Lee Payne: So what happens next for Norwich City?

Can Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber engineer another Championship promotion? PIcture: PA

Behind the scenes City will be planning for the prospect of Premier League football next season. - Credit: PA

Five wins in a row and Norwich City appear to be well and truly over their goal-shy sticky patch from late January and early February.  

The prospect of an immediate return to the Premier League seems increasingly likely and, while publicly the club will be all about getting the job done, behind the scenes you would think discussions are taking place about how to tackle the elusive top flight beast this time. 

‘Too good for the Championship but not good enough for the Premier League’ borders on cliché but if ever a club fitted that bill, it is Norwich. 

Others manage the apparently desirable stability within the country’s 20 elite clubs or stagnate in the second tier striving for a promotion that never quite comes, but Norwich exist in a sort of footballing purgatory. 

To me, Norwich’s status as a yo-yo club began about 15 years ago. Nigel Worthington’s title winners of 2004 were sent straight back down on that harrowing afternoon at Craven Cottage. A few more years in the Championship followed before relegation to League One in 2009, then came a remarkable rise to the Premier League just two years later. After three years, City were in the Championship once again and the league-hopping really took off. 

Since 2012-13, Norwich have spent four seasons in the Premier League and five in the Championship. Famously the second tier is ‘so hard to get out of’ but City seem to have found the answer to that conundrum. Whether it’s automatically or through the play-offs, the club don’t seem to find promotion a struggle. Avoiding relegation, however, has proven a far tougher nut to crack. 

So, what can City do differently the next time? 

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I imagine many readers will be shouting ‘spend some money’ right now. It’s no secret that the club haven’t been willing to risk quite as much cash in an attempt at Premier League survival as others have. But I’m very clear in my stance on that – I am comfortable with the board being careful not to put the club back into a perilous financial situation. 

Yes, money has to be spent on strengthening the squad as it was clear last time that a group of Championship players won’t be enough, but it has to be spent wisely. Quality not quantity. Aston Villa and Fulham are two recent examples of clubs that have ploughed money into expensive new signings upon promotion only to find that it isn’t a sure-fire way of establishing a Premier League club. 

Norwich could try to emulate Leeds. They have all but achieved safety already by virtue of working harder than everyone else on the pitch, by not being afraid to concede and never being knocked off their plan.  

Last time, City were timid far too often and went into games looking like they were already beaten. They earned rave reviews for their style of play during the promotion season and in the early weeks in the top flight but were quickly robbed of their confidence and withdrew into their shell. Be more Leeds - play your way no matter what. 

Perhaps we could be like Burnley. They went up, down and back up again in similar yo-yo fashion a few years ago but have now found a way of staying in the Premier League without ever really looking like going down. They’ve also done it without spending much money. 

Do the fans actually want to watch a team that finishes 17th every season though? Personally, I quite enjoy the thrills and spills of the Championship. I’m not too keen on becoming another Brighton.  

The club will be keen for the financial stability that constant Premier League status brings but, really, what’s in it for the fans? Barring a disastrous end to the season, we are about to find out what Norwich want to be. It will be interesting to see what they’ve learned. 

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