Other children of the 60s may remember an Australian series called the Magic Boomerang in which said implement when thrown would suspend time for all but the thrower.
Apparently a number of Wolves players were carrying one on Sunday judging by their second goal, with three attackers fighting to get the final touch with not a red shirt in sight. It was a moment that both summed up City’s performance and also may well have marked the very moment that the spirit that has kept fans and players going finally expired.
I haven’t often been critical of the players this season, but the performance at Molineux was even worse than the surrender at Old Trafford and after the promising opening ten minutes City offered virtually nothing against a Wolves team that barely had to get into top gear.
It was, sad to say, the performance of a team that seemed to have accepted the inevitability of relegation and produced a range of responses into the away end, ranging from stunned silence, through mercilessly abusing one’s least favourite player to the pinnacle reached by the small group who felt that the best way to express their undying love for their club was to join in with the home crowd’s gleeful serenade of “You’re f***ing s***” by changing “you” to “we”.
The most immediate, and probably inevitable, result of such a shocking performance was the virtual apotheosis of Emi Buendia on social media on Sunday night, with one tweeter going as far as to suggest that he was City’s greatest ever player.
Buendia’s presence on Sunday’s bench was seized upon as a focus for many people’s frustrations and while it’s perfectly reasonable that people should question his absence, it’s worth pointing out that Farke gave a pretty detailed explanation of why he hasn’t been starting recently at Friday’s press conference.
Let me say here that I love Emi and what he brings to the team, but I can also see where Farke is coming from.
Emi can be fantastic going forward (although Farke is right to point to his lack of goals) and in a team where he didn’t have anything more than rudimentary defensive duties he would probably be virtually indispensable, but City is currently not that team. Perhaps they were last season when they could outgun virtually any opponent, but that is no longer the case.
However, the problem goes deeper than one player being in or out of the side. The fact is that City’s midfield as a unit has been an issue all season. The failures of Marco Stiepermann, Moritz Leitner and Tom Trybull to make the step up to Premier league standard has been a huge setback for Farke, while Ibrahim Amadou’s miserable loan spell has already been acknowledged by an ever-candid Stuart Webber as being a failure of recruitment.
As a result, Alex Tettey has become a vital component but as we all know his ability to disrupt opposing attacks far exceeds his capabilities as a constructive passer. This has not gone unnoticed by opposing managers who are setting out their sides to deny space to the likes of Todd Cantwell, Ondrej Duda and Buendia so that Tettey finds himself on the ball with increasing regularity and as result City’s attacks invariably lack pace.
What’s more the lack of an effective second screening midfielder despite several options being tried has had a double impact, firstly in terms of leaving the back four exposed and secondly, and as a direct result, by requiring the creative players, like Buendia to do more defensive work.
Of course, it would be easy to say, “Why didn’t City sign one then?”, but they did – Amadou. On paper, he was a great signing but on the pitch, he wasn’t.
The other thing that Premier League managers have done extremely effectively is to deny City room on the flanks. How often this season have we seen Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis or Sam Byram get to the byline? Invariably they are forced to check back and so one of the key factors in City’s promotion surge has been effectively blunted.
With very little money to spend, City’s ability to stay up was always going to hinge on how many of the squad could make the step up this season and how quickly Farke himself could adjust to the demands of the higher level, and I think the fact that fewer than expected have certainly hasn’t helped him to do so.
As Webber has admitted the summer transfer window didn’t produce what was required and while I think that both Duda and Lukas Rupp are good players it’s an established fact that January transfers invariably fail to make a big impact, particularly when coming to English football for the first time. Neither played well at Molineux, but to expect them to refloat a ship that was already holed below the waterline is perhaps a little unfair.
Of course, the horrendous run of injuries didn’t help matters but the bottom line is that City’s on-field success came faster than the financial rebuild that has now been achieved.
As a mate on Twitter put it sublimely “ Promotion was like Jim Bowen telling you you’ve just won a V8 Range Rover, when you can’t afford to service it or put fuel in it.”
For City to have stayed up with this season’s budget they needed an awful lot of stars to align but in fact, the opposite was true and Lady Luck has administered a number of kicks to the gonads. But despite the disappointment, it’s vital to remember the unity on and off the field that made last season happen and ensure that we don’t lose that.
One City strong.
martin penney says
Hi Robin – a very well-measured article.
You’ve left me with a mental image of Jim Bowen revealing a speedboat whilst saying: “Look what you could have won” to the devastated losing contestant who lived in a two-up, two-down in Walsall or somewhere equally landlocked.
But at least as Norwich City we’ve got the bus fare home. To the Championship.
Andrew T says
Looking forward to next season. We can only win more games.
David Bowers says
I appreciate the headline may have been Gary’s, but this is wrong…
“City’s on-field success came faster than the financial rebuild that has now been sorted”
City’s financial ‘rebuild’ required the promotion. Without it we were needed to make 10M’s of sales every year. Our revenue last year was 33M excluding player sales, we have never, ever got remotely close to getting costs to that level in modern times. Full stop.
Without promotion we would have sold any number of players to break even.
So the idea of a financial rebuild without promotion is fantasy.
It also means that we have 2-3 seasons before being back in the same predicament. In fact, financially we haven’t come a hugely long way since the Alex Neil days (puts on protective helmet). We overspend by less, but we still significantly overspend in TC.
We have enough resources to sell to stay afloat in TC for a few years, then we need to sell again.
The question is are our current crop of players as desirable as Howson, the Murphy’s, Pritchard, Maddison, Brady, Redomnd, Canos, Ollson Jerome et al. that were all used to fill said our financial hole. And no, we didn’t sell all these players because of Naismith and Wildschut. That should be clearly obvious.
Gary Gowers says
Busted! The headline was mine, Dave, but was plucked from Robin’s piece. He said ‘achieved’, I said ‘sorted’ … apologies to you both if that skewed it in any way.
John Holland says
Overall the article was a fair reflection of where we are but I agree with David 100% that the promotion saved the club from going down a path that it should avoid at all costs. We felt financially secure after relegation in 2005 and 2016 but failure to win immediate promotion caused financial problems to return. The revenue figure mentioned by David seems true and relying on cost cutting or player sales to do anything more than secure an extra year or two is naive. However, I get the feeling that some feel that we can afford to coast along in the Championship for ever. Self funding IS the correct way to run a club and Mr Webber has delivered it once for us and hopefully will do so again because failure is not to be taken lightly
Excellent comment David. Fully concur.
Robert Chase practised a virtually identical “model” of signing players cheaply and selling them on for big fees. He was eventually a victim of the overnight change in English football which let the cat out of the financial bag.
Essentially, he was following a “self sustaining” ethos, and at the time he got vilified for it. Advance 20 or so years and Delia smith is virtually canonised for doing the same thing, albeit selling far more players for much more money.
Apart from the level of debt the two accrued, the only discernible difference between the two is the 3rd, 4th, 5th place finishes, the 2 FA cup semi finals, the European football one of these achieved. In stark contrast to the “achievements” of the other.
A case in point if ever one was needed of “be careful what you wish for”.
For all chases many obvious faults, I’d take his period of control over the one we currently endure any day of the week.
Inside Right says
Good point you make about Chase.
I remember an Interview with John Bond in the late 1970’s, who was already showing his frustration. The club had started really well that particularly well that season and Bond was not happy as that wasn’t being translated into extra people coming through the turnstiles.
Norwich needs 21,000 to break even – that was never going to happen – so his transfer budget was very small, plus his usual wheeling and dealing.
Chase was more ambitious than the perennially booed Sir Arthur South. But the days of the local businessman being Chairman of the club were numbered. Chase got totally caught out by the change in football and rightly had to go.
However, we got the Smiths. And not Morrissey, Marr, Joyce and Rourke.
I stated at the time that this was the worst thing that could happen and I still stand by that. They were not what the club needed then or now.
As for the Range Rover, Delia nicked the keys and sold the tank fo fuel Vincent Nichols.
Oh bless thee.
Gary Field says
David, Let me get this straight, you’re seemingly taking issue with the fact that the Club would have still made a loss, even if promotion had not been secured?
I find that criticism somewhat odd. Why? Because, whether you like or not, player trading exists, even for clubs with directors that provide investment.
If you’re suggesting that self funding in its purest form means no player trading, then you’re advocating, by definition, spending less and taking less risk.
Or, to put this another way, would you prefer, as you seem to be suggesting, that the Club should only be spending £33m pa because that’s it’s income, with no player trading, or, alternatively, spend a higher figure, which obviously carries more risk, but accept that player trading is also a consequence?
David Bowers says
I’m not ‘advocating’ any of this.
I’m saying that the premise of this article is wrong. Firstly it clearly lacks a definition of what it means to have been financially ready for promotion. What wouldn’t have been ‘too soon’?
Is it suggested that if we’d just waited another season our finances would have been fine and we wouldn’t have carried a debt into the PL? If so that’s clearly nonsense, backed up by a decade of financial records.
If it is now ‘sorted’, then by what definition? There is no long term solution in place, as we continue to rely on player sales and parachute payments. If it is being suggested that IS the solution, then how is it any more ‘sorted’ than previous stints in The Championship. What great plan is in place that isn’t identical to under Alex Neil – use parachute payments and sell players to keep afloat.
What is this miraculous solution? Because it looks to me like the emperors new clothes.
Cyprus Canary says
The financial crisis is far from over I think. All of the optimists will say we will bounce back and be in a better position to survive next time but you only have to look at some of the big names in the championship to see that there are no guarantees of success. Ask Derby, Forest or Leeds fans. When you get chances in life you have to take them and we are serial failures in that department. Sadly we lacked a modicum of investment and a manager with more than one tactical approach on this occasion. Super football with no cutting edge and a failure to create a better defensive strategy have cost us dear. It is such a disappointment when we had that prize in our grasp.
John Holland says
The comment about Buendia being considered our greatest ever player intrigued me because it made me wonder who actually was. For this exercise I would exclude players like Peters who joined us at the end of their career so who is the greatest player who emerged from Norwich or developed here? I would imagine that the current answer is someone in the Bellamy, Sutton, Gordon mould but maybe in 10 years we will comment that Buendia, Maddison, Cantwell all played for us at some time. In that sense then maybe the original comment was not wrong
Andrew T says
Next time Cyprus, it’s all set up.
It’s these periodic slices of luck resulting in parachute payments which allow Delia to cling on to her social club rather than any grand plan.
The time for her to pass on ownership is long overdue.
“Ambition with prudence” and “self funding community club” are merely sound bites to try and appease the fans.
martin penney says
I feel an article coming on.
It will have to wait until next week though. Let’s see what Leicester do to us first.