Of late the #NCFC Twittersphere has been full of discussion and arguments around how vital (or not) it is for City to get promoted this season.
There are some for whom promotion is a big no no, and they have what appears a solid case – namely that to go up now would merely inflict upon us all yet another season of misery and heartbreak.
Nothing discernible has yet changed at boardroom level and even if it does, everything points to Mark Attanasio taking a modest approach to spending and concentrating instead on making structural and, possibly, cultural changes.
So, we know the routine:
1] We make a few summer signings, albeit no one of note (always with a resale value in mind and players who are unwanted by our PL competitors), we acquire a couple of players on loan – one of them a bright young thing from one of the Premier League’s top six – and somehow convince ourselves that this time around, with someone different controlling the tiller, it may be different.
2] Alongside our trepidation mixed with a light sprinkling of hope, the national media will come after us before a ball has been kicked. The wazzocks of TalkSPORT will lead the charge and so we’ll have D-list ex-pros and presenters we’ve never heard of telling us that because we’ve not spent hundreds of millions we’ve set our stall out to be the division’s whipping boys. “They’re not even giving it a go”.
3] We’ll defend our club for all we’re worth against these lazy, uninformed opinions and try to rationally explain to these dunces that we’re not spending multi-millions because we don’t have multi-millions to spend, but they’ll continue to slaughter us from every conceivable angle.
4] Then the football will start and all of their predictions of horror and gloom will come to pass. We’ll get hammered by the big teams. We’ll compete but lose against the middling teams. And we’ll pick up the odd point and very occasional win against those teams with whom we’re supposed to be competing.
5] And we’ll get relegated – before the end of April.
Okay, so perhaps an overly cynical take, but none of us would be in the least bit surprised if points 1 to 5 came to a grizzly fruition. It’s a routine with which we are all far too familiar. And it’s rotten. Really rotten. Not to mention dispiriting, soul-destroying, and tiring.
But that’s our reality and not enough has changed for there to be a plausible argument against that outcome.
So we return for the trillionth time to that quote attributed to Einstein but which may not be his at all:
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
All of which is part of the reason why those good folk feel that promotion would be a bad thing.
The other part of their argument is around the fact that this squad, which is about to have its ageing core replaced, simply isn’t Premier League-ready. Of that we do all agree. Nothing about this current crop looks Premier League-ready. Not even the players who have already played there.
But, and here’s the start of the counter-argument, would another season in the Championship make this group, or at least the part of this group that remains, any more Premier League-ready than they are now?
While the younger players in the squad will have another season of Championship football in the tank, I’m not sure how much that helps. The refined air of the Premier League is such that the second tier prepares no one for what awaits.
So vast is the gap, only playing in the Premier League prepares you for playing in the Premier League. And which is why those teams who do have money to spend – not a concept we’re familiar with, admittedly – tend to do so on players who have experienced it.
And, of course, there is no guarantee that if we do stay in the Championship, this group will grow and therefore be well-placed and better-positioned to have another promotion crack this time next season.
In fact, I’d argue that if we are to spend another season in the Championship, any advantages we currently enjoy with regard to squad quality and parachute payments will diminish. We’ll simply be one of those teams struggling, without a pot to pee in, to cobble together a squad capable of mounting a challenge.
In other words, in terms of status, we’ll be precisely where we were when Stuart Webber arrived in the spring of 2017.
All of the supposed advantages of having luxuriated in the Premier League and of having enjoyed all of its privileges will be gone.
The reality is – and, yes, this does matter – is that our nearest and dearest from Suffolk will be, at the very least, on a par with us in terms of league status and almost certainly ahead of us in terms of momentum and ambition.
So, for me at least, we have to give it all we’ve got to sneak into the playoffs and then cling on for dear life in the hope that something extraordinary may happen.
The consequences of going up are dire – that I agree with – but the consequences of another season in the Championship are even more so, particularly for the club’s bank account. We can’t afford not to go up.
Let’s no longer be fooled by the ‘self-funding’ fairy-tale, because that’s what it is. For it to even come close to being a thing, it requires regular, very large dollops of Premier League money. So it’s not self-funding is it?
And let’s also not forget, this is sport and for sport to be so, it needs every team to be striving to be the best it can possibly be. I can’t imagine watching a City game and not desperately wanting them to win.
So, yes, promotion would likely expose us to more brutality but what choice do we really have?
Interesting thoughts as always, Gary.
We tend, as illustrated by your piece, to lump together the two promotions under Stuart Webber (2019 and 2021). I wonder if we should actually make a distinction.
In 2019 we decided – rightly in my view, though some might disagree – to focus the first tranche of promotion money on cleaning up the Club’s nasty financial legacies and upgrading its neglected & out-of-date training facilities. We didn’t spend as much as we could have done on players, if we’d decided to let those wounds fester.
2021 was different. A huge shame that Emi Buendia went on strike until we sold him – but we spent that money and more. Some of the acquisitions (eg Josh Sargent) may turn out to be decent long-term buys. For the Prem season immediately before us, though, it was a really poor transfer window – by far the worst of Stuart Webber’s reign, and deserving of criticism.
Should we go up this time, there won’t be the legacy issues that there were in 2019. Clearly, we’d make (at least by our standards) a fairly major outlay on players. The question is how effectively we could do it.
As for whether we want to go up now, I think you’ve made the clear case: we need to be going for it.
Agree 100%. There’s no margin in staying in the Championship. The figures don’t add up. Got to go for it. But I fear we won’t do it anyway. Saturday was a ready-made springboard against opposition who could hardly lay a glove on us. And we still fluffed it. 10th instead of fifth says it all.
They had one job…
Andrew Delf says
the days when we watched football and could stand toe to toe with the big clubs are long gone. Until the total collapse and restructuring of the football pyramid ( not going to happen) will there ever be a level playing field.
As a supporter it’s not my concern about the finances of a football club and until the advent of social media I suspect not many others. Unless you are one of the top six or seven teams the entire reason for playing is survival.
It really doesn’t matter what division that’s in so long as you survive with some palatable football to watch. So if Norwich reach the playoffs then I want to win if we don’t then that’s how it is.
I expect you and I shall be there next season regardless of which league we are in.
As Bruce Hornsby once sung, “that’s just the way it is”.
Gary Gowers says
Good comment, old friend. Hard to argue with a word of that.
(And, yes, of course we will).
To put it simply, what’s the point?
Another relegation, another decent manager sacked.
While the hand on the tiller remains the same!
I’ve always wanted City to gain promotion and play in the top division.
However, in recent times all promotion seems to achieve is a subsidy for Delia to cling on to ownership and preside over the clubs slow decline.
I think the majority of us are thoroughly fed up with the current situation but nobody appears to have a solution.
Kevin Willetts says
The solution at this stage of the game is to play the players we have at our disposal (regardless of age and experience) who are thirsty and greedy for success. Not the poor, has beens who have no more care for the plight of our team.
Hi Gary, a very depressing read, and who knows what the answer is?
In fact, in our current guise under the straitjacket of “self-funding” is there really any point at all?
We must be the only club in the English game having discussions like this, such is the mind-numbing lack of ambition and direction which has sapped enthusiasm to the extent that nobody seems to care anymore.
I think the majority of fans feel they have plenty to wine about. Many will not have seen a promotion in the last decade, most will not have seen a trophy but feel they should have and all but very few will have questioned the ambition of their owners and the direction of their club.
The reality for us though is we are at a glass ceiling under the current owners, we have overachieved against the self funding mantra and it looks very much like the only way is down. How far is anyone’s guess?
But does that mean Webber, Delia et al has done a bad job, or performed miracles? (Some of each in my opinion)
Where can we go from here? under current ownership and budget we need promotion.
But what could be our best case scenario? I don’t believe there is a queue of billionaires who would fund us to the top. We are too small and unglamourous. Is the best we could get someone willing to gamble a bit and establish us in mid-table in the PL? Is that the dream? I guess to be the best we could be and playing the best then probably. But even were we to get there how long before we’re all bored and moaning again?
There’s no easy answer other than if you no longer enjoy it, spend it somewhere else.
I agree that we have over achieved when set against thw backdrop of self funding.
Some spectacular work by the likes of Farke, Scott and indeed webber has seen to that
The feeling is though, that the run has come to a halt and without change the club is compromised.
“We make a few summer signings”
“we’ve not spent hundreds of millions”
“we don’t have multi-millions to spend,”
“it requires regular, very large dollops of Premier League money”
Sounds like new owners is the solution.
A very interesting read and comments.
When Mark-A did his interview after getting on the board he said he’s ambitious for City to get promoted and stay for a long period in the Premiership.
My questions would be
1) why hasn’t he been seen at the club in recent months on game day,
2) How come no local media reset,
3) Does he intend Ground improvement and Capacity
4) How will the club fund new players.
5) can we soon be seeing some new faces in Upper management
Alias Smith and Jones have overseen the stagnation of this club for 26years and a few promotions don’t cover up their poor ownership, lack of leadership and lack of finding investors.
26years of owning a club to keep her name in the spotlight, having free parties for like minded owners every home game.
And the club doesn’t exist to most outsider’s you say Norwich City and the instant reply is oh Delia Smith’s Club.
When Chase was owner I never heard a similar reply and we were much more successful under his control.
David Bowers says
‘do we really want to go up?’ – that can be debated.
‘do we really need to go up?’ – there can be no doubt that we do.
The idea that the club will be better placed for a promotion run next season boggles my mind. The squad situation has been entirely mismanaged (by Stuart Webber), such that we have few players of saleable value, some of our best talent is out of contract/leaving, and people who once commanded big sums do not (Cantwell/Aarons).
There is no Kieren Scott anymore and we’ve not had a ‘purple patch’ in the recruiting department for five years.
Since Webber came to the club a lot of the recruitment team jumped ship and don’t seem to have been replaced and we have just lost another Hoyt to Brighton.
Is it City pay less or that they see no future working under Webber for some reason.
Ambitious people that have done well prior to Webber coming those that recruited Godfrey, Lewis, Aaron’s all gone and we once had a good scouting set up in Ireland but they seems to have gone down the river.
Webber says there’s a problem recruiting in Europe but other clubs don’t seem to have one maybe there’s no mountain to climb
The stated ambition of the board is to be a top 26 club. It doesn’t exactly make us an attractive option to players who only want to play in the PL.
2 seasons ago, we failed to recruit a single player of proven PL quality. It was the same this season for the Championship. We’re not spending the money we need to, which makes it all the more frustrating seeing about half of the clubs in the PL who historically are no bigger than us, doing so much better.
Yes, of course we want to go up because someone’s spent all the money and we need the financial benefits that being in the PL brings…..and the next step if we don’t is not nice to dream about.
But do we want to go up with another season amongst the big boys, with only the remnants of this season, and some more of Webber’s injury prone bargains and loans……and the next step from that is not nice to dream about .
So, I guess we do….but then again maybe we don’t!!
O T B C
Stagnation…..something stays the same and does not grow and develop:
Thought provoking words Mr Gowers,
I personally believe that ‘self-funding’ is only good as an interim measure – say for steadying the ship. There is no way other than to splash the cash if we want to inhabit the Premiership for a sustained period of time.
Just look at the clubs in trouble in the Premiership at the moment – including free-spending Nottingham Forest!
The stark fact is that Norwich are not capable of buying-in players who will automatically grow into top-tier players – especially when we would have to sell them as they display the qualities big clubs find attractive for their own success. How we’ve kept our hands on players like Max Aarons is actually quite astonishing.
And even if we were capable, so are other (bigger) clubs. For a while we broke free of the Championship pack, but the pack is never that far behind for long.
Therefore ‘self-funding’ cannot under any circumstances provide success for NCFC in the Premiership, and we need big cash owners for big player funding to stay in the top tier. I have no faith in Stuart Webber producing the goods for us when this season ends, and I agree it would probably bear the same fruit if we went up. Sad but true!
The idea was a laudable one though, and is no doubt attractive for other Championship clubs – come to that it would probably work all the way up the line, from non-league to Championship level, but equally temporarily. I cannot imagine any Norwich fan saying the Farke-led promotions were not great, the squads were massively exciting and thrilled football fans all over the world.
Despite all of the above, I’d bite your hand off for another season up there in the highly-oxygenated Premiership even if your Albert Einstein quote is very apt indeed!
Its probably true we need to change the squad this time – Super-Teemu will be tough to replace but we will have to do it, although I don’t subscribe to the view that he is too old, I just think he is worrying about not scoring, which reduces his highly-potent natural instincts around the box – so some elements of self-doubt has crept in then! I think Hanley is still a very good centre-half for us.
We have some bonus players to come, I wouldn’t be scared to pick Dan Barden as a goalkeeper. if Angus and Timm depart, Bali Mumba is playing the season of his life down in Devon, and I think Rowe deserves a good run.
A lot of the guys we have seen at Norwich are great players, just not in our hands. They have performed well elsewhere which attracted us to them, or it just happened after we let them go.
Whatever happens, I hope David Wagner gets a decent purse to spend, and is able to get the kind of players that inspired the two promotions.
The play-offs are still possible, it will be an interesting end to a bizarre season.
Can’t careless what level we are playing at just want a team and club that we can get behind week in week out, players who have some affinity with fans, a Norwich City we are proud to support.
The PL is not truly competitive, no league in any major footballing nation is, just a few teams compete to win these leagues. Our recent PL excursions have ended quickly but we’ve enjoyed some fabulous promotions, the best and worst of times.
Now we have mediocrity and we hate it, we’ve been spoilt. Let’s go on a different journey be patient and rebuild, consign the recent past to history otherwise it may haunt us.
Time to look forward to new beginnings and with new owners. Delia & Michael have been immense and we should thank them. Exciting times ahead I’m certain.
If we did go up and had some money to spend,i wouldn’t want Webber anywhere near it!
Tim Ball says
I feel we have no choice Gary but to TRY to gain promotion to the EPL whatever faces us there. And it is all to do with finances.
The borrowing of the next two summers of parachute payments with a £66 million loan, means exactly what you say, we will be left with “not a pot to pee in !”
We really will be back where we were in 2017. The irony being we could again receive money attached to James Maddison.
But that’s about it. Max will probably go, along with Gabriel Sara and possibly Josh Sargent and Andy Omobamidele which will bring in some money but the question then becomes what does that leave us with ? Some promising youngsters? Grant Hanley I hope massively that he will be fit for the start of the next season but that’s not a certainty sadly.
But the truth is that next season or the next the Krull-Hanley-Gibson-McClean-Pukki axis will all have to be replaced. Teemu and probably Timm Krull will all go this summer, we have Angus Gunn (hopefully) but I still think Idah and Sargent have along way to go to say they can replace Teemu.
I have used that quote from Albert Einstein myself on here Gary, to try to get the club to realise that the self-funding course that they are taking is 1) Unworkable (you don’t borrow 2 years into the future within a self-funding model) 2) Dishonest and 3) Ultimately kills ambition (See below)
If you think about it why are so many supporters understandably totally against promotion to the EPL ? The past two experiences is why. 20-21 points in each of two seasons. It is deeply embarrassing.
But that is why Carrow Road resembles The Highbury Library on match days. Poor old Smudger Smith didn’t get it. Being hammered at home by West Ham every season makes you realise that the “reward” for promotion is a poison chalice.
I hope, really hope that Michael and Delia now realise that the game is up. It really is time to move on.
David C. says
only just seen your article Gary and an excellent read as usual, but all your concerns can now be laid to rest for the time being as it’s now certain our club will be playing next season in the championship, no p/l promotion, no play off’s the season is done and dusted. The future for Norwich is dire I’m afraid, no money for a major rebuild and I have my long held view no major involvement from Attanasio, I think his interest has wained considerably, god knows where this club is headed for because nobody else does.
Mikey B says
Brentford and Brighton are both cited as examples of how we could be. COULD be…..
The difference is that both of those clubs are led from the top by people who want to be in the Premier League and not just for the money it puts in the bank. At Norwich everything we do is about increasing the wealth of the club off the field. Players brought in are acquired simply because of their resale value. When did we last buy a seasoned professional who could add to the team today, not next season? Can you imagine getting a player like Martin Peters into the club today? Of course not – there’s no resale. Instead let’s go for Tjolis, Rashica, Nunez and Sara in the hope that we can make money on them as soon as they are worth more than we paid for them. Never mind that they are not good enough.
Off the pitch the investment is in bricks and mortar at Colney, again increasing the assets of the limited company that is NCFC Limited. Don’t even get me started on that Soccerbot! Remember that? £250,000! Wonder when it was last used? Wonder if it was ever used?
What’s needed is a mind reset. But while Delia swings between being terrified of the bank knocking at the door again and asking for its money and protecting the inheritance she promised Young Tom, we are going nowhere.