When the window slammed shut

This piece was published in the matchday programme for the game against Middlesbrough on 21 January 2021. The Norwich City programme is really great and it is worth subscribing imho. You can do that here.

Before the January transfer window opened, most Norwich fans would have expressed a proper bout of nerves. Who’d still be here when the month was out? Are all those Arsenal fans confidently predicting Emi Buendia would soon be a goonar onto something, or just annoying? Could we find anyone to cover the patches left by injuries and COVID tests?

Yet here we are — at the time of writing! — and Emi and Todd are still aboard the good ship HMS promotion party, and we’ve even strengthened the squad with a smashing signing. You can’t pay for a result like that.

It would be a little silly to say that this window is reminiscent of the period when Darren Huckerby arrived, but this window is reminiscent of the period when Darren Huckerby arrived. The hope, excitement, and surge in belief at just keeping Buenia and Cantwell in their spots is exactly how I felt when Hucks emerged from the Tunnel arm-in-arm with Delia to be presented to the crowd. Excitement that we’ll see these players do what they’ve been doing, but also excitement at what else it means: this is a well-run club, with a plan to go places, and some smart people in charge who are making it happen.

Emi and Todd are staying because they’re committed to the promotion charge. They want to go up with Norwich of course, but the imminent prospect of being back in the Premier League won’t hurt.

As well as keeping these two stars, we’ve already added Dimitris Giannoulis from POAK. In the immortal words of Jarvis Cocker / Ffion Thomas, “He came from Greece, he had a thirst for Norwich.” If you listened to the recent excellent “All in Yellow” podcast interest with ‘Player Liaison Officer” Phil Lythgoe, Giannoulis’ first taste of Norfolk was on the long drive from the airport after being collected. I’d have gone for a stop at the Little Chef off the A11 near Mildenhall myself.

Everyone loves a transfer. The excited rumours in advance, now given rocket fuel by hints and sightings and my-brother’s-best-mate’s-aunt-works-at-the-club insight. The day of the announcement still features the obligatory awkward photo of the player holding aloft a club scarf as if to provide proof the move is happening. But nowadays, signing day is a major media operation. Giannoulis’ arrival even featured the club’s Twitter name being spelt out in the Greek alphabet as a not-so-subtle hint of the imminent announcement.

Of course, for every exciting transfer window, we have the duds. I count myself amongst the Norwich fans who were really looking forward to what Ricky van Wolfswinkel could do. Until I saw him play in a friendly in Portland, USA. Even for a friendly, it was an anonymous outing that boded ill. Who can forget the procession of here-today-gone-tomorrow loan signings made by during the popular Glenn Roeder era. “I love loan players, for those that don’t, bad luck” he said, in his endearing way.

My formative experiences of Norwich transfers were all outgoings. I still harbour some ill-will towards Tim Sherwood for his digs at little Norwich on his way out. The tumult over Robert Chase’s tenure as chairman was mainly caused by the fire sale of our European tour team.

There have been times when we simply had no choice but to sell. I interviewed Ed Balls for the Along Come Norwich fanzine 18 months ago and he recounted the fear that an injury to James Maddison could derail his transfer to Leicester and with it, cause carnage in the city accounts. Even with the distance of time Ed had a pained look, thinking back on the long hours waiting to find out how bad Madders’ injury on that final day of the season was.

We still sell players of course but now there’s a plan the fans can get behind the feeling towards the club and the players in question are totally different. If it weren’t for covid, you felt like Jamal Lewis and Ben Godfrey would have attracted well-wishers to wave them off as they left the ground for Newcastle and Everton such was the goodwill.

And that brings us back to the plan: not every signing works out perfectly, but every signing is being judged against long-term ambitions for a club that must be self-funding to do well, playing good football. Even where the signing doesn’t work, and even when we let players go, it’s clear how the move fits into the bigger plan. We can see what the club are trying to do. This January window — at the time of writing! — has left me excited for the promotion push, and optimistic about the kind of operation we’re running. No amount of inane tweeting from Arsenal fans can take that away.

--

--