Get set for an interesting summer at Norwich City
Monday will go down in the Norwich City history books as a day when it all went right. Cardiff's surprise 3-0 home defeat by Middlesbrough paved the way for an amazing night of football at Fratton Park, where City knew a win would secure them a ticket to the Premier League. Simeon Jackson delivered, and the rest, one day, will be history.
'We are one year into the plan. The plan includes three years in the Championship, first year to settle down. We would then be promoted to the Premier League, allowing for immediate relegation and an immediate return. From that point on we would continue to play our football in the Premier League. We might be fortunate enough to beat that plan.' – David McNally, December 1, 2010
It's a perfectly legitimate question given the emotions that Norwich City supporters have been through in recent years.
Desolation, humiliation, resurrection, promotion – and, just for good measure, another promotion.
Monday will go down in the Norwich City history books as a day, another day, when it all went right. Cardiff's surprise 3-0 home defeat by Middlesbrough paved the way for an amazing night of football at Fratton Park, where City knew a win would secure them a ticket to the Premier League. Simeon Jackson delivered, and the rest, one day, will be history. For now, it's just a truly amazing story.
A club, and a supporter base, is enjoying the moment. There are no downsides to promotion, certainly not to the Premier League. But in a few days time, perhaps after City celebrate in front of their own fans on Saturday, it will be time to pose a few inevitable questions, many of them inter-linked.
- 1 Norfolk pub gets booked up every Sunday for its roast dinner platters
- 2 Custom-built six-bedroom home with indoor slide on the market for £900,000
- 3 Staff and customers gutted after fire badly damages popular takeaway
- 4 Is this Norfolk's quirkiest cafe?
- 5 Investigations continue after stabbing in town park
- 6 'Covid has killed us' - 65-year-old Norwich venue The Talk to close
- 7 Norfolk recruiting police officers - but not those with 'offensive' tattoos
- 8 18 sights you will remember from Norfolk in the 1980s
- 9 Pressure waves of Hunga Tonga volcanic eruption felt across East Anglia
- 10 From mustard to postcodes: 15 things Norwich has given the world
If promotion is worth a guaranteed �90m, then how will City's powers divvy up the cash?
The money doesn't land in the bank account all at once – a big chunk is followed by parachute payments in the event of relegation. City chief executive David McNally isn't planning on that happening, which was good to hear.
But just in case you need to know, here are the figures: the bottom team in the Premier League receives �41m. Every extra place above 20th is worth �750,000.
If a club is relegated, it will receive a �17.7m parachute payment in the first year, to do just what it says – soften the landing in the Championship. Year two would be worth �14.7m, years three and four �8m.
Now, when you consider that City's debt is around the �20m mark and the �90m is four times the club's annual revenue, it's easy to see how important promotion is.
The question is, do City clear their debts, and if not, what percentage of them go? What amount of debt repayment can they live with, comfortably?
McNally preceded manager Paul Lambert by just two months a couple of years ago and began his own revolution behind the scenes: there is little doubt that the presence of one brought about the presence of the other. Both have changed Norwich City Football Club. McNally has ensured that every penny spent must be accounted for. He has been portrayed as a Mr Tough Guy, a hard-nosed operator who doesn't rest until he has got what he wants. He has made some staff redundant – not a pleasant exercise, but one which has been part of the reorganisation of the way the club is run.
The assumption is that McNally's style won't lead to squandering of the promotion windfall. Fortunately, Lambert has never deviated from the party line when it comes to money available for squad strengthening. Not once has he bemoaned his luck, not once did he complain that the pursuit of Elliott Bennett or Craig Mackail-Smith would have been successful but for a bit more money. A shrug of the shoulders suggests he accepts that a line must be drawn. The alternative? That �20m debt simply rises and once again City face the possibility of administration.
City are now playing with a different set of pieces – the figures will have more noughts attached, the players' salaries likewise, and the agents will want their slice. This is the big league and you have to pay big league prices. No one knows yet where Lambert wants to shop – he made more than a good fist of identifying hungry talent in the lower divisions who would perform cartwheels in the Championship. The names of Andrew Crofts, David Fox and Simeon Jackson spring to mind. He has extensive contacts in Europe and in Ewan Chester has a chief scout who has a constantly updated list of players to choose from.
The question is how much will he be asked to pay, and how much will he have available?
The history of the Premier League is littered with clubs who overspent, and paid the penalty. Then there are others who didn't bother to spend: they crossed their fingers and hoped for the best. Burnley didn't spend, they lost a good manager halfway through the season, and lacked the quality to stay up a year ago. Hull went down with them, having spent huge amounts that they couldn't afford.
Striking a balance is key: the supporters have to be kept happy, as does the bank manager.
And when it comes to players, who stays, who goes, who comes in? If ever there was a subject to open a can of worms, this is it. Cast your minds back to 2004 when City last went into the top flight. Iwan Roberts and Malky Mackay were the biggest casualties, two big men who were adored by fans, were told they weren't good enough for the Premier League. It was in many people's minds ripping the heart out of the club.
Not one of Lambert's players has looked out of place in the Championship this season. When was the last time a City player had a genuine stinker?
Crofts left Brighton and has been one of the stars of the show. Grant Holt is effectively playing at this level for the first time in his career – and has bagged 20 league goals. Jackson has jumped from League Two Gillingham and found his feet just in time – his string of recent goals catapulating him into the spotlight. Wes Hoolahan has left opponents on their backsides all season while Marc Tierney has come in from Colchester and ousted one of the best left backs in the division.
And on the opposite side of the defence is probably the very best example of how Lambert can take a player and make him play. Russell Martin wasn't wanted at Peterborough when they were promoted to the Championship – he played a few games, but Darren Ferguson didn't fancy him. Lambert, who knew him from Wycombe, brought him to Carrow Road, and he has been a sensation. It's the knack – of turning what some believe are ordinary players, into top quality performers.
Will they be able to repeat the trick in the top flight? Who will be the Mackays and Roberts of the class of 2011? Some casualties are clear-cut – you wouldn't put money on Jens Berthel Askou or Owain Tudur Jones hanging around: they've rarely featured at this level so the top flight must be out of reach. And what of Cody McDonald, so successful on a season-long loan at Gillingham but untried elsewhere? And young Tom Adeyemi?
Will Jackson be able to maintain his form? Will Holt be able to again jump a division and keep banging in the goals? Will Martin have the same effect?
Paul Lambert has a lot of questions to answer, but he and McNally already have their 2012 diaries. Several transfer windows, not just the next one, are planned at any one time, with the different scenarios taken into account. You can bet they don't have to revise their list of targets now they are in the Premier League.
And what of the manager himself? He growls when questions about his future come his way, but he is hot property. Red hot. It would be na�ve to suggest no one will be interested in his services – managers who take teams into the top flight don't escape the notice of other chairmen and chief executives. City know he will leave one day, but had they remained in the Championship you wonder how long they could have kept a grip on him.
It's been a short and extremely sweet relationship so far – the hope is that Lambert stays and brings more of the same.
Perhaps the revised seven-year plan will have to be screwed up again, who knows?