As anyone who has followed Norwich City over the past few years will recognise, the Canaries are a very good Championship side. Two promotions from the Championship into England’s top flight in the past four years back that up perfectly well.
While an impressive feat in itself, that very fact shines a light on Norwich’s greatest flaw; their inability to stay in the top flight for long.
Simply put, no team wants to have to make it into the Premier League more than once. While fans of the Canaries can enjoy some more top-flight football in Carrow Road next season, will it carry on beyond?
History is on their side with this one as when they last got promoted, the Canaries finished their first year back in a respectable twelfth (back in the 11/12 season). They also seem the most likely of the promoted sides to have the ability to stay in the Premier League with the current Bournemouth and Watford sides having much less experience at the top level.
Though Norwich have those facts to comfort themselves with, history has also revealed the Yellows’ incredibly conservative approach to promotion. In an effort to maintain a squad capable of continuity in case of relegation, Norwich have always kept a low wage bill regardless of the league they competed in.
One obvious realization of this strategy came in the Canaries’ Championship playoff final against Middlesbrough. Every member of Norwich’s starting XI had recent Premier League experience – the majority of which were with Norwich for those top flight minutes.
Compare that to fellow relegated side Fulham that could only field one player (Scott Parker) from their 13/14 Premier League side against Ipswich in the very first game of their 14/15 campaign. The difference in philosophy become apparent.
Even in Norwich’s most ambitious season in the transfer market (their 13/14 campaign which got them relegated), the near £20 million that they spent was split on just four players, two of which fought for the same starting position. While this has proven to be a very strong strategy for not fading when relegated, it has left the Canaries in a talent range somewhere floating between the Premier League and Championship.
If Norwich are to even think of sustained Premier League competition, then the owners have to throw caution to the wind and start building a squad that is ready for the challenge. Luckily for the Canaries, many recent examples in the past show a myriad of success rates for the tactics available to them.
QPR have proven how throwing money aimlessly into the transfer market can very easily work against a newly promoted team. In the past three years (two of which included relegations) QPR poured around £50 million in the hopes of building a competitive squad.
What they got instead were a lot of large egos and characters which just could not work with one another effectively. Several managers were not able to stabilise the Rs and as a result, they find themselves once again in the Championship.
On the other hand, teams including Southampton and Swansea have shown how back-room investment can come a long way in leading to success in the Premier League. Southampton have built an incredibly strong youth academy and with it, have clawed their way back into the top flight.
That strength has given the Saints the quality they need to stay up and has lead to a much larger budget than expected due to teams snapping up their youth products. With that, they have utilised the money to bring in a whole host of new players who all adapted seamlessly into the squad, in part, due to the talent of their scout team.
While the Swans have not been blessed with quite so much money through the sale of their youth products, focus on their first team coaching staff has allowed them to remain in the Premier League.
Their first team squad was much less dynamic through their rise to the top flight but their faith in those players have helped in their bid to push towards becoming a top six club.
This is not to say that Norwich could not become a stable Premier League club by leaning on the transfer market alone – it would just require very careful investment. In the current state of things, they have signed two players from West Brom so far this summer.
While they may not scream ambition, Graham Dorrans and Youssouf Mulumbu are experienced in the league.
The Norwich board’s faith in young, inexperienced manager Alex Neil seems to be strong as they have tasked him with helping the Yellows survive the daunting Premier League season ahead. As commendable as that faith is, it is not a signal of any change of mentality from the board in a bid to stay in the top flight.
Unless that changes, we could be in for another stint of seeing Norwich struggle their way to a potential 17th place and scrape maybe another year or two in the Premier League.
If I were a Norwich supporter, I would demand more out of the club and hope that they would risk some serious investment into the team to have the potential of furthering themselves in the league.
Careful behind the scenes investment would be a long-term project but would go a long way toward strengthening the club. Whether that was focused on the youth coaches, first-team coaches, or scouting network would be up to the board and investors.
Regardless of their choice, the Canaries must make a change and build a formidable, well renowned aspect of their club if they are to stand a chance of staying in arguably, the most competitive league in the world.