The news that Ewan Chester will leave his role as chief scout at Norwich City is disappointing news to fans of the club. However, clearly Chester is a very respected scout and was always likely to the attract the interest of bigger clubs. That I suppose is the problem with success with the manager, the players and backroom staff all attracting interest. Chester is rumoured to be moving to Chelsea in a role that he will begin with the London club at the start of September. However, there is a curious component to all of this; Chester suggested his new role involved international recruitment.
Now, without reading too much into such a statement it’s at very least the suggestion that Norwich are not heavily involved in looking at players outside the UK. However, without having an in depth understanding of the scouting process at Norwich; it’s a little bit difficult to draw many conclusions.
A quick look through the current Norwich City squad and the signings that Paul Lambert has made in the last two season shows that he prefers signing his players from England; not all of the players Lambert has signed – have been English in nationality. Simeon Jackson and Zak Whitbread play international football for Canada for the USA respectively. However, generally speaking Lambert has felt players need to prove themselves in English football first.
In many ways it’s a very commendable transfer policy and one that Norwich have done well with. It is also a policy that disputes the theory that value can’t be found with signing top quality players that are English and who play in the English leagues. However, does this policy need to change as the club enters the Premier League? Well it seems remarkable that Norwich is entering a division that has such an influx of foreign players; yet they won’t be considering looking at players that play in foreign leagues.
Paul Lambert looks keen to get his transfer business done early and so far the players he has signed have all played in English football their whole lives. However, Lambert did recently say that he was annoyed about the high prices that are being quoted for players that he has enquired about. Probably the best example of this was the £3.5m offer that was offered for Leeds winger Robert Snograss – but was told that they wouldn’t be prepared to accept an offer below £5m – for a player that has one season of Championship football under his belt.
These comments did cause some people to speculate that Paul Lambert might try his luck abroad – especially with his well known connections in Germany. However, there have been few possibilities linked with only the joke that Miroslav Klose would be a target for Lambert and a vague link to a Swiss international defender. But why wouldn’t Lambert want to buy an overseas player into his squad?
Well I would have thought he would if it was the right player – but Lambert will be conscious of the fact that bringing in players from foreign leagues is a significant risk. Yes, gems can be found like the one that West Brom found last season when they picked up Peter Odemwingie for a bargain price of £2.5m. But equally a lot of money has been spent on players from abroad of the years that have turned out to not have worked out in the Premier League
Norwich fans will also cast their minds back to when Norwich were last in the Premier League and recall a couple of Scandinavian players were signed that didn’t have the desired impact. So it is understandable that Paul Lambert may want to avoid a repeat. Therefore, it may not be a bad policy to use British players for Norwich’s first season in the Premier League. But if Norwich continues to progress then they will surely have to look at international recruitment seriously.
In order to make that a smooth transition then really the club should set-up international scouting system at this point; with Ewan Chester leaving his role then there seems to be an opportunity to do just that. Despite how well Lambert has done with the current squad – I strongly believe international recruitment will play an important part of any success Norwich have in the future – especially given the high price of top English players.