Norwich City and Newcastle United were separated by only one place in the Premier League last season but the routes they have taken ever since relegation was confirmed for both clubs, have been very different.
Newcastle have seen eight incoming signings already, with others set to come, spending around £45m in the process.
On the other hand, Norwich have spent only £10m on two young players, Alex Pritchard from Spurs and Sergi Canos from Liverpool.
In terms of outgoing transfers, things have also been very different.
Rafa Benitez has overseen a mass clearout of high profile players, with Sylvain Marveaux, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Papiss Cisse, Gabriel Obertan, Gini Wijnaldum, Seydou Doumbia, Thuavin and Andros Townsend all leave.
In comparison, Nathan Redmond is the one big outgoing transfer at Norwich (went to Southampton), with flop Ricky van Wolfswinkel the only other one to attract a fee.
Both clubs have roughly balanced the books on transfers so far but whilst Norwich have kept transfers in and out to a minimum on approximately £10m spending selling, Newcastle have seen wholesale changes and roughly £45m of trading both in and out.
Fast forward to the opening games of the season and of course the results were very different, Newcastle tamely going down 1-0 to Fulham, whilst Norwich took Blackburn apart 4-1, having gone into a 3-0 lead after only 25 minutes.
Look closer though and there are other major differences and quite possibly clues to the contrasting scorelines.
Newcastle welcomed five new signings into the starting eleven at Craven Cottage and indeed there was a whole new spine of the team: goalkeeper Sels, central defender Hanley, centre midfield Hayden and centre-forward Gayle. Winger Matt Ritchie making up the quintet of new starters.
For the Canaries though, all 11 players who started against Blackburn were on Norwich’s books last season. Indeed of the total minutes played by all 14 Norwich players (including the three subs) on Saturday, only 10 minutes came from a new signing – with Alex Pritchard coming on in the closing minutes.
You can’t ignore the fact that 13 of the 14 Norwich players used were already contracted to them before this summer, of course some had played more than others before but that kind of continuity has to give a team a big advantage in hitting the ground running. Jacob Murphy opened the scoring and though he was out on loan at Coventry last season, playing alongside Adam Armstrong, he has come through the ranks at Carrow Road and would have felt more than at home with his more senior team-mates.
Rafa Benitez had little choice but to go for big changes, the failures of the past had left Newcastle with numerous players who were either not good enough or had a bad attitude…or both.
Whilst Nathan Redmond was demanding a move from Norwich, we have seen the shameless Wijnaldum, Townsend and Sissoko all demanding transfers, plus potentially others agitating to be away. Players such as Cisse, Obertan, Coloccini, Marveaux and Taylor who should have been binned some time ago all had to be moved out, whilst Rafa finds himself wondering just how he will manage to add the likes of Gouffran, Riviere and others to that list.
Yes it has been exciting to see new players arrive at the club, especially after the disastrous Ashley/Carr transfer strategy – but you simply have to accept that changing half the team in one go is not ideal – with Diame looking certain to make that six new signings in the team against Huddersfield and possibly even seven with Ciaran Clark or Jesus Gamez also starting.
What we are talking about here is time, the team definitely didn’t click on Friday night but once all those individuals are blended properly together, over the course of 46 matches I am more than confident that Rafa Benitez will still come out on top.
Norwich City have led a strange life over the course of recent times, in the last eight seasons they have been promoted or relegated in six of the eight years.
Whilst managers may have changed, it looks as though the club’s management has learnt to not get too animated whether they are celebrating heading up, or accepting another demotion.
They might have spent a lot more last summer than in previous years but that outlay by Norwich was more than covered by the increased TV revenue they received from being part of the Premier League.
On Tyneside, we have also become used to having any number of managers but with the added handicap of operating under a system that was never going to succeed long-term, whoever the manager/head coach was.
Ashley was backed into such a corner that he has been forced to accept the need to employ a proper manager and to let him get on with doing the job, the last thing we need now is for supporters not to recognise that Rafa Benitez needs to be given time to get his new look team fully functioning.
Maybe we are talking about another four days before Huddersfield Town visit, or maybe a ‘little’ longer.
Either way, we have waited far too long for things to be done properly without messing it up now.
Newcastle fans might have to take a little bit of medicine in the short-term but it will be worth it for a long-term cure.