Plenty of rivals to Ricky’s title as Norwich’s number one flop
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
'Be afraid of the big bad Wolf', blazed the publicity announcing Ricky van Wolfswinkel's imminent arrival at Norwich City in 2013,
As the Wolf heads back to Holland, we're still waiting, but if his tail is in between his legs, he isn't alone. There have been plenty of others who haven't quite lived up to their billing – and there will be plenty more.
It's the nature of the game: there are zero guarantees that a player will live up to his form and his price tag when he moves.
No manager is immune: Sir Alex Ferguson had his fair share of flops at Manchester United, with bills that put RvW's in the shade.
Is RvW the biggest Norwich City flop of them all? At a club record signing of £8.5million (rising to over £10m with add ons), the return was poor: one league goal, one in the League Cup, 18 starts in all competitions, plus 10 as a sub. The cost of his goals tally is, er, £4.25m, while his starts cost £472,000 each.
The cost alone is going to put him at the top of the list, but there are others who didn't live up to high expectations, no matter the cost.
Remember David Strihavka, purchased by Peter Grant in 2007? The Czech was like a rabbit caught in the headlights at his press conference, and played like it too. Ten appearances, one goal (against Crystal Palace when he was booked for over-celebrating) was his sum total. He simply failed to settle – even Grant's public berating of Jamie Cureton for not passing to Strihavka when both were through on goal didn't send out a positive mental message.
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Then there's Peter Thorne, inset, and James Vaughan. Thorne didn't come for big money in 2005, but he had a reputation as a good goalscorer. But the moment he set foot in Norfolk, his magic disappeared – like RvW, he scored once in the league, once in the league cup and, after 18 starts in a couple of years, he left.
Vaughan was highly rated and cost £2.5m from Everton five years ago – but injuries were an issue and in two years he started one game. Goal return zero.
Go back further and Mike Sheron was clearly not suited to the East Anglian air. A £1m signing from Manchester City in 1994, he was another who struggled with injuries, and scored just twice before leaving for Stoke in October 1995. And guess what? He started scoring again.
Dean Coney's backside got on the scoresheet: it was his only goal and came against Aston Villa at Carrow Road in April 1989 when he charged down a clearance by goalkeeper Nigel Spink. The ball hit his gluteus maximus and ended up in the back of the net.
Sadly the £350,000 became a bit of a joke figure and he eventually asked to leave, saying 'the fans have it in for me'.
It's usually strikers who get labelled as flops, but midfielder and former Yugoslav player of the year Drazen Muzinic was a club-record £300,000 signing by John Bond in 1980. An interpreter was needed to pass on instructions during games and he started just 23 of them, without scoring.
There are many more candidates who failed to fulfil the expectancy: Goran Maric, Mark Fotheringham, Michael Theoklitos, Darren Beckford. Some criticism is fair, some not – and some has excellent mitigation.
But consider this: Iwan Roberts is the first to admit his debut season was a shocker, but he ended up scoring 96 goals in 300-plus games and is truly seen as a club legend.
And Harry Kane's loan spell at City in 2012-13 was a bit of a disaster: two years later he was named PFA Young Player of the Year.
Funny old game.