Former Canary Bradley Johnson returns to Carrow Road today, probably unaware of what a prominent figure he has been in the thoughts of City fans this season.
The decision to sell Johnson on transfer deadline day 15 odd months ago coincided with a decline that most find hard to believe has happened.
Johnno had been the hero of the previous season as he scored 15 goals from midfield, a career best and most of them were absolute screamers – he doesn’t really score tap ins, does he?
City stormed up the league and won the Wembley play-off final, when Johnson struck the bar inside the first five minutes. The sale of the reigning player of the season just three months later caused all sorts of problems for Alex Neil with a grumbling undercurrent of discontent from the Canary faithful.
In my own house we had the situation of having to return a new kit with ‘Johnson 4’ on the back of it and a very upset 9 year old as well. The club were very good but it was still a real shocker.
Being pragmatic about it, £6m was good money for him and was a he a better player than the newly signed, Robbie Brady?
On paper, no he wasn’t but now, I bet most City fans would swap Brady for Johnson.
In November, Norwich came face to face with their old hero for the first time since that sale and of course, he score the winning goal.
He didn’t celebrate as he scored a typical 20 yarder past John Ruddy but it was a bitter moment for us fans and probably quite galling for Neil and the board.
“I`m looking forward to going back and seeing old faces, but it`s still just a game of football and that`s my main focus,” Johnson told Rams TV
“I enjoyed my time at Norwich and I wished them all the best when I left, but I am a Derby player now.
“I want to do my best for this club in every game I play in.
“I will enjoy the moment before the game going back to Carrow Road, but as soon as that whistle goes off, my focus will be all on getting the three points for Derby County.”
Today’s match is the second in three days and City will be without Robbie Brady (suspended) and Youssouf Mulumbu (African Cup of Nations) but will have Jonny Howson available again.
That will probably see a return to the left for Martin Olsson, if Neil decides to stick with the 3-5-2 used at Brentford that was rather radical for such a stuck in his ways coach as Alex Neil.
It was a game we should’ve won but for some woeful finishing from Cameron Jerome. Personally it was nice to see Alex Pritchard, Russell Martin and Timm Klose return after weeks out in the cold.
I like all three players and feel that Martin playing in the defensive three is a decent role for him. Most of you know I rate Klose, so chuffed he returned, although I fear he will be sold this month.
Derby will be without the highly rated Will Hughes, who is suspended but other than that, Steve McLaren has hinted he may make changes to deal with the demands of Christmas/New Year football.
Alex Neil would probably do that too but other than bumps and bruises, he freshened it up on Saturday and a few of those lads haven’t played much football lately, with Olsson and Howson having had a rest anyway.
Two games in 48 hours is probably a stretch for Alex Tettey but due to injury, we have no other options, unless Neil dusts his own boots off or plays someone like Conor McGrandles.
Derby are on a roll and we clearly are not. I like that Russ Martin brought back the ‘huddle’ before kick off at Brentford but the fact remains that defeat today could see Neil picking up his cards.
I say that every week though…