Michael Bailey: It worth going into the summer with your eyes wide open
PUBLISHED: 06:07 20 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:10 20 April 2018
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In his latest weekly column, Norwich City correspondent and PinkUn Show host Michael Bailey talks the hopes and realities of the Championship close-season and his bones of Premier League contention.
The unknown seems rather more adept at stirring a bit of fear, than what we come to know and love.
Indeed our most anxious moments can be when we’re not entirely sure what we are doing, have never done it before or don’t feel prepared for what awaits.
And yet, sometimes just one attempt can ease the grip and inject enough confidence for us to believe it isn’t so daunting.
Admittedly that’s a deep start to a football column – but given the Championship rut some feel Norwich City currently find themselves in, it may also be an appropriate one.
Either side of my month off, the discussions haven’t changed much in Canaries circles. City have been deeply entrenched in their midtable station for a while and accompanying hopes a transition season will be followed by something more successful, there is also the forthcoming task of replacing exits; exits that could easily include all of Angus Gunn, Harrison Reed, Moritz Leitner, James Maddison – and exits that may not stop there.
It’s a fair concern too. Any supporters feeling this summer’s recruitment work will be easier than the last, may need reminding of the above – as well as the return of relatively sizeable pay packets in the loanee shapes of Steven Naismith, Yanic Wildschut and Russell Martin.
Of course, it’s easy to forget that three of the initial list were in fact recruited by the current sporting director and head coach – while the fourth was pinned to a shiny new four-year contract last summer, that could prove very useful to the Canaries this. They’ve done it before, and they will bank on doing it again.
As we know, we are in a refreshed reality that hasn’t been experienced here since City last dropped out of the second tier almost a decade ago.
In a strange paradox City have gone from shelling out huge fees on signings that they couldn’t afford to get wrong, to scouting rough diamonds on the cheap that should come with a success rate arguably little better than 50-50.
That’s not being harsh or defeatist. It’s taking into account the risks of young and/or inexperienced players, most coming into a league and country where they have precious little experience – with no guarantee settling-in periods will deliver.
The multimillion-pound moves of Naismith and Wildschut will continue to weigh City down, yet most may perceive the higher risk coming in the shape of hoping Dennis Srbeny and Marcel Franke find their feet.
Arguably what City are at least doing is ensuring a degree of protection if cheaper signings don’t come off – with higher rewards and added values as and when they get it right. That, as well as the fact they presently have little alternative.
I can already see Christoph Zimmermann’s hand in the air.
The dynamic of Maddison’s own exit will be fascinating, in terms of which club gets the nod and especially what they pay, which in turn could give Leitner a platform to direct the traffic for a full season at Carrow Road.
It might be the switch that brings the clattering click fans have been desperately seeking all season, rather perplexingly delivered with the loss of a perceived reliance on Maddison’s magic. Alternatively, any gap left by the England Under-21 star could just be too great to fill.
That’s one chapter of the potential Norwich City unknown that lies ahead, right there.
You won’t hear the club say anything other than their stated aim of the Premier League. It’s all they can declare. They charge a high price for a Championship season ticket, and they want everyone to dream each summer.
But to dream is to hope for the best. It’s when you expect the best, that you can come unstuck.
And what we do know for Norwich City from here and for the foreseeable, is that to simply expect the best isn’t realistic.
• Is anything more pointless than the prospect of a Premier League winter break?
Away the big clubs will go on their warm-weather training camps with lucrative friendlies.
There’s absolutely no guarantee any break will reduce fixture congestion or avoid any winter weather – although the latter now has a diminished effect on the top-flight programme anyway.
But what it definitely won’t do, is ensure England perform better in major championships. It’ll be interesting to see what will get the blame when that becomes clear.
Meanwhile, the Premier League has ruled out a return of standing at games – despite apparent demand – and the use of video assistant referees next season.
They’ve basically got it all backwards – and the ensuing arguments promise to be as predictable as you can imagine.
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