December 10 2013 Latest news:
Friday, October 11, 2013
As the Canaries’ revival passes another landmark, MICHAEL BAILEY assesses how things have come full circle at Carrow Road
The fact that this summer’s recruitment had more than a handful of fans dreaming of Norwich City making it to a second European campaign in their history spoke volumes. It owed much to a staggering £24m outlay over July and August – almost as much as City forked out on player recruitment during their previous two Premier League campaigns. And given it is two decades since City were taking on – and occasionally beating – Europe’s finest, the idea carries a warm glow.
But in reality it’s the circumstances around and either side of those six games in Europe that should be stood up against where City and their supporters currently find themselves.
After all, City made it up to third in the inaugural Premier League, having only ever partially recovered from previous – and almost seemingly cyclical – financial crisis.
And after that European run? A lack of ambition at what continued to be, and act like, a selling club saw Mike Walker walk out for Everton.
Fewer than 18 months later, the prevailing attitude left City contemplating top-flight relegation and soon after, a fire sale of any playing talent that carried value – which was pretty much Jon Newsome and Ashley Ward – all to stave off the administrators.
Of course, the league position recovered come 2004 as City returned to the top table. But the finances remained patched up on a sick-bed until the symptoms became so bad, the club sunk into a coma come 2009.
What has happened since then is the kind of healing – accompanied by a personality transplant – that should leave anyone sat at The Valley on May 3, 2009 questioning where the club now looking back at them originated.
It’s a point that sometimes gets under-played but for a club of the Canaries’ history and stature, to have come through three divisions and having now spent more than two seasons in the Premier League – and yet still not see a player leave against the club’s will – is an incredible achievement.
Maybe the departure of a certain manager and his backroom staff blots that particular copybook, but there’s a fair argument things had run their course on that front anyway.
However, it’s hard to think of many former City boardrooms that would have been able to fend off the advances of a top-flight title challenger with a globally iconic manager, as they circled to swoop for one of City’s brightest talents.
One currently in the England set-up, in a World Cup year.
Yet there remains a healthy realism from current chairman Alan Bowkett and chief executive David McNally – effectively City’s life-saving surgeons.
No grand gestures of rebuilding Carrow Road at what could easily be the expense of top-flight status.
Instead the arrival of a debt-free Norwich City Football Club – just four years after the Canaries owed £23m here, there and everywhere.
Should the worst case scenario – or Plan Z according to McNally and Bowkett – come true, bouncing back from the Championship at the first time of asking becomes far easier without a mountain of creditors waiting outside the building.
That is the real legacy, helped by Delia Smith and Michaels Wynn Jones and Foulger sticking it out when things got critical.
Bar a few clubs, no one can guarantee Premier League status. What happens to City from here on in is the kind of mystery we all love watching unravel.
But don’t let it be lost on you – City are not only back from the dead, they’re now in their rudest health.