experts’ have predicted a long, arduous campaign for City resulting in relegation.
It is an easy conclusion to reach and they could well be right, but it is at this stage in the club’s history that we finally arrive on the big stage with a clear direction and philosophy, and I for one place far more value on City finally having an identity than risking it all for Premier League survival – which I think we will achieve anyway.
The reality is City can either do it this way, or they can risk years’ worth of Premier League money as in previous campaigns, like Fulham did last season or like Aston Villa are doing as we speak, which is spending the best part of £135 million on twelve new players and then having to sell Villa Park to fund it and offset losses from previous seasons.
City are in good hands and we’re doing it our way, the new Norwich City way, and at this stage of the season there is nothing left to do but get behind it with full gusto.
Ignore the media hyperbole and the unwritten rule that you must spend big money to survive in the Premier League because little old Norwich are here to try and prove otherwise.