Michael Bailey: The Murphy twins era came and went in a blur - so now what?
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Another star bites the dust as Norwich City rake in more than £10m from one more of their own, Josh Murphy. MICHAEL BAILEY considers the sale's Canaries implications - on the pitch as well as off it.
It’s becoming a recurring theme – a transfer window accompanied by a seriously big sale.
Last summer it was academy product and FA Youth Cup winner Jacob Murphy headed for a Premier League gig with newly promoted Newcastle United, after an impressive – dare I say surprisingly so – season in the Championship for a club record initial sale of £10m.
In January and with City cut adrift from the promotion race, a fit again Alex Pritchard decided he didn’t want to hang around outside the top-flight any longer.
Raising what is now at least £13m from his sale to Huddersfield Town following their Premier League survival, given the circumstances, set a high bar.
And six months further down the line, it was the turn of Jacob’s twin after a similarly successful Championship campaign.
From difficult games that had some City fans pulling their hair out, to several man of the match performances when Carrow Road revelled in the fact he was one of their own – Josh Murphy was a player to stir passions, be it one way or another.
There is no denying that Norwich City’s financial predicament – and that list of recent talent drain from the club – is unpalatable.
Ignoring the circumstances for a moment, the fact we got to see James Maddison and Pritchard bounce off each other for a couple of weeks despite being on City’s books together for 18 months, will always grate.
Indeed Maddison’s own forthcoming sale for what should blow City’s previous records out of the water, will only add to the sense of missed opportunity and regret.
But no one said it would be easy – and to reiterate, these decisions are not coming down to ambition, caution and philosophy. This is survival, self-determination and – in reality – making a hugely difficult model work in an environment of snipers, traps and make-believe.
The raw figures say City have banked a huge amount of money in the last year and while not all of it has been paid so far, the short answer says that’s true.
Likewise, shedding £75m in parachute payment revenue in two years – when some of your expensive contracts run for at least three – is the fundamental reason we’re all here.
As a self-funded club, City are having to do what they can to raise their own money – for what is a reality that will surely be long put to bed once their Premier League legacy is finally shed in 12 months’ time.
Whether those deeply invested in the club should be putting some of their money back into it at such a difficult time – having effectively settled their accounts as one of the last acts of City’s time in the Premier League – is a point well worth discussing; certainly beyond those having to sift through the current mess and ensure City remain competitive enough in the Championship.
But while Maddison’s sale is the one that can secure City’s stability over the next year or two, Josh Murphy’s move is like an inhaler: taking immediate pressure off the situation and allowing the Canaries to breathe, to make progress on incoming options, perhaps most importantly to reinforce the bar on Maddison’s value and City’s bargaining position when the Premier League comes calling.
On the pitch, the reality may not hit home until the 2018-19 season is well under way.
Given the Canaries were far from prolific last term and their open search for a striker is continuing, losing the scorers of 26 goals is going to make a serious dent.
Others with step up, of course. New signings will adapt – hopefully sooner than later. But the unknown of whether Murphy was going to have a match-winning day or a not-much-winning day might look small fry compared to waiting for a handful of new recruits to look gelled and settled in their new surrounds.
City’s Under-18s won the FA Youth Cup back in 2013, with Chris Hughton as first-team boss and Neil Adams having eyes only for youth football.
Now, Carlton Morris is the sole remaining player on City’s books from that Colney academy squad – and he was a first-year scholar at the time, a year younger than the majority of his team-mates.
There is an end-of-era feel to Josh’s City exit, similar to that of the disappearing top-flight income.
From the anticipation of waiting for the Murphy twins to break into the first team, to them starting a game, to them playing together and then leading the City attack – it all happened in a blur.
Maybe that expectation meant some of it got taken for granted. Neither twin ever had it easy, despite more than a decade in yellow.
Now all City have to show for it is a bit of breathing space – and the hope that proves enough to ride a pretty torrid storm.
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