Over the past couple of years, Leeds fans have had to grin and bear it as little Norwich – an unfashionable club from the back of beyond – have used the fact of their temporarily higher league status to pluck such gems as Snodgrass, Howson, Becchio and, erm, Bradley Johnson from the Elland Road payroll. In truth, only the first two of those four departures were all that painful – the odd twinge caused by Luciano’s departure has been relieved by his zero contribution to Naaaarritch since he joined them – but that hasn’t stopped those loveable Ciddy fans from gloating and grinning and taking the mick. Every time another transfer “coup” has been completed, there they’ve been, savouring the novelty of lording it over Mighty Leeds, crowing about us being their “feeder club” (no marks for originality there, lads) and generally cavorting all over the internet like the small-time wurzels they are.
Now, just as things seem to be looking up at Leeds, there has been a mischievous little article on the Norwich “Vital Football” site, wondering with innocent glee whether our Boy Wonder, the one and only Sam Byram, might be the next to tread the path from LS11 to the backwoods obscurity of East Anglia. The article appears to be based on nothing more than hubris; there is no suggestion that Byram – a lad surely aware of his potential career path – would choose to make such an oddly negative, sideways-at-best move. It appears to be a case of a lazy hack with nothing better to write, trying to cater to the schoolboy excitement of Norwich fans still grappling with the unaccustomed chance to make fun of a much bigger club.
And where, after all, is the harm you might ask? If this internet bravado helps the currently happy Ciddy fans forget their inglorious past, then good luck to them, right? After all, prior to their recent double promotion success, their club was mainly famous for the tired and emotional display of Delia Smith when she unwisely seized the match-day mike after lavishly sampling the vino cabinet, and treated the stunned home crowd to a slurred and cringeworthy motivational speech: “Wheeeere aaaare yoooouu? Let’s be ‘aaaavviiiin’ yooooouuu!!!” It was entertaining for everyone outside Carrow Road, but hardly a siren call to tempt a future England star who already has a first team berth in a far bigger club.
Pride, they say, goeth before a fall. I have a funny feeling that the Chris Hughton magic may be a little harder to work this time around, and that Norwich may face a long and bitter, possibly fruitless, battle to retain their top-flight status. And if they come tumbling down, Snodgrass,Jonny Howson, Becchio and all, wouldn’t it be poetically just if a Brian-inspired and Byram-powered Leeds hurtled in the opposite, upwards direction? Who would be laughing then?
If Byram has any sense (and all the indications are that he has), he’ll stay where he is for at least one more season unless a truly irresistible offer comes along. This would be from a proper Premier League club, one that can offer him the chance of playing at the highest level and possibly competing in Europe. Failing that, he would do well to continue last season’s meteoric development, if he can, at Elland Road – possibly helping to elevate Leeds United back to where they belong at the same time. It’s not an unrealistic prospect, all of a sudden.
If, this time next year, Leeds have gone up and Norwich have been relegated – might we not be reading transfer speculation of a return to Elland Road for Snodgrass and Howson? Maybe, after all, we’d need the cover in midfield and on the wing. And if we did read that speculation – would that be hubris, or taking the mick? Not really. It’d be more like the natural order reasserting itself, as it inevitably must at some point (the Norwich fans know this, deep down.) Perhaps then, they can be excused their current cockiness – they’re just making hay while the sun shines and trying not to worry too much about what tomorrow will bring.
Tomorrow will come though, Norwich. And then we’ll see who’s the feeder club for real.