The highs and lows of pre-season, eh?
There was a time this week – I think around 4 pm on Tuesday – when it felt nailed on that not only would we be signing Milot Rashica, but also Angus Gunn, Celtic’s Kristoffer Ajer and Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour on loan.
The most reliable ITK Norwich City account on Twitter had already forewarned us that the announcement of a big signing was imminent (the one that turned us to be Rashica) and also dropped into the conversation that Ajer, Gilmour and Gunn were also “done”.
And, to be fair, by the sounds of it, at that particular time there was good reason to assume that it was a matter of dotting i’s and crossing t’s before the full quartet were announced as City players for 2021-22.
Angus, of course, arrived, which was good, but the arrivals of Messrs Ajer and Gilmour no longer appear imminent and instead we appear to have fallen foul of outside forces, agents and other clubs making equally, if not more, tempting offers.
It was reported in The Athletic that Thomas Tuchel, a former BVB colleague of Daniel Farke’s, was keen for Gilmour to reside in Norfolk next season as he recognised that City play a version of the “double six” midfield pivot he himself uses at Chelsea. That sounded perfect. Tickety-boo.
And then a day and a bit later, the dreaded kickback: “The Scotland midfielder has been targeted by several Premier League clubs”. This was followed a day later by Steven Gerrard’s Rangers™ ominously throwing their own red, white and blue hat into the ring.
Wolves were mentioned in dispatches – presumably as one of the “several Premier League clubs – but yesterday Connor (Southwell) reported on the Pink Un website that it has now seemingly boiled down to an arm-wrestle between City and Rangers for that season-long loan for Gilmour.
In one corner, the chance to grace the Premier League stage on a weekly basis and progress under the tutelage of Team Farke in the way Oliver Skipp did, and in the other the chance to rejoin the club where he had been with since the age of eight, to play in four massive games a season and the chance to win something.
Tricky one, although the lure of Glasgow and living for a season near loved ones must be extremely tempting.
I’m not sure this is a battle we can win.
As far as Ajer is concerned, news of City cooling their interest and a rumour around the Norwegian not scoring highly on a “personality test” (perhaps related to Stuart Webber’s “no d**khead policy”) was followed by reports of the player being “distinctly unhappy” with the way Celtic are handling his potential move away from Glasgow – the suggestion being they knocked back £10m offers from City and Bayer Leverkusen.
That City appear to have moved on to other targets may also be a concession that when clubs of Leverkusen’s ilk enter the fray it becomes increasingly hard to compete.
So, while of course it’s great to have Rashica and Gunn in the house, the excitement-ometer briefly flicked onto 11 on Tuesday afternoon. That it’s now returned to a solid four should not be cause for concern though – Webber’s still got this.
The BK8 saga now appears a distant dream. The huge furore over the announcement that the club was to get into bed with a nameless, faceless, tasteless entity from the Far East was sufficient for the club to do a Matt Hancock ‘I’m not resigning’ U-turn, and just 15 short days later we now have Lotus on board and on our shirts.
For many, the majority even, this was perfect. The news they wanted to hear. And I get it. A brand that screams “NORFOLK” and a company that already has many links with the club, not least the naming right of the training ground. Personally, while I quite like Lotus, I don’t feel as invested as others and I’d have been happy with just about anybody who had some moral decency and coughed up the cash.
That the Lotus deal is considerably smaller than the BK8 one is for the club’s bean counters to contend with and is literally the price to be paid for the monumental cock-up that was BK8. And there can be no debate around how far BK8 fell short of the wholesome family club image that this club purports, even though it has since emerged that Dafabet were not exactly the Vestal Virgins of the gambling world.
But, as fans, we do need to pick and chose carefully when we collectively haul the club into line through a show of solidarity. The BK8 fiasco was an own goal of the club’s making and they were rightly pulled up on it, but as the Premier League’s only self-funded club it simply has to explore as many avenues as possible to fill the financial void that others fill with cash from their owners.
As a result, they need some latitude and we have to be careful not to kick off every time the club makes a decision we’re not fully on board with. Every pound at Norwich City has to work harder than it does at every other top-flight club – something I have to remind myself of from time to time.
Finally, just to touch on the good ol’ Euros, one of the widely perceived highlights so far has been the standard of refereeing and how there has clearly been a diktat encouraging them to allow the game to flow and not stop it for every niggly foul. It’s worked well and, as a result, the football has generally flowed better than I’d imagined it would.
There has even been widespread praise of UEFA’s use of VAR, which has been a clear and obvious upgrade on the Premier League’s cack-handed, heavy-handed and microscopic use of the technology … until left in the hands of the English.
Up until last night, only decisions of a dubious nature had been examined ‘upstairs’ and those selected for a second look were done speedily and with the minimum of fuss. It offered hope that the PGMOL and Premier League could watch and learn ahead of next season. It felt almost palatable.
Then Stuart Atwell happened.
The man in the middle of last night’s Italy/Austria game, Anthony Taylor, has had an excellent tournament – and did a good job again – but I’m sure I wasn’t alone in getting that gnawing feeling in the second half as the words “VAR are having a look” were uttered after Marko Arnautović’s header looked to have given Austria the lead.
It looked offside, and within one replay it was clearly offside.
But Atwell, ably assisted by Chris Kavanagh Lee Betts, had other ideas. Seconds turned into minutes and we were all transported back to that place where goals are decided by the thinnest of thin lines and the length of a player’s armpit hair.
After what felt like an age, Stuart made the call we all knew was coming. No goal.
For good measure, in case anyone was in any doubt around how the English do VAR, we were treated to a repeat for Italy’s second goal – another excruciatingly long wait to decide something that appeared obvious by the naked eye.
We can only hope that someone, somewhere in the corridors of power may be brave enough to suggest to Mike Riley that, in this instance, the English way is not the best way.
But I’ll not be holding my breath.
Tim Ball says
Very interesting piece Gary.
Ajer looks to be gone but I still hope Gilmour will choose us. Rangers are without doubt a huge club but surely Gilmour and Chelsea would be better served by the player testing himself against the very best in England rather than going to Scotland where, tin hat on Marty, the standard is way below that of the Premier League.
I couldn’t agree more Gary with you on VAR. I didn’t think they were using at the start at the tournament, so good was it being utilized.
Then the English !!! absolutely appalling Mr Atwell.
At times the evidence was so clear why did it take him so long ? Is he Mr Magoo ?
It was like Palace at home 2 seasons ago, I texted the boys at the match from home that the Palace equalizing goal was onside at least 30 seconds before The Stockley House incompetents gave it.
They had state of the art technology ? I had Sky !
Embarrassing to say the least.
Personally the only one i am gutted about is ajer a tall rangey looking cb just the perfect compliment alongside what we got for the prem . I’d rather we got either skipp again or use our scouts to find another one we can buy to play alongside sorensen .
And have to say i am pleased with the lotus sponsorship although they must feel a little bit of second fiddle and i have to say have no of us ever seen scantily clad women before , the world has gone crazy women women what do they want and where will they stop the minority spoil it for the rest of the gooduns .
Lotus is a great outcome. My brother has already contacted me to pick him one up. Big sales incoming I expect.
If Italy would have not win, im 100% sure that italians would have blamed english referee for that and ignore fact that they were not great yesterday. Very good example how much home advantage means and when its gone teams are looking not so perfect anymore. I do hope that Platini and his friends would stop destroying football. In Finland HJK has 9-1-0 stats, so thank you thank you uefa for this great excitement. Now even their own fans seems to have lost interest.
To me Norwich seems to be building mainly season 22-23 squad. Rashica is most popular footballer in Kosovo, so there is also marketing reason behind that transfer. Idah surely will get some playing time this coming season, but he should carry your attack 22-23. Gunn will take Kruls place 22-23. Financially this looks good policy. Pukki by the way was 6th fastest player in euro20 tournament so far, he will be even faster when season starts. So, he is 1 of the worlds fastest footballers but its important also to understand that running with ball same speed is impossible. There was also surely best ever interview with Pukki, its over 1 hour long and its very different than usual interviews. It proved again that often player transfers are made between players and clubs only seal them.
Alex B says
Over the intervening period between dropping B8K and Lotus announcements all the usual rumours about who was getting the deal and since then numerous pictures have been shown of young ladies in differing poses on Lotus cars and the question asked what’s the difference both companies use the female body to advertise their wares and one is a little more sexual but pays a higher sponsorship rate and is a gambling site.
My question was it the sexual connotations of B8K or the gambling that got up peoples noses and got Kensell sacked/pushed or asked to leave.
In a previous comment I suggested that someone who was responsible should get the sack more tongue in cheek remark but sadly it came to pass, but sure he didn’t have the final say that would have been the owners that sanctioned the final agreement so he was the sacrificial Lamb and now he is lauded with getting Lotus in so will he be offered his position back???
Ajer looks to be one of 3 CB’S that city were looking at so could he still appear at city some pundits have said he wouldn’t adapt to the premiership as it is to hard and fast and he slows games down only time will tell, as for Gilmore I am not sure how this will turn out Glasgow with Club, Family and friends or Norfolk with Hanley, McLean and Mair, will it be his or the clubs choice ???
Dave Cole says
We’ll see if Gilmour is a goer over the next few days I suspect. Fingers crossed he fancies the EPL over facing Ross County. As for Ajer, there is something odd going on here. Reading Celtic media from a couple of months ago, there is clearly a rift. The rift is undoubtedly down to his agent touting him for sale last season, and a lacklustre season has dented his reputation further. A number of pundits have doubted his application, and coupled with a sense he and his representatives are after a payday, all is not happy between him and Celtic. I’ve no idea if he thinks he’s better than he is, but I suspect Webber will soon realise he’s failed the ‘no dickheads’ test and we’re being used as bait for a bigger move.
martin penney says
I’m a Celtic follower as MFW regulars will know and often dip into 67HH and other Hoops sites.
Your take on Ajer is spot on – I am pretty sure he failed the SW *no dickhead* test too.
Keith Ord says
Ajer gone we need Sebastian Bruneuw, Aldrich , and take a chance with de vega he looks a goal sensation on video take the risk. Won one old head one level head and one young head perfect solution with soreness and Co forget about Gilmour and skipp we don’t want no dictation from Spurs or Rangers it’s their loss and spurs can forget about Max Arrons going there no way jose
Jim Davies says
The difference when English officials were in charge of the VAR was marked. PGMO referees have taken FIFA’s intended use of it, for situations where there is a clear error by the on-pitch officials, or when it is a case of mistaken identity, and over engineered it. Measuring off-sides down to micro distances is ridiculous, since the system is not able to be specific about the exact moment the ball is passed, and if the attacker and defender are moving in opposite directions, the overlap occurs in a split second. PGMO need to send their referees on a retraining course, and watch how the other officials come to quick decision (and get it right!).