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?