So it’s been three weeks since Norwich City last kicked a ball in anger and signed off their disappointing season at the hands of Everton in Merseyside and for the majority of Norwich fans its been nice to enjoy a well deserved break from watching mediocre football every weekend. But while we have Euro 2016 to keep us entertained over the next few weeks, it still doesn’t compete with the highs and lows of seeing how your beloved club fare every Saturday. Luckily, it’s only a few weeks until the fixtures for the new Sky Bet Championship season are released and we will go again, full of optimism and belief that our exclusion from the Premier League will be brief and a wonderful promotion season will be ahead of us. But it’s not going to be quite that simple, is it?
The two teams to follow us down the Premier League trap door, Newcastle United and Aston Villa, have managed to convince two Champions League winning managers to oversee proceedings in English football’s second tier. Quite an amazing turnaround when you consider this time last year Rafa Benitez was preparing his Real Madrid team full of superstars for a tilt at another Spanish league title to add to their extensive collection. Similarly, it is hard to imagine Roberto Di Matteo imagined he would be a Championship manager when just a year ago he was managing Schalke and even less so in 2012 when his Chelsea side famously beat Bayern Munich on penalties in their own backyard at the Allianz Arena to win the Champions League. These two prestigious managers underline the mammoth task that Alex Neil and his Norwich side have ahead of them. I haven’t even mentioned the contenders seeking to go one better this time around, featuring Brighton, Sheffield Wednesday, Derby, Wolves and even those down the road, Ipswich Town, going into their 14th straight year in the Championship.
But if Norwich are to bounce straight back up, it is absolutely crucial that Alex Neil and his board get their transfer business done correctly, both with players in and out. A big reason as to why Norwich find themselves in English football’s second tier is due to the failings of last season’s summer window and not even a seemingly productive January would save them. Norwich lacked a proven Premier League striker, something I warned about in an article written on this site one year ago, that Norwich would need a striker that would guarantee goals. Sunderland had one in Jermain Defoe and stayed up, the similarities being that us, Newcastle and Aston Villa didn’t and went down. While I’m not here to talk anymore about the failings of last season, we find ourselves in a similar situation of needing a proven striker, albeit this time at Championship level. Some would argue that by retaining Cameron Jerome we have one, having scored 21 goals during the last Championship campaign. But, anyone that watched him last season would see that he is a long way off the clinical finisher required. Also, what happens to flops Kyle Lafferty and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, two strikers that have failed to set alight their Norwich careers. The future also remains unclear as to whether Patrick Bamford will make his loan stay permanent and it is unlikely Dieumerci Mbokani will be a Norwich player by the end of the window. A striker should be top of Norwich’s wish list this summer, but it’s vital that the right one is chosen.
Norwich need not a mass exodus from the squad that has been relegated. Just two important first-team players left following relegation in 2014, those being Robert Snodgrass and Leroy Fer and we were rewarded with promotion. It is important that something similar is observed this time around. It can be assumed that our star man Nathan Redmond will not settle for Championship football next season following a campaign that showed flashes of his brilliance while Robbie Brady, Timm Klose and Martin Olsson could all be subject of interest from Premier League clubs. Keeping Klose could be the best bit of business Norwich make all summer as the defender seemed to transform the leaky Canary backline and it was a major blow when he limped off injured against Crystal Palace with an injury that would rule him out for the remaining games of the season.
But the key point remains that ultimately Norwich should be left with a group of players eager and up for the challenge of overcoming 23 other teams for a tilt at a promotion push. Get rid of the dead wood, try and persuade our stars to hang around one more season if possible and bring in hungry players that can help us get back to where we belong. Because although lots of Norwich fans will have you believe that next season will be a walk in the park; it will be far from it. This summer will reveal all.