You could almost imagine the small card on the metaphorical shop window of Norwich City. It was put up at about 5.30 pm last Saturday afternoon. It reads; ‘Wanted – A new hero to fill a recent vacancy, must ooze class, confidence, and culture. Boots not provided’.
Okay, so perhaps we can trust the Norwich scouting team to be a little bit more on the ball than that, but the fact remains we find ourself in a familiar position as City fans. It’s the night and day of getting to watch an exceptional player ply their craft at Carrow Road; while we soak up their performances in the yellow and green there is always the uneasy feeling that its only a matter of time before someone swoops in to take them off our hands.
What’s important to remember though is, despite what some would have you believe, this isn’t a situation that is unique to us as a club. While we get called a ‘selling club’ or a ‘yo-yo side’, it’s worth remembering that even fans of the biggest sides in the world have felt the cruel sting of losing their best player.
Manchester United lost Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, Arsenal lost Thierry Henry to Barcelona, Liverpool lost Fernando Torres to Chelsea. Even Premier League-winning Leicester saw both Ngolo Kante and Riyad Mahrez exit for a bigger club. Yes, that’s right, you can win the league and still find you cant match the player’s own ambition.
Losing key players can be crippling to sides and can take seasons to fix. yet you could also argue that in recent history Norwich have maintained a remarkable record of finding a replacement almost immediately. In some cases bettering the player that was replaced. In fact, we can use a ‘Norwich City talisman family tree’ to track the most recent examples:
Huckerby > Hoolahan > Madison > Buendia.
When you look at each of these names you start to realise that we have found ourselves once again at the ‘oh my god how could we possibly find a replacement’ phase. We felt it when Hucks was playing at Sheffield Wednesday away with a huge question mark over if he was following Dion Dublin out of the club. We felt it as we saw Wes walk onto the pitch to a rapturous ovation against Leeds and it came back yet again after a short but sweet season with a young James Maddison,
After the weekend just gone, that dark cloud of what the future could hold descended yet again, as online rumours gathered at a pace the likes we haven’t seen since Huckerby tore Birmingham apart single-handedly. Within hours the rumours of a pursuit being ‘stepped up’ by Aston Villa were quickly replaced by ‘deal agreed and to be announced shortly’. Buendia was off and the void created left us all asking how on earth could we ever replace him?
The truth is we don’t know for a fact what will happen, but therein lies the beauty and excitement of football. A list, likely drawn up over many months, of potential signings to fill the Argentine-shaped hole in our midfield is likely being reviewed and phone calls being made. Stuart Webber knows full well the scrutiny and expectation will now be at an all-time high, and, personally, I intend to strap myself in for the ride of probably one of the most exciting and transformative summers in our club’s history.
I’m acutely aware it’s the hope that kills you, but to be honest, the hope also fascinates me, wondering what happens next. Could we be about to unearth another unknown who becomes a superstar? Perhaps we could see City go in for a name like Olise from Reading or Pereira from West Brom, as we look to take that next tier of talent into the squad.
Money will always be the sticking point for a club in City’s position, but the excitement of the possibilities is something we can at least indulge in to dampen the disappointment of losing our own bit of football heaven. Buendia’s lasting legacy to the club could well be that his transfer allowed us to dip into the market in a way not seen at Norwich before, and, as a result, cement our position in the hardest league in the world.
The funny thing is though, for all of the talk of transfers and record buys of the next big thing, our next hero, could be under our very noses. We want a stylish, progressive player. A player with a deep connection to our club. A young player where the sky is the limit. Step forward Norfolk’s own Todd Cantwell.
We know Todd is capable of looking at his own situation and then putting into action what needs to be done to progress himself. You need only look to the summer of 2019 and the rapid change in his physicality and self-belief that saw him go on to be a standout performer in the opening third of our top-flight season. It could be that he now looks at this latest departure as the call to step forward and become the main man at Norwich.
We know he has the attributes and we know he has the desire. Could it be that the next great chapter in our history is Cantwell, the local lad, stepping forward to become the consistently excellent player that we have seen hinted at by flashes of sheer brilliance over the last two seasons.
The script is certainly written for it. Let’s see if it’s Todd who takes the lead role.