It’s guest blog time again on MFW, and back for her third visit – this time to summarise the horror of the last nine months – is Debbie Hewitt.
Al yours Debbie…
Woeful, pathetic, shambolic, appalling, diabolical and horrendous, just some of the more polite words that have been used to describe the latest efforts of Norwich City in the Premier League, as the curtain thankfully falls on the most dismal of seasons.
This after we were led into the land of make-believe with a bumper summer spend of around £50 million, a transfer budget we have only ever dreamed about before.
Daniel Farke was to be provided with all the ammunition he needed for the season ahead, with incomings including the ‘best youngster in Europe’ ChristosTzolis, and the hyped-up, but relatively unknown quantities of Milot Rashica, Josh Sargent and Pierre Lees-Melou.
Then there were the loan signings. On reflection, probably best not to mention the loan signings!
After a difficult opening few games, while there was the odd spark of hope, time soon proved that there was a huge Emi Buendia shaped hole in the squad, with the creativity and dynamism of our Argentine maestro apparently irreplaceable; the situation having been exacerbated by the end of Oliver Skipp’s loan, with him returning to his parent club after a dominant season in midfield.
So, with little option it appeared, we let Farke go in November, and lost no time in appointing Dean Smith, recently let go himself by Aston Villa. An initial win and two draws provided hope, followed by a bit of a run in the second half of January and early February, but that really was about it.
A lack of midfield cohesiveness was not the only problem – wins are always going to be hard to come by when you only manage to score 23 goals.
Such was the complete lack of inventiveness and service, Teemu Pukki, who was a shoo-in for Player of the Season, with 11 goals and three assists, all too often cut a lonely and forlorn figure in his desperate attempts to do what he does best.
He literally ran himself ragged all season. We simply have to do everything we can to hold on to him.
Defensive shortcomings were also glaringly obvious and frailties frequently exposed, with 84 goals conceded. Even the ever-reliable Tim Krul looked a little bit fallible in the second half of the season.
Relegation had looked inevitable for some time before it was confirmed on 30th April, with four games remaining, after yet another lacklustre display, ironically at Villa Park.
I know we shouldn’t look back with rose-coloured glasses, but I’m not apologising for the fact that I miss Farkeball, together with the players who bought into it so wholeheartedly, Onel Hernandez, Marco Stiepermann and Mario Vrancic for example.
Ah, SuperMario, my admiration (!) for this man knows no bounds. Cut those players and they bleed yellow and green. I do genuinely believe that they could not have done a worse job in the Premier League this season than what the best transfer budget for years managed to produce.
So we come to the controversial Stuart Webber Interview – the only official comment of any sort from the club following relegation.
Unfortunately, it was only available on Norwich City’s own media channels, which probably means pre-prepared and therefore quite safe.
He provided a lot of excuses for the poor start to the season and was quick to blame fans and local media for their lack of faith. But, in fairness, there was very little for them to be positive about, just a little bit of competitiveness might have helped.
Webber also managed to avoid even a satisfactory explanation for the poor summer recruitment – somebody failed big time in that department. In truth, he said a lot, but told us very little.
However, the refusal to now engage with any level of local media is not the way forward. It smacks of a lack of transparency and avoiding any sort of probing or uncomfortable questions.
Whoever is in charge of PR at the club this year has had an absolute mare; there have been so many questionable and unfathomable decisions that, at times, it has been hard to recognise the Club as the one we know and love.
The disconnection between Club and fans has been painfully evident for some time.
On the face of it, we seem to have a pretty strong squad for another assault on the Championship, with our loan players back and available and others with another year of Premier League experience behind them, unsuccessful as it might have been.
However, you would have to assume that we need to sell to be able to provide Dean Smith with the chance to give it a go his way, and I just can’t see where any significant transfer funds are likely to come from.
But, and it is a big but, if we get promoted again, are we actually ever going to be up to the Premier League? Is the self-funded model actually even sustainable at that level? Webber said nothing to reassure us on that point and offered very little in terms of future planning.
In the meantime, a big up to the amazingly loyal Canaries fans for their ongoing support, with the allocation of 21,500 season tickets sold out for 2022-23. I really hope that the adjectives flying about next season will include outstanding, dominant, superior, inspiring, positive and victorious.
These fans truly deserve that.
As I write, rumours have surfaced about potential major investment on the horizon.
Is this an explanation for Stuart Webber’s reticence? A possibility at last for the club to move forward?
No doubt we will learn more in the coming weeks, but I suspect Dean Smith might just be thinking all his Christmases could be coming at once.