Those who insist on telling us to stay patient and await the closure of the transfer window before judging Stuart Webber’s dealings a success, or otherwise, may have a point. But they’re ignoring the basic tenets of the football supporter: to speculate and dream.
It’s therefore inconceivable that social media, websites like this one and conversations down the pub will not be abuzz with talk of the whos, whys, possibles, and probables. Especially when the start of the new season is just 17 days away and City’s squad looks, as things stand, a little under-cooked.
It’s what we do. It’s what makes us football supporters.
For us all to sit back in carpet slippers and cigar mode, and allow Webber to do his dealing without even speculating or passing comment on the rumours would be weird, wouldn’t it?
Yes, of course, we trust our sporting director to do his very best to provide Daniel Farke will the ammunition needed to have a shot at Premier League survival – he’s earned that much – but the staple of your average football fan is a view on and pontificating on what it is going to take to make your team better.
We obviously don’t know more than Webber; we don’t pretend to know more than Webber; but it’s fun trying to imagine what could be occurring, just as it’s a little painful to reflect on what this squad will look like if Stuart is unable to bring in the names he wants in the positions he wants.
What is clear, and has been clear every single time our club has made it to the Premier League in the 21st century, is that being in charge of Norwich City’s recruitment while attempting to make the squad PL-ready is *very* tough gig.
And that doesn’t just boil down to the modest transfer pot that we’re invariably armed with.
As much as we all love Norfolk and as wonderful as we all know the fine city of Norwich really is, it remains a tough sell. Despite being only 1 hour 50 minutes from London on the train, the general consensus is still that we’re based in the arse end of nowhere, with the locals akin to extras in Deliverance.
But that’s only part of it. While it’s feasible to attract players who are looking for an avenue into English football – like Rashica and Lees-Melou – for many, the yo-yo reputation with which we are tarnished will be more than sufficient to make a player think twice.
This is particularly relevant when attempting to attract players in the Phillip Billing envelope – those who have been freshly relegated or are in a Championship team with genuine promotion aspirations. How do you sell Norwich City to Billing, for example, when he’s already sitting on a lucrative contract and sees the possibility of City and Bournemouth swapping places for the 2022-23 season as a distinct one?
We’ve seen it happen many times – just ask Alex Pritchard or Josh Murphy.
And, of course, there are the Ola Toivonens, Virgil van Dijks and Toby Alderweirelds whose ambitions extend far beyond potential relegation battles while playing for a club that’s often preceded with ‘Little’.
To attract the right player with the right attributes at the right price, and always while competing against clubs with deeper pockets than us, requires some seriously good selling skills. The new Colney helps, as does the prospect of playing at a full, bouncing Carrow Road, but we’re not alone in having impressive training facilities and a vibrant stadium.
And so when rumours emanate from Carrow Road – however unofficial – around Webber having been forced to work his way down his lists to his C and D-list options and there being a sense of disquiet around progress so far, we shouldn’t be surprised.
To gear this squad up for a realistic crack at staying up while working within all of those constraints is quite the task, even when you are a black belt in footballing wizardry.
And so we can forgive him if he’s feeling a tad anxious as this window unfolds. We knew the Euros would impact on the speed and volume of transactions, and that the financial impact of the pandemic would have a knock-on effect across the board, but we also know that both Farke and Webber like to get their business done early – an aim that has limited success in this window.
There is also the small matter of the transfer window closing 17 days after the opening game of the season, by which time three league games will have been played. While we’re not expecting too many points from Liverpool (h), Leciester (a) and Man City (a), anything is a bonus and to collect that bonus we need to be as strong and as well prepared as is humanly possible.
So I think it’s okay if the collective sphincter is twitching slightly as the days tick by and the squad looks no stronger than it did as we concluded last season. The voids left by Emi Buendia and Oliver Skipp were never going to be easy to be filled easily, and in the case the former, to find a like-for-like replacement was an impossibility.
There is still time and we know that Webber and his team will be working flat out to provide Farke with something that gives him a chance. A repeat of 2019-20 will not exactly enhance either of their professional reputations.
Like I said, still 17 days to go. Plenty of time for more unsubstantiated rumours, and a Webber trick or two.
Keep the faith.