Michael Bailey: Two down - but there are many at Norwich City still to go following the positive contract news from Martin Olsson and Jacob Murphy
PUBLISHED: 22:16 02 December 2016 | UPDATED: 22:17 02 December 2016
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Surprises have been in pretty short supply in recent weeks at Norwich City - and when they have popped up, they've tended to be more towards the negative end of the spectrum.
But arguably the one that broke on Monday night was top of the list in terms of shock value – and of course, being a positive story.
It was back in mid-October that I asked Alex Neil what his hopes were for signing Martin Olsson beyond the summer 2017 expiry of his original and then-current City contract.
“Martin Olsson doesn’t need to prove himself to me,” smiled City boss Neil – it feels like a while since we saw him do that regularly.
“I have been trying to sign him. Get him to sign the contract and we’ll all be happy. We want to keep Martin. In my opinion, I don’t think you will find a better left-back in the Championship than him, for me.”
With rumours of other interested parties and Olsson’s desire to play at a higher level than the Championship – a desire perhaps best illustrated by his representatives’ repeated attempts to move the Swedish international on – it seemed Neil was just putting a brave face on a departure he would have to deal with sooner or later.
Of course, the world of football means that Olsson’s sparkling new 18-month contract may not alter that at all, but merely protect the club from losing out against its will.
The length of the deal is certainly interesting, given the summer of 2018 looks like the cut-off for any hopes of a possible City return to the Premier League in its current guise. From then on, the parachute payments will be over and judging by last week’s AGM, the wage bill and costs at the club will need some serious curtailing.
Still, the fact 28-year-old Olsson has committed for a bit longer should not be cynically disregarded – especially given the contract situation currently facing chief executive Jez Moxey. Even with Jacob Murphy penning a much longer deal to properly attach his short-term future to his home-town club, by my records there are still 18 professionals due out of contract come the summer.
There will be options and all sorts to untangle, but the raw list includes John Ruddy, Steven Whittaker, Sebastien Bassong, Youssouf Mulumbu, Kyle Lafferty and Ryan Bennett – all of whom either started or came on at Pride Park on Saturday. Josh Murphy, Louis Thompson, Harry Toffolo and Declan Rudd are in there too. For the record, Michael Turner, Carlton Morris, Ray Grant, Conor McGrandles, Ben Killip, Ebou Adams, Jamie Eaton-Collins and Michee Efete complete a list that’s tricky to compile.
While many of the issues that have played out this season have been quite quick to arrive – if seemingly slow to deal with – the club’s current contract situation is arguably the toughest one to rectify.
And while the recruitment decisions of the last few windows have left some fans questioning the balance of the squad and the quality available, its real legacy is the work now needed to ensure City don’t haemorrhage quality or experience too quickly.
If they do then that, tied into the slumping form on the pitch, a wage bill that wouldn’t last beyond parachute payments and a sizeable hole in the club’s cash reserves, has the potential to wipe out all the good work of the past six years.
It really is that serious and if anyone in the corridors of power at Carrow Road doesn’t get that, then the big, painful surprises won’t stop heading their way.
• JUST SAYING: I’ve tried to keep the Strictly-Ed- Come-Balls-Dancing mentions to a minimum on here in recent weeks – primarily because there is no practical reason why the City chairman’s cavorting should affect the fortunes of the club he loves. I can assure you, it’s not been hard.
And yet, since Ed stepped on to the dance floor in anger for the first time, City have picked up seven points from nine games.
In reality, as Ed’s dances got better, City’s performances got worse. And while there still seems little logic in all that, I think we should all hope for the fact that now Balls’ time is free (mostly) from dance training, City’s form will miraculously return to where it was in September.