Michael Bailey: There is a ruthless reality to Norwich City’s noble Premier League financial model

City summer transfer target Benik Afobe did his bit for Bournemouth's survival mission weeks ago.

City summer transfer target Benik Afobe did his bit for Bournemouth's survival mission weeks ago. - Credit: PA

Norwich City spent £20m in January. It was a huge sum of money, and a rather sobering thought given how well City have performed since.

If only there had been another Timm Klose City could have signed in August. Picture by Paul Chestert

If only there had been another Timm Klose City could have signed in August. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

To break it down, Alex Neil's men had 20 points from the 19 Premier League games before the turn of the year – and their 2016 tally is just 11 points from 15.

OK, that's maybe unfair given the majority of City's recruits didn't start to enjoy debuts until Liverpool's visit on January 23.

Well, the three 2016 games before that 5-4 encounter brought three points – which means from the Liverpool game onwards, the Canaries have picked up just eight points out of 12 games. Comfortably the worst points per game ratio of the lot.

For as good as Timm Klose has been, and the amount of money City made available, it just hasn't delivered the improved results anyone hoped for. If anything, the statistics say Norwich have got worse.

The financial outlay was certainly eye-catching but in reality, it was a bit of catch-up too; the left-overs from a summer that may have been spent too late to prolong City's latest spell with England's elite.

But then, that does rather contradict the logical conclusion above.

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Ultimately what has become apparent is the gap Norwich City are trying to bridge. Of the Premier League new boys this season, Bournemouth are bankrolled more than most in the national media – and certainly on the south coast – seem willing to admit. Watford's wealthy owners can switch reasonably freely between their nice little portfolio of clubs across the top-flights of Europe.

Every other Premier League club has money behind them in some form or another, plus the suggestion of investment coming in. And don't be naive about Leicester. The King Power owners are very rich – and that financial advantage is filtering through somewhere.

As for the owners at Derby, Middlesbrough, Hull and the odd other Championship club, they have spent small fortunes – especially compared to revenues – trying to break into the promised land.

Which brings us back to Norwich: a club extremely well run in terms of its finances and managing its means properly. One externally debt-free and as I have written before, a co-operative model that is unique in this country's upper divisions and worthy of both praise and, closer to home, pride.

But it comes with a reality too and that has never been clearer than this season: it has its limits.

I suspect it's more than 20 years since City's wage bill was not in the bottom three of the Premier League. Maybe much longer.

Even if City survive this season and pick up that £99m cheque, everyone else will have that – plus their owners' chequebook. City fans are generous, but their goodwill will never bridge that gap.

Norwich have bought, and in some case bought well. They spent time – maybe too much – reorganising their scouting system.

But did they miss out on the likes of Benik Afobe or a new centre-back in the summer because they couldn't compete with their rivals financially?

Despite the odd player improving Alex Neil's team, is he not still four or five short of improving the squad?

These are big questions for not only Norwich City Football Club, but supporters too. It's hard to see how it doesn't just get harder from here for the Canaries to compete, however balanced the books are.

Have a stat: Of 65 promotions to the Premier League between 1993 and 2013, 39 – that's 60pc – were relegated again within three seasons.

In that case, maybe bouncing between the top two divisions is the only really achievable league goal Norwich have left.

Because the truly sobering thought from the current season is that making the jump to becoming a truly established Premier League club simply might not be within City's current means, however noble the art is.


• I hope you all enjoy a relaxing weekend free from the stresses and strains of a Norwich City game.

Alas, I'll be doing something rather more strenuous – running my first ever marathon, in London! The cause I'm running for is one close to my heart: Alzheimer's Research. And it's for various reasons, but they include the numerous footballers I have known and come across, who have suffered with dementia in their later life.

So I'm hopeful I make it round the course before the organisers take down the barriers on Sunday. And if you want to add a pound or two to the cause, just visit justgiving.com/mrmichaeljbailey – and thank you!

• A lot has been said about City's defeat to Sunderland already.

The reality is, things don't feel much better six days on. What's clear is by the time Norwich kick off at Arsenal, we may well know how this season is going to end.

• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey