It’s only seven days since the nightmare that was the 2019/20 season ended, but, oddly, it does feel like an age ago.
Just as well really.
Part of this is down to the club’s insistence that we move forward, prepare for the new season, and not dwell on the wrongs of last season.
Which is all well and good (understandable and sensible even) but what about us curmudgeons who want to stay angry for a bit longer and who are not yet ready to move on?
Can’t we just allowed to be grumpy and irritable for at least another week?
But no. Stuart Webber insists on drip-feeding us new faces, some of them in the ‘exciting’ envelope, as the squad undergoes a refresh more radical than most of us envisaged.
It reached the point last week when a day went by without a new face and the Canary Nation sulked.
I’ll not dwell on the new faces individually – Martin’s doing that tomorrow in his own inimitable way – but what I will say is they’re young, they appear hungry and even those who’ll not figure immediately in Daniel Farke’s squad will still play their part in the future-proofing of the football club.
It’s a transfer strategy part-driven by necessity – we simply don’t have the funds to go out and buy experienced players who have been there and done it – but also by meticulous research and planning; identifying players whose value could one day increase and benefit the club either directly or by moving on for a fee – or preferably both.
And while this appears the common sense approach, in football it still remains something of a rarity. Those who’ve watched the Sunderland Netflix documentary Sunderland ‘Til I Die will know what I’m talking about.
(If you’ve not watched it, I’d thoroughly recommend it).
Obviously, for the two season’s covered in the 14 episodes, Sunderland Football Club was a basket base of enormous proportions, but I suspect the deadline day behind-the-scenes stuff was reflective of the majority of clubs as Jim White’s excruciating tones reach crescendo level.
In the first series, the then chief executive Martin Bain’s policy, with just a few days of the window left, was to work his way down a scribbled, hand-written list handed to him by two members of the recruitment team.
Sitting together in an office, said trio head-scratched, ummed, and ahhed before concluding the list contained no numbers and therefore no recognition of how much any of these targets would cost the club.
A wholly unsuccessful transfer window, unsurprisingly, followed.
In series two, new chairman and owner, Stewart Donald, personally takes control of negotiations in the January transfer window and, after then-manager Jack Ross telling him to not pay over the odds to buy Will Grigg from Wigan (they valued him at around £1 million), concludes a deal with one-minute of the window to spare for £3 million!
In the months that followed, Will Grigg wasn’t on fire. And hasn’t been since.
The point I’m clumsily making is that this approach to transfers (I hesitate to call it a policy) is not uncommon but is the very antithesis of how Norwich City operates right now.
And that can only be a good thing – in the short, medium and long term.
So, while Webber has himself done a sound job in not giving cynics like me a chance to carry-on-venting, the head coach then goes and chirps up on the club’s official video channel and offers a lucid, honest, and what I ended up believing as fair, account of the travails of last season.
If you haven’t…
Naturally there are elements we’ll not agree 100% with, but there’s no doubting his passion and focus and also a recognition of the pain many of us are still feeling.
Okay, so it was an in-house production and therefore not exactly the Spanish Inquisition, or akin to Andrew Neil/Corbyn or Pier Morgan versus any government minister before they stopped talking to him, but two things stood out.
First of all, there was an admission that being a possession-based team that relies on creativity, as opposed to one based on a rock-solid defence, was always going to make for a difficult first season.
Without specifically mentioning Sheffield United, Farke alluded to the fact that a team that concedes few goals as it’s modus operandi is better prepared to face the task of PL survival than one that was being asked to out-pass teams who are better and have more quality.
Not rocket science but true (and he hints that next season won’t be such plain sailing for Wilder’s boys), and the alternative of changing the approach – ‘parking the bus’ – would have meant a complete squad overhaul; something way beyond the club’s financial capabilities.
He also made a good point about his ‘five per cent chance of survival’ message that was deemed by many as defeatist before a ball had been kicked. The opposite would be have been full of bravado, with no recognition of the fact the decision had been taken to invest modestly in the squad.
He argues it would have disingenuous to have given it the big’un while privately not being convinced that enough had been done (for the right reasons) to make the squad Premier League ready, and that he’d have been criticised whichever stance he’d taken.
Another fair point.
So, damn them. Between them, they’ve started to get me back on board. I don’t feel quite ready, but I’m half-way there regardless.