Premier League survival ensures Norwich City’s building process continues
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
He hasn't kicked a ball in anger for Norwich City, but Ricky van Wolfswinkel perhaps sums up just how important it was for Norwich City to remain in the Premier League.
Van Wolfswinkel will play for Norwich next season. Had they been relegated, you'd have to guess that would be unlikely and that a reasonable transfer fee would have seen him moving to another club without making an appearance.
The Dutchman is part of the building process at Carrow Road, part of the future, part of the important timeline that takes City from a club that starts the season as the bookies' favourites to go down, to one that has a regular appointment with the Premier League fixture compiler.
He is in the file marked Future – alongside the Elite Player Performance Plan and the building of a new City Stand, alongside the contracts of newer, better players, alongside everything that Norwich City need to do to become part of the elite establishment.
There is no better time than the present to have secured Premier League status: the rewards next season are enormous, with broadcast revenue for next season around £1.5bn – City can expect their share to be worth around £80m.
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It's what City do next that will be interesting – and very different from what they would have done as a Championship club.
The club's external debts have all but gone, so much of the income is there to be used for the advantage of the club. How they divvy it up will remain known only to the few who run the club: blurting out transfer kitty figures has never been the way of doing things at Carrow Road.
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What Hughton will have to decide is where to spend it, although Premier League status makes life a lot easier: convincing someone to play in supposedly the world's greatest league is much easier than trying to get them to join a relegated club.
It also works the other way: the best of the club's current players will be much easier to keep hold of now. Remember when City were relegated to League One in 2009? The exits of Sammy Clingan, David Marshall and Lee Croft were made with undue haste to avoid going down with the sinking ship, but the vultures that might have circled had City been relegated, will now be tempted to look for a different carcass from which to feed.
Hughton spent big on Van Wolfswinkel – a welcome sign of confidence in the manager and the philosophy of continuity at a time when managers are more dispensable than ever.
And that is another result of City's 'survival' – that, one assumes, they do not need to change manager. Too many owners have cracked under the pressure of chasing the dollar and swapped an under-performing manager for one who has to start from scratch, with absolutely no guarantee anything will work any better. Hughton has been under fire this season for his tactics, but he has achieved the target: survival. And he has achieved it working with funds that few of his rivals have had to cope with. Paul Lambert spent £23m at Aston Villa last summer, Harry Redknapp spent a small fortune at QPR. City don't let slip financial details, so it's guesswork, but here's a fact: it was nowhere near what either of those two had available.
The assumption is he will get a little more this time around: Van Wolfswinkel's signing has raised the bar. If City want to stay up, but with a little less of the nerve-jangling of recent weeks, they have to reach that bar again. Slowly the quality of the playing squad goes up, slowly the chances of staying in the top flight increase. And continued success brings more revenue. And that helps build a new City stand, housing more supporters, bringing in more money, helping increase the quality of the squad.
That rebuilding cycle includes inevitable exits: Chris Martin has already gone and you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to work out that offers might be accepted for the likes of Elliott Ward, Daniel Ayala and James Vaughan – and no doubt a few more.
It's all part of the process: building also means knocking down a few walls. City have done that this season.