It’s that time of year. Agents are girding their loins in preparation for the January window where they will do their best to rid clubs of their up-and-coming players, their underdeveloped talent and those ready to make the step up, so they can line their pockets.
Already City have been linked with Reading’s 18-year-old striker Caylan Vickers – rumoured to be the next Jude Bellingham – but they face competition from both Real Madrid and Arsenal, both of which are clearly more lucrative options. He may or may not be on Ben Knapper’s radar of potential signings, but with those other options on the table, fair dos if he can pull that one off!
But Vickers is just the start. Over the next few weeks and until February 1, both in and outs aplenty will be mentioned, and many of City’s promising Under-21s could be in the mix.
Will be see Abu Kamara and Jonathan Rowe offered new deals to enhance their value to the club, or will their agents delay possible deals hoping for a bigger club to make City an offer that’s too good to refuse?
Mark Attanasio, Knapper and David Wagner are all saying the club doesn’t need to sell (how many times have we heard that before) but that statement will soon be tested when the super-rich Premier League clubs come calling.
He who wags the tail is now the player, his family, his agent or a combination of all three, and it goes without saying that the backdoor enquiries will already be in progress.
City are not whiter than white either. Stuart Webber did plenty of deals to build up numbers in the academy but sadly not too many went on to make first-team appearances. Some went out on loan never to return – so we have to hope that Knapper ends up with a better record in these types of dealings. Only time will tell.
Tom Dickson-Peters was a perfect example. He was supposed to be the next big thing, outdoing Adam Idah at academy level, but went out on loan to Gillingham and Grimsby for experience and never got game time or showed his potential. Recently he was released by City and there have been several who have fared similarly.
Occasionally though, there is life after Norwich for those released. Sonny Carey, for example, was released to King’s Lynn in 2019, playing 63 games and scoring eight goals, before moving to Blackpool in 2021, where he has now played 69 games and scored seven goals.
Others to quite recently depart and make a name for themselves are Cameron McGeehan (Colchester), Cameron Norman (MK Dons), Connor McGrandles (Charlton), Matthew Dennis (MK Dons), Reece McAlear (Tranmere), Gassam Ahadme (Ipswich) and many more possibly released too early in their career.
Sometimes it was a case of making room for new recruitment and some were the early developers who initially showed promise, then plateaued, and then kick-started once they had moved. It happens.
At first-team level, those sold have produced a mixed bag:
- James Maddison has gone from strength to strength and City benefitted from a sell-on clause when he moved from Leicester to Spurs.
- Emi Buendia looked great in a City team, struggled initially at Villa but started to really kick on when he picked up an ACL injury. We are yet to benefit from his sell-on clause.
- Ben Godfrey, again, looked good at City and did well in his early days at Everton. Another sell-on clause that City may benefit from.
- Jamal Lewis was very good at City, not so good at Newcastle, and now on loan at Watford. He too had a sell-on clause.
- Todd Cantwell showed plenty of promise at City but went off the rails towards the end and left for very little. But there is a sell-on clause.
I’m not a huge fan of these clauses as they can be manipulated by the selling and buying club. Maddison, for example, was valued at £60million plus but was sold for £45million, and Godfrey looks likely to move this January for less than Everton paid for him.
While Buendia is currently out injured, he will either be in Emery’s plans when he’s fit or sold to get his wages off the books, and with Lewis plying his trade on loan at Watford, in reality, neither of their sell-on clauses will have a great impact on City’s finances.
Cantwell may produce a sell-on fee in the future but he is more suited to a less physical league than the Premier League, so could have a long career in Scotland with more cups and titles.
So far, Rowe is the latest off a depleted conveyor belt of talent and is causing clubs to sit up and take notice with Wolves, West Ham, Crystal Place and Villa all mentioned. He (and the club) will try and avoid the position that Cantwell and Max Aarons found themselves in with both possibly over-staying at City, whether through loyalty or enjoying being a big fish in a small pond.
Did City hold on to both too long when big offers came in and were rejected only to then sell at vastly lower figures?
Andrew Omobamidele could also be in the same boat. Webber said last January that an offer of over £20million was turned down, yet on the last day of the summer transfer window he was sold for £12m plus a sell-on clause.
Again I see no big money coming back to us at a later date. With Aarons being sold to Premier League Bournemouth (for £7.5million with a sell on clause), I see no big money coming at a later date for him either.
But back to Rowe … we are now hearing that Wolves offered £15m plus add-ons in the summer and have already renewed that offer for January, albeit it’s been turned down. There are reportedly other interested clubs who are preparing higher offers, which will also be turned down.
But stick or twist? Just like with Aarons – do you take the best offer out there or risk keeping him for the here and now and getting less at a later date? Tricky one.
Should City offer him an increased salary and a new contract with a clause in it that says if any club meets a set fee then he can go?
There is much for Ben Knapper to consider, especially as there are so many other players out of contract in June.
His biggest decision, of course, will be on the head coach position. Once that’s been settled then either Wagner, or whoever else, can have a say in who stays and goes. This is crucial as it affects everything else to do with the club’s recruitment and progress.
Will we see a new man in place before the window opens? Or will the club plough on regardless into a transfer recruitment knowing those coming in might not be the choice of who takes the hot seat?
Or could we see Knapper recruit players for a style he wants to implement and when the management change happens he recruits a head coach that suits the players and the style that the club wants to implement?
Such is life being a Norwich City supporter and would you want it any other way? That would just be predictable and boring, right?
Anyway, let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and let’s hope City have a prosperous New Year with all the outstanding issues on shareholdings resolved so the club can take big steps forward, whether that’s a place in the playoffs or to stabilise ahead of a promotion push next season.
Next up is a resurgent Huddersfield under Darren Moore. Another three points, please.