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Paddy Davitt: Transfer poker will test Norwich City’s resolve

PUBLISHED: 23:40 04 December 2018

Alex Pritchard made it clear he wanted out at Norwich City in the last January transfer window Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Alex Pritchard made it clear he wanted out at Norwich City in the last January transfer window Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

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Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber are clearly on the same wavelength when it comes to Norwich City’s transfer strategy in January.

You might expect a united front in public between head coach and sporting director, but there is a genuine symmetry in the manner they have addressed questions on potential outs and ins during recent days.

The financial backdrop at Carrow Road remains challenging. Revenues have contracted even more outside the Premier League with the end of parachute payments. That will remain the case however long Norwich reside in the Championship.

Webber himself reiterated at the recent shareholders’ meeting City now operate in calmer waters but the lifeboat is still an essential piece of kit.

That annual gathering was an optimistic affair, despite the challenging financial numbers on the balance sheet, given Norwich sit proudly on top of the league.

The contractual status of Webber and Farke was of more pressing concern on the evening than the prospect of a £5m bank overdraft or further prudence to lower staff costs across the football department.

In essence, you can sum up City’s approach to the January scramble in simple terms. Farke is under no financial pressure to offload talent. By the same token, there is no urge to attract fresh blood.

On the latter point both Webber and Farke point to the likes of Grant Hanley, Ben Marshall and Kenny McLean to name but three who could reasonably expect to feature far more heavily than they have to this point of the season.

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That’s even before you consider Jordan Rhodes’ relative inactivity as Teemu Pukki continues to cut a swathe through Championship defences.

There is a caveat, of course, regarding unforeseen circumstances and long term injury to key players.

For that, in Farke’s words, Norwich will not ‘fall asleep’ in watching the market to cover all eventualities. Nevertheless, City appear to have most bases covered with their current resources. Albeit a back up to Jamal Lewis would not go amiss you feel.

But the focus off the pitch in January may well rest once again on retaining City’s best talent.

Pukki has already been touted with Turkish giants Galatasaray. The Championship may not cast the same long shadow as the Premier League but it remains a respected competition right across Europe.

At this stage we might be dealing in hypothetical situations but bids of many millions for a player who arrived on a free transfer would require serious consideration.

The same, alas, if the soaring reputations of youngsters like Lewis or Max Aarons shifted from admiring glances to firm interest from the top flight.

Should Norwich remain among the front runners in the coming weeks then most fans would expect City’s powerbrokers to resist overtures from suitors to launch a concerted assault on the Premier League.

Should they fall short then the summer trading will take on a life of its own. Much like it did at the end of last season, when James Maddison’s knee injury at Hillsborough must have sent palpitations through the Norwich boardroom.

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That feels like a logical position, but to draw a parallel with Alex Pritchard’s departure in the January 2018 window, it also overlooks the wishes of a player and his family.

There is not just a financial dimension here. Webber is not at the Fifa controls, this is a real life scenario with plenty of factors to consider outside the simple financial transaction.

Transfer speculation around a squad who have performed well in excess of expectations is inevitable. Unwanted but inevitable. Yet that is where the sense Webber and Farke remain firmly on the same page really assumes greatest significance.

Pritchard wanted out but the money Huddersfield were willing to pay was also very attractive.

The financial imperative this time around is less pressing and the prize at the end of the season potentially far greater.

But the resolve of City’s sporting director and head coach may well still be tested in the days ahead.

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