Date: 4th April 2019 at 9:00am
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You may well be aware that Fulham were relegated from the Premier League on Tuesday night, with Huddersfield Town having been relegated just three days earlier.

Just how have Fulham, who spent around £100m last summer, been relegated?

Last season they played some wonderful free flowing football under Slavisa Jokanovic to make a second half of the season promotion push, which saw them promoted via the play-off final at Wembley.

The simple facts seem to be that Fulham threw money at a problem that didn’t really exist. They had been promoted with a youngish side that was dominated by the abilities of Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon, with a little experience from January onwards in the shape of Aleksander Mitrovic.

The club’s hierarchy decided that rather than keep that team together that they should instead invest heavily, ignoring the fact that new signings, especially those from abroad, can take time to settle in.

At Norwich, Mario Vrancic is an excellent example of that. His first season under Daniel Farke saw him widely moaned about by the Canary nation, with the general feeling being that he was too lightweight for the Championship.

I remember reading tweets that said “Vrancic must never play for Norwich again” and the like.

The reality was that he needed time to settle and adjust to what is, to be fair, a very physical league. Having done that by the tail end of last season, he has been transformed this term and been a big part of our midfield’s success.

Getting back to Fulham though, they spent freely on players that either needed time to adjust, like Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Jean Michael Serri, or like, Maxime Le Marchand were simply not good enough.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that of the new raft of players, only Mitrovic worked out and he had already been with the club since January 2018 on loan, possibly Serri as well.

To my mind, all that Fulham needed was a smattering of more experienced players to compliment the youth and exuberance that they already had.

After Jokanovic was fired, seemingly unable to produce a defence that could defend, Claudio Ranieri was brought in from left-field to keep Fulham up.

Defeats for both managers had brought numerous changes to the team that had led to more defeats.

Ranieri decided that Cairney and Sessegnon would spend a lot of time on the bench rather than playing football and that caused friction with the fanbase, as he tried to implement a more pragmatic style of play.

The bottom line though was that Fulham could no longer offer the spirit and team unity that had helped them to promotion a year earlier and such commodities are the bare minimum required in a successful football team.

If you then refer this example of how not to do it with how Norwich are currently progressing, then I hope we can and will do something different, if we are promoted.

Stuart Webber will tell you that if Norwich manage to get promoted to the Premier League then finishing at least 17th at the end of the next season is all that matters and I can’t argue with him about that.

However, you can’t decide to sit back and defend every week looking for a draw. You will have to come forwards at some point and try to play but the main thing you need, above everything else is a united squad of players who are focussed, along with their Head Coach on the job in hand.

Hunger, desire, togetherness and a will to keep moving forwards, no matter how hard they are hit will be crucial to the Canaries, if they are to make the giant leap in class to the Premier League.

Make no mistake either, it is a huge gulf compared to the Championship, at least in terms of riches. The likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, all have teams containing single players that have cost more than the entire spend on Norwich City’s whole squad and I could continue with that list of teams too.

The one area that these clubs can be matched though is with will, spirit and togetherness. A squad that is united behind it’s Head Coach is the very least that a newly promoted side will need in the Premier League.

We had that when we went up under Paul Lambert but after he left and City tried to consolidate in the Premier League with expensive players live RvW and Leroy Fer, the team and fan spirit slowly ebbed away.

Talking of fan spirit, we are currently in the biggest and best period of team/supporter/club involvement that I can remember in my 40 odd years of following my home City club.

What has been achieved by the fan groups, The Barclay End and Along Come Norwich, with their “Yellow Wall” has been truly remarkable and has added to the sense of togetherness around the club.

If, hopefully when, Norwich go up to the Premier League, that level of togetherness should stand us in good stead and not having a billionaire owner, who can throw £100m at the club for signings is no bad thing in this instance, in my opinion.

I fully expect Stuart Webber’s recruitment team to unearth more gems from foreign shores that can fit the mould of Daniel Farke’s team. We don’t need too many additions but we will need strengthening in some areas. That those new arrivals hit the ground running is critical to staying in the top flight and also they will need to fit into the group without disturbing the flow.

There are so many tough tests lying ahead and this season is the first to be accomplished. We are so close now and if that hurdle can be surmounted then it’s only going to get harder.

Whatever happens next season, and whoever gets promoted from the Championship, the example set by Fulham is one of how not to do it and a sobering thought for each of the three new teams that will ply their trade in the upper echelons of the English football pyramid next season.

OTBC

 
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