Opinion: Time to move on from a coupling with no winners as Norwich City and Ricky van Wolfswinkel part

Ricky van Wolfswinkel has opted to try his luck in France with St Etienne after a tough debut campaign for Norwich City. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd Ricky van Wolfswinkel has opted to try his luck in France with St Etienne after a tough debut campaign for Norwich City. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Wednesday, August 6, 2014
12:27 PM

Ricky van Wolfswinkel was the poster boy for Norwich City’s ills during an aggressively expansionist phase which ultimately cost them their Premier League status.

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"To apportion the majority of any blame in the 25-year-old’s direction would be a distortion of the truth, but equally (Ricky) van Wolfswinkel appeared incapable of shaping his own destiny,"

Paddy Davitt

Recruiting the Dutch international with the proven goalscoring pedigree in Holland and Portugal was a visible symbol City had endured the growing pains and were now setting course for more than mere survival.

That grand project imploded somewhere between the drawing board and the football pitch amidst a diet of anaemic football, a paucity of goals and a general sense they had lost their way.

To apportion the majority of any blame in the 25-year-old’s direction would be a distortion of the truth, but equally van Wolfswinkel appeared incapable of shaping his own destiny, taking control of his fate and proving he had the weaponry to survive in the far more competitive surroundings of the English Premier League.

That dexterous, guided header on the opening day of his league debut which salvaged a point against a slick Everton will now be remembered as an elusive tease; the highpoint of his torturous flirtation with Norwich that looks to have ended with a season-long loan move to France, which even if it does not become a permanent St Etienne switch, would surely be stopover to another career posting on the continent.

Van Wolfswinkel’s instinctive, swivelling header beyond a top operator in Tim Howard bore all the hallmarks of a deadly predator. What fans got was a man bereft of confidence and hampered by a foot injury during those early defining months which left him incapable of leaving an indelible mark on English football.

The Dutchman and his camp would point to mitigating factors. Van Wolfswinkel’s brand of football seemed totally alien to Chris Hughton’s methodology. In Portuguese football he profited from clever, technically proficient midfield artistry which embellished his own cunning and willingness to bait the last defender to exploit space in behind. Such fertile conditions were never likely in a Norwich set-up where Hughton favoured discipline above dash, where the priority was defensive shape and the premise City would have to forage without the ball for prolonged spells. When they got it, they advanced incrementally, limiting the space and the speed with which van Wolfswinkel carved out his reputation. Debates on whether he needed a second striker missed the contradiction at the heart of such a strained relationship. City’s style under Hughton clashed with van Wolfswinkel’s own personality on the pitch and tinkering with the number of personnel at the top end of the field was akin to shuffling chairs on the Titanic.

By the time Neil Adams had assumed control for the fraught run-in, van Wolfswinkel was a shell of the player who plundered in Lisbon; that phantom pass at Craven Cottage in Adams’ first outing symptomatic of a muddled, confused footballer ill at ease in his surroundings.

Separation may be the best course right now for both parties. Norwich and Adams need greater reliability in the arduous terrain of the Championship. Lewis Grabban has already shown the attributes to suggest he will prove far more effective. Van Wolfswinkel for his part needs to re-ignite a career which, lest we forget, carried him to the threshold of Holland’s World Cup squad this summer.

That he failed to make the same journey as Leroy Fer to Brazil was just another sad side effect of a desperate episode for both parties.

47 comments

  • I just can't help thinking, that after watching the televised matches, that dear old RVW, was in fact deliberately missing shots! His phantom pass in my opinion was a deliberate act of sabotage. It might seem a little cynical, but could he ( RVW ) been having a sly bet on the side against Norwich winning?

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    Q

    Friday, August 8, 2014

  • Nobody Special brew. Just few local sides in the Lowestoft area. Was captain before taking over Management (and complete running of the club) when our current manager was appointed Lowestoft Youth manager. Took us from Division 3 sloggers to division 1 main stays, mixing it with teams containing mainly semi pro players + 2 cup finals (Inc a few appearances at Carrow Road). Been out the game a few years now but I didnt have the honour of being not only the youngest manager of a football club in England but also the youngster owner of a football club in the country. Certainly one of only a few to run it top to bottom totally on my own as well. Loved that club almost as much as NCFC an cant believe how a little pub team transformed so much over a 8 year period. Had to give it up though when business wise picked up and my little boy was born. Dont miss the stress but miss the football side hugely. Can only image how experienced professional managers feel when they are out of the game so long and count on it to provide for their familes. Enough of my idle waffle anyway! Ill talk myself into accepting a job which I really cant be doing right now, especially with the little (if anything at all) money I can make out of it at my level.

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    Mattias333

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

  • Have you tried `The Crab Fragmentation Method`, Mattias? Which team(s) did you manage? I`m sure you once revealed that you are of but 28 Summers. Were you a "Child Prodigy" manager??

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    Mad Brewer

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

  • Sorry Brew, Archie wont let me post a response to your calderwood posts. grr! BTW - my managing days are well and truly over I believe! Achieved more than Glenn roeder ever did and can do without the stress ;)

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    Mattias333

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

  • Brew, were you sure it was Calderwood? Easy to establish because no matter the occasion, he can be seen wearing his awful blue Nike trainers! BTW Brew - My full on managing days are over. I won more competitions than Glenn Roeder (and likely more prestigious ones as well!), so that will do me ;)

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    Mattias333

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

  • Gruff; Grant got 15 goals the Lambo season. I remember it well. By scoring that last goal, he spoiled my bookie-bet of 14!! I always had faith in him, despite all the "he oont be good enough fer the Championship\Premiership" stuff.

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    Mad Brewer

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

  • So admiral F who's at fault for all the early mid season games when RVW was off with his poorly foot. Couldn't be Hoots could it or do you want to slate another player.

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    wivenhoebudgie

    Thursday, August 7, 2014

  • Another tough year ahead for Canary fans, the football in the Championship is as tough as the Premiership and weight of the expectant fans will weigh heavy in the boardroom, on the training ground and on the pitch.

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    KeithS

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Hughton's only tactic was to "hold the line lads.." It was much like watching Custer's Last Stand every week as it goes. Mattias for manager if it all goes wrong with Neil, I'm up for that. I said that RVW was too light in the Portuguese League an' that Chris was useless from that first tour to Germany and his subsequent ill treatment and ruination of Grant 14 goals unlucky not to have gone to the Euro's Holt.. Then he started on Hoolahoop. Then the rest. We allhave our opinions.

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    Gruff

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Can't help thinking Hoop588 will now give it his all instead of thinking what might have been had he stayed at Celtic for those glory days of the Champions League ............ c'mon Gary, you're a fine player, make yourself a hero for NCFC

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    nevermindthedanger

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Btw, Algarve. St. Etienne today took on Colin Calderwood as specialist striker coach, chief motivator and cheer leader. Fact. Plus he`ll make the tea.

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    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Apart from the veracity of the Hooper thing, I agree 110% (!) with Algarve. I love Robin Hood`s irony about the typically prolix tosh from Divot. Nice one, Robin.

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    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • I've not much sympathy for RVW, I mean what's the point of a striker who can only score in one certain style of play. He basically was the one who sent us down last year as it was like playing with 10 men every game. Water under the bridge now of course...

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    Admiral F

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Tried to find anything to back up Algarve's suspicion that Hooper could be on way next week but nothing found on web. On BBC SPORT however an item headed Robbie Savage's 11 point guide on tricks to engineer a transfer caught my eye. Well worth a look if you want confirmation of why modern footballers are held in such low esteem. And to think Savage is now a BBC pundit. Then again, the Beeb used to employ David Mellor.

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    Lincs Canary

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • This is how an article should be written. Paddy obviously enjoying a 'great mind' moment, as I have to agree entirely with his well-considered opinion. I now hope that the last season (and a half) can soon become a distant memory and that both NCFC and RVW can have a much more productive season, albeit separately.

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    Robin Hood

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Chris Hughton was awful on many fronts as Norwich manager, Appallingly negative and defensive. Tactically inept and rigid, and incapable of making telling positive substitutions when he was the only person in the ground unable to see the obvious. His greatest failing in my mind was firstly to drive a totally frustrated Grant Holt out of the door, and then to sign 2 top strikers, neither of whom was suited to the lone striker role, and play exactly the same tactics that caused Holt to leave in very public disgust. I believe that both RVW and Hooper would have flourished under Adams, had the board had the necessary courage at Christmas. I feel for RVW, and hope he flourishes in France. Likewise, if as I suspect Hooper goes next week, Hughtons shame and failure will be there for all to see........By the way, I havent seen any clubs queueing up for Hughton and Calderwood to be their saviours!!

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    Algarve Canary

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Not joining any chorus that slates RVW. True he did not help his cause much after being in my view mis-sold the position at the club by CH. But this was followed by a disheartening processiion of 'giraffe' balls from the back which was too often the diet of 'service' for both RVW and Hooper last season. Put that right as we cannot recruit 8ft strikers!

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    mardler

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • You really should be manager, Matt. Virtually, you are! ;-)

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    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • In this case, the buy out clause is bit like an auctioneer putting a reserve price on a colander of melting ice. Divot has excelled himself with this batch of BS. He`ll never improve.

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    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Going, going, gone to the highest bidder!

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    borderman

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Mr Roberts' comments on the BBC or NewsNow are probably the best on this situation. If you know what I mean. ..

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    el dingo

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Bassong? Becchio? Fox? Pilkington? Fer? Redmond? ,

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    Pondlife

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Get the feeling Neil will pick: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Olsson, Johnson, Surman, Redmond, Hoolahan, Grabban, Lafferty like against Celta Vigo based on whats available this weekend with Howson injured etc. Get feeling an excuse like, lack of match fitness will be used for why Fer isnt included. Really cant decide how i'd personally line us up. Ruddy, Olsson, Martin, Turner, Bennett would be my back 5. Fer, Johnson, Redmond, Hoolahan, Grabban and Lafferty to make up the other 6 possibly. Really cant decide on a xi or system to use that would cause the most trouble. Different to last season as im no longer thinking of ways to stop the opposition, an instead thinking of ways to hurt them.

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    Mattias333

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Mattias what was the name of the player Celtic bought to replace Gary Hooper. I remember he came from wolves , so that sets a level for the player. OH what i am saying is GH was overpriced for an ex Scunthorpe Championship youngster,, who went on to score loads in a one horse league playing for the thoroughbred against carthorses.

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    wivenhoebudgie

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • I just see Hooper taking over from RVW. Grabban and Lafferty certainly got a majority of the pre-season minutes. Similar to RVW, in that hes a poacher-esq striker, who needs changes in the box. He certainly fell out of favour when Adams took over last season and things have not change since. In the right setup he will score goals, especially at this level. Just hope thats with us. Im still no closer to deciding my personal xi for NCFC this weekend or what I think Adams will select!

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    Mattias333

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Surrey and Colin good stuff.

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    el dingo

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Mattias - it does seem that Hooper's being set in a weird position for the upcoming season. The only way I see him getting a solid look through is by Grabban getting injured. Hooper seems to need a bigger striker to play off of to maximize his strengths which are typically goal poaching or setting up the odd assistr. The dilemma is that when he comes on it will likely be for Lafferty who may wear himself out in the first 60-70 minutes of the game. Then we have two strikers in Grabban and Hooper who will have to create chances for each other, yet both are more suited for taking the chances than linking up. This is why I feel that Adam's is making a mistake by rating Loza over Becchio. Becchio can take some of the pressure off the other striker he is paired with by winning balls and using strength to create a more combative front line It just seems a more practical decision to keep Becchio as a replacement for Lafferty than Loza if we are going to play two up front the whole game. Then, if we want to sub both strikers during the game, we have two bigger strikers and two poachers to choose from. Loza can be kept on the roster in case of emergency - barring we don't bring in any more strikers.

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    NorthCarolinaCanary

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • It's like reading a report from my old geography teacher.

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    el dingo

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Two forms of management - 1) you mould players into your system of play and those who cannot adapt lose out - we are seeing this at Man Utd now. 2) you sign players who specific strengths which your system is designed to make full use of. Seems to me CH bought RVW but did not take account of the system he wanted him to play to. He couldn't adapt but then did any NCFC strikers adapt last year? I don't think they knew what they were being asked to adapt to. I hope RVW rediscovers his goal-scoring prowess and is brave enough to give the PL another shot with NCFC next year. That would show real character. But NCFC must then play to the strengths he hopefully rediscovers and further develops during the year ahead.

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    Surrey Canary

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Couldn't agree more Colin!

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    Mattias333

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • True that RVW would only thrive with someone near him. To stick him up top isolated, the same as Holt and Jackson (home v Newcastle) were at times in 201213, would never work. Oddly, Hughton tended to play Hooper and RVW together in the games where we'd be unlikely to get the ball to them (Everton away for instance), rather than home games where we'd have the lion's share. Still, that's all in the past. I just feel sorry for RVW that he will always pop-up as a flop signing, not just when Norwich are mentioned but the Premier League in general. Unlike a Rebrov, a Grabbit or a Boogers, it wasn't so much his fault.

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    Colin

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Unless we find a way to create consistent chances in the box, I fear Hooper will be the new player fans pick on this season. People have already started on him looking like hes a tad over weight. Failure to hit the ground running and I bet before long the usual suspects will be taking pops at him.

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    Mattias333

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • DJ_FRAMBOISE

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Archie has just blocked my comments on the RVW saga, and for once I think he's probably right.

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    cutty

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • His failings at Norwich have less to do with his ability (which I think is considerable) and more to do with the club. He couldn't have picked a worse time to come, and I'm sure any other season he would have done OK, or even better. City had a horror season and he had little to do with that. CH is to blame, and possibly the failure to act to get rid of him sooner.

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    MikelSA

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Re no outstanding candidate Matt, the point has been made before that NA was close by all season. Then post season he was the outstandinding candidate pitted against the likes of Zola etc. After the youth cup win Delia said "he is our best manager." That said I admit to being late in my conversion to the Hoots out brigade, somehow believing that our lapses away would be solved and the home form remain strong(ish). Come January and as results went awry the dithering was inexplicable. Now we wait to see if Hughtons remaining players, under new guidance, can deliver in the less refined arenas of the Chump. In many ways we have had a wasted season because the challenge for NA is the same as for Hughton, i.e. how to combine the legacy of Lambo's spirit with the bought in quality. For the reasons stated in Paddy's well reasoned article RVW will not be here to help provide the answer.

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    Lincs Canary

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • It is the best way for everyone. We never saw what he could do and he had the misfortune to be here when the management and coaching team seemed to be lost at sea. I want to concentrate on what is happening next rather than reliving the pain of the last two seasons. The best outcome is that he settles in to a team set up to use his talents and if we get out of it with a wash in financial terms, I would consider it a result.

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    Swiss Canary

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Take your point chap but if you look at any player from that league or the spanish leagues, they have buyout clauses in all their contracts and even the most average ones has silly fee's as a buyout. Not so much an indication of what hes worth. Ive never understood why those league do it but they do. It be like the equivalent of Aaron Wilbrahams being 5.75 million if he was still here, totally unrealistic.

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    Mattias333

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • .......... and just to think back in the summer of 2013 we thought we were getting RvW at a knockdown price cos Sporting were in desperate need to sell to pay their own wages .......... £18.7 mill was his actual buy out clause fee .......... shudders!

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    nevermindthedanger

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Whilst there excuses for RVW s failure last season he can't escape entirely without blame. Basically his level of performance was poor in both technical and practical terms, his presence on the pitch was weak and spineless and generally he bottled the whole situation big time.

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    VictorM

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Agree Colin. After that 10 games without losing streak we went on a total snowball but i'll be fair. As long as I pointed out how it was wrong and wasnt going to change, I always said i'd give hughton the summer should he keep us up to see how we strengthen. To be fair Many (even non NCFC related) media sources praised NCFC as doing the best business that summer and things looked positive. However it all quickly changed when we saw the football still wasnt working and action should have been taken far earlier than it was. Personally i'd have removed him after the Man City game. I know many sides were getting thumped by City but it was just another away day total no show. We saw far too many games where the side no showed. Each to their own though and understand others wanted him gone sooner and some later etc. See the clubs issue though regarding no ideal candidates being out there and there still wasnt by end of the season as nobody was a standout candidate. Total shambles of a season and one we need out of our system ASAP.

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    Mattias333

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Oops - forgot to mention that the Assistant Manager and Chief Scout who talked to me about Van W were from another Premier League Club

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    ChrisB

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Couldn't agree more with Colin and argued for change at end of 201213 season. We were poor from December 2012 onwards. Amazing how many "experts" thought Hughton did well for 11th and should have been given another chance! With regards Van Wolfswinkel I met the assistant manager and Chief overseas "scout2 whilst on holiday in June 2013. They had watched Van W play 7 times and said he was agood player - as long as he had another payer close by - which was why they hadn't pursued him. Surely we should have known that too !!

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    ChrisB

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Sanity at last prevails with this well written article. Explodes any perceived need to ask the adinine question of whether RvW should be lumbered with the unwarranted title of worst ever signing.

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    guella

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Owersby

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • There was nothing wrong with spending £30m to try to move to a safe mid-table finish rather than a relegation battle. The mistake was made in May 2013, by not getting rid of Hughton after a season where he'd obviously shown his failings. Ok, we won our last two games that gave us a flattering league position, but we only won those because the pressure was off (for us and our opponents) and the form from Jan 2013 to April 2013 was dire.

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    Colin

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

  • Silly thing is, he would have made that Dutch squad had he never move to NCFC. He was still kept involved for most the season before injury changed that, despite only scoring the elusive 1 goal. The way the world cup went for Holland he likely wouldn't have featured to heavily anyway but still, thats got to be his goal now. Knuckle down in France and get back to scoring. I just hope his 'helpful' agent has done his homework and ensured the french side play a style that suits his abilities, rather than focusing on which club will earn him (and his client) the most money.

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    Mattias333

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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