Robin Sainty: Building from the back is an exercise in bonding skills for Norwich City

PUBLISHED: 09:02 16 March 2018 | UPDATED: 09:02 16 March 2018

Christoph Zimmermann - a keystone in City's defence. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Christoph Zimmermann - a keystone in City's defence. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

©Focus Images Limited +447814 482222

Mark Twain said that distance lends perspective, but following Norwich City from the other side of the world over the last month did nothing to insulate me from the familiar frustrations felt by fans at home.

Christoph Zimmermann in action against Bolton. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdChristoph Zimmermann in action against Bolton. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

At least I was spared what was, by all accounts, some pretty dull football, and perhaps that contributed to my surprise that a run of two defeats in 16 games, including twice holding the reigning Premier League champions over 120 minutes, is producing quite so much gloom, despite City’s obvious current lack of firepower.

City are far from the finished product, but in my experience virtually every successful side is built on a solid defence, which is one area where undeniable progress has been made this season.

Consequently, I expected another attritional encounter at Hull on Saturday, but in fact City’s reshuffled defensive unit and a referee intent on being the centre of attention combined to produce one of the strangest games I’ve watched for some time.

City were uncharacteristically shambolic at the back and the centre-back pairing simply didn’t work. It’s now abundantly clear that from being derided as a “German Fourth Division player” Christoph Zimmermann has emerged as the keystone of a defensive unit which looks significantly less solid in his absence, as his return at Barnsley demonstrated.

Saturday was also another reminder to Jamal Lewis that sometimes safety first is the best option as he committed the cardinal defensive sin of allowing the ball to bounce before finding himself the wrong side of Jarrod Bowen and conceding a soft penalty at a pivotal point in the game.

Overall, neither City performance this week will have won over the doubters, and with an increasingly alarming injury list it will be hard for Daniel Farke to produce an end-of-season flourish.

Clearly there is still much to be resolved on the pitch, but the biggest talking point over the last week or so has been the club’s bond scheme to raise the funds for the essential upgrading of Colney to secure ongoing category one status for the Academy.

Inevitably, this has divided opinion amongst fans and rekindled all the old debates about ownership, Stuart Webber’s strategy and the club’s use of its funds during the Premier League seasons.

Realistically, we all know that money has been wasted; the club have certainly not tried to hide from that, and Webber’s graphic reference at the AGM left no room for doubt. We also know of previous failures to divert the necessary money to the Academy, although one wonders how an announcement that a transfer couldn’t be funded as a result would have gone down at the time.

In terms of its structure, the bond idea is innovative and in purely investment terms offers a very attractive rate to those prepared to accept the risk to their capital if the club went bust in the next five years, with the added incentive of a 25pc bonus if City return to the Premier League in that period.

However, most fans in a position to invest will, I’m sure, be making an emotional decision rather than a financial one on whether to support the bond, with some motivated by a desire to help the club and others resenting the fact that investment is being sought from the fanbase in the light of past mistakes.

I fully understand why people might hold the latter view, but the undeniable fact is that loss of category one status would make the club’s economic model untenable and torpedo the strategy being followed by Webber and Farke, neither of whom is responsible for the errors of the past.

The bond idea allows club and fans to work together and both will benefit from its success or suffer from its failure. The club have got plenty of things wrong in recent years, but I think they’ve got this one right.

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