The yo-yo club. That curious phenomenon of a football club regularly promoted to the Premier League and then relegated back to the Championship. One season, promotion, the next, relegation. Up and down, up and down, like, you might say, one of those plastic toy yo-yos.
Other leagues have their equivalent: the fahrstulmannschaft in Germany, the elevatorhold in Denmark, the heen-en-weer in Netherlands.
The original yo-yo club was West Brom, promoted four times and relegated three times in the 2000s. Then for a time, it was Crystal Palace, promoted five times and relegated four times in the space of nine years. Now, ‘the’ yo-yo club is most definitely Norwich City. Promoted or relegated in each of the last four seasons, Norwich have been trapped in a kind of purgatory, chronically too strong for the Championship yet too weak to survive in the Premier League.
So, what’s life like as a fan of a yo-yo club? The highs are certainly high. The famous three-two win against Manchester City in the 2019-20 season immediately springs to mind. Or, over a longer period, the two glorious title-winning seasons in the Championship.
The lows, however, are very low. The early season optimism was crushed by the two-nil losses to Burnley, to Crystal Palace, to Watford. The turgid bleakness of a relegation battle. Slugging it out for nil-nil draws against mid-table sides, hoping to snatch that rare treasure of a point here and there.
The dark and cold winter late afternoons and nights, losing on the road at Turf Moor, at The Hawthorns, at Selhurst Park, places which sound more like prisons than football stadiums.
Will this season be any different? Will the yo-yo finally lose its momentum? Will Norwich finally begin to establish themselves as a Premier League side? The short answer is no.
The club’s Sporting Director, Stuart Webber, has openly discussed his cautious approach to the transfer market. Now this is certainly wise, especially given the example set by clubs such as Fulham, who almost broke the bank in a failed attempt to stay in the top division a few seasons back.
And unlike most of the clubs in the Premier League, with their multi-billionaire franchise owners, Norwich is owned by a retired TV cook.
Selling Emiliano Buendía for thirty million pounds this summer was clearly good for the bank balance. Less so, perhaps, for Norwich’s chances of survival given that his partnership with Teemu Pukki, the club’s best striker since Canaries legend Grant Holt, is the main reason why Norwich comfortably won the Championship in two of the last three seasons.
The money raised from the Buendía sale has been spent ambitiously, mainly on signings from the second division of the Bundesliga, with almost ten million pounds spent on both Milot Rashica and Josh Sargent from Werder Bremen.
One signing which has caught the eye, however, is that of the loan move of Billy Gilmour from Chelsea, who impressed for Scotland in the match against England at the European Championships.
Nevertheless, Norwich will need to buy more than a one-match wonder if they are to avoid finishing rock bottom in the Premier League again this season. Even more worrying for Norwich fans than a lacklustre transfer window is the fixture list. After a disappointing if not unexpected three-nil loss to Liverpool on the opening weekend of the season, Norwich now face Manchester City, Leicester City, and Arsenal in their next three fixtures.
There is the real possibility, therefore, that Norwich will be bottom of the league from the very beginning of the season. A gravity-defying miracle will be required if Norwich are to avoid, once again, yo-yoing their way back into the Championship.
Image: Ungry Young Man via Creative Commons