Michael Bailey: Rewards and relationships – the fine balance at Norwich City and beyond
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
In his weekly column, Norwich City correspondent and PinkUn Show host Michael Bailey talks deals, departures and draconian work practices another quiet week at Carrow Road.
Contracts – they are worth only the paper on which they are written. It's an old adage and true – in the same way players are only worth what someone else is willing to pay for them.
Norwich City's hat-trick of new deals revealed on Wednesday, hopefully won't be a dictation of how long Jamal Lewis, Max Aarons and Louis Thompson now stay at Carrow Road – after all, the better their careers develop from here the more likely they will either earn a new deal, a promotion or a move away.
There's no hiding the strategy. Such value-protection effectively kept the club afloat, in terms of the lengthy deals offered to Josh Murphy and James Maddison – creating transfer values that helped City see off their Premier League parachute payment cliff-edge in the summer.
The good news is such vast amounts of money should be far more productive from here, without such stark holes to fill.
Equally there is a tough balance to be found in financially rewarding progress and satisfying that need, while maintaining enough hunger to keep going in the same direction. Agents and players should take a slice of responsibility in that equation – but arguably the biggest burden still lies with the club's judgement.
A little and often: that is the contract philosophy publicly briefed; the one that showed faith in Maddison when others felt further loans away from Norfolk were required.
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It's why Louis Thompson's wonderful comeback from such injury depths has now received a major shot in the arm as he competes for regular action.
It's why Lewis has been given another nudge forward, barely a year after his name emerged for serious first-team contention.
And it's why Aarons can count the arrival of two new contracts in the space of just four months – an he's still only 18 years old.
City's right-back is an interesting case in point.
Here is a player being trusted by his head coach to learn on the job. A freedom to make mistakes and learn quickly. Likewise a player where the Carrow Road crowd seems willing to do the same – something not every Canaries academy product has been able to say in the past.
The greatest consideration of success will be for Aarons and others to help drive City to success on the pitch, rather than finding that recognition and progress elsewhere. Let's hope it happens.
What also caught my eye is that with the freshly signed trio, City now have seven players contracted for more than three years – and that's excluding any known options. They are all at good ages too: Ben Marshall (27), Moritz Leitner (25), Thompson (23), Emi Buendia (21), Ben Godfrey and Lewis (20), as well as Aarons.
It's worth noting in March 2017, just before Stuart Webber was appointed sporting director, City had four: Nelson Oliveira, Alex Pritchard and the Murphy twins.
Let's hope all those pieces of paper prove their value over the coming years.
• I was told a story by one of my grandparents recently – about how she met my grandad at their place of work; obviously a happy story.
It's just that when the company were made aware of their relationship, my nanny was told she would have to leave because they couldn't possibly be allowed to work together.
I doubt her bosses deserve any suggestion there was a debate to be had over whether she could be the one who stayed.
Even in my parents' day, I believe a couple working in the same office department would be swiftly moved into more distant roles if they got together.
I think we're fortunate things seem a little more enlightened now – to the point Zoe Ward's husband Stuart Webber, was allowed to take a job at Carrow Road the previous summer.
I only half-jest. I imagine like any couples working in the same place, the additional scrutiny makes life harder rather than easier. And in a form of strange logic, it will probably have City director Tom Smith smiling – given some of the 'banter' he has received as Delia and Michael's nephew, since his arrival on the Canaries board.
As a final point, it was a shame that managing director Steve Stone – a man who helped heal a fair few relationships – is no longer part of the City furniture.
In turn, new chief operating officer Ben Kensall plus business and project director Ward have already proven where their talents lie to a number of colleagues, along with their worth to the football club.
That is what earns people promotions – and now it's their chance to show us they can make their part of Norwich City Football Club the best it can be.
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