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Friday, May 4, 2012
Watching Southampton cruise into the Premier League at the weekend brought back fond memories of 12 months ago this week, when the Canaries were enjoying the same momentous voyage.
Ironically, City did their trick at Saints’ big rivals, Portsmouth; Southampton had it rather easier, facing a Coventry side which had already handed in its membership card for the Championship and now faces a very uncertain future in League One.
Coventry’s involvement last weekend was interesting in that it allowed me to indulge in one of my favourite hobbies: the ‘where are they now’ hunt.
Chatting recently to a former Norwich City player about Adam Drury’s longevity at Carrow Road, the expression “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side” came up. Drury could have left Carrow Road on more than one occasion, but chose to stay and remain one of the few current footballers whose loyalty, in terms of years, stretches beyond the decade mark.
For others, loyalty is debatable – which is where Coventry came in. Mention the name and I can’t help but think of Sammy Clingan. The midfielder was a quality player, but headed for Coventry when Norwich slipped out of League One, back in 2009.
Clingan wanted to play at a higher level and felt Coventry was the club to take him there – he was reminded that his plan didn’t quite work out on the final day of last season, when the Sky Blues visited Carrow Road. The champagne was on ice awaiting the Canaries’ big promotion party and throughout 90 minutes of football that preceded the party, Norwich fans taunted Clingan with the song “Oh Sammy Clingan, it could have been you”.
This isn’t meant to taunt Clingan; I have never hidden my admiration for him as a player. But he typifies the “grass isn’t greener” view.
‘Where are they?’ sessions need a date to work on, so I went for three years ago today – May 3, 2009 – when City lost at Charlton and tearfully slipped out of the Championship.
You have to look long and hard to find a Norwich City player who was involved that day and went on to bigger and better things.
Goalkeeper David Marshall has fared as well as anyone and could be joining City in the top flight next season, if Cardiff can negotiate their way through the Championship play-off lottery.
Marshall’s departure was conducted with undue haste: nine days after appearing at Charlton, Marshall was a Cardiff player. Footballers have a right to choose who they play for – but there was no doubt whatsoever that Marshall didn’t want to play for Norwich.
Loyalty wasn’t an issue – although he would perhaps argue that after two and a half years (including six months on loan) he hadn’t been here enough to establish the sort of bond that instigates an act of loyalty.
The third big name that springs to mind is Lee Croft: no sooner had Croft picked up his Player of the Season trophy than he was off. He refused a new contract and joined Derby County in June. He’s now on loan at St Johnstone.
Manager Bryan Gunn had lost Clingan, Marshall and Croft in quick succession – team building plans would have been much easier with them.
Interesting to see the other names in the squad – Jon Otsemobor, Gary Doherty, Adrian Leijer, Jason Shackell, Korey Smith, Darel Russell, Simon Lappin, Alan Lee, David Mooney and subs Cody McDonald – now at Coventry with Clingan – Alan Gow, Stuart Nelson, David Carney and Jamie Cureton.
Only Lappin and Smith – on loan at Barnsley – remain City players.
Otsemobor is in League One with Sheffield Wednesday, Doherty on loan at League One Wycombe from League One champions Charlton; Leijer captain of Melbourne Victory in Australia; Shackell doing well as a regular at Derby. Russell is on loan at Charlton, Lee at League One promotion hopefuls Huddersfield and Mooney with Orient. Gow’s silky skills are lighting up St James Park – the Exeter one – with Cureton, while Nelson is at Notts County. Carney is playing in Spain and is the only one of the departed who actually played Premier League football, with Blackpool, after leaving Carrow Road.
Some left because City had been relegated, some were loan players, some were allowed to leave by Paul Lambert.
Others wanted out. There’s no guarantee any of them would have actually been kept on, but I often wonder if they wonder ... what if?